We, down under, often migrate to warmer climates at this time of the year. What comes with our return home is not just being back on our fine shores, but a clash of body hormones as they adjust to the crossing of time lines.
Tiny babies have virtually no circulating hormones that influence their bodies 24 hour day and night sleep behaviours initially. Once your baby is around 2 months of age they begin to have measurable levels of the hormones associated with day and night sleep, but minute amounts, one you may know is melatonin. By about 7 to 9 months these levels are well and truly evident so you may well find you AND your baby have some adjusting to do before sleep patterns are back to normal.
Sunlight governs our 24 hour day/night body clock, or circadian rhythm, which is why when we pass a day or night in a plane we end up with a confused body clock. To support your baby, be kind when they have that 4pm slump and the 4am waking which is classical of the sleep disruptions seen in jet lag.
At the afternoon dip, I suggest a nap for just one sleep cycle, around 45 minutes. As this afternoon ‘dip’ can occur quite quickly - be prepared or you may find yourself wondering why you suddenly have a screamingly tired baby. Your little babe will probably require you to wake them after that one sleep cycle so they can feed, bath and return to bed for their night sleep which will probably be earlier than normal for a while.
As the days pass, that early bed time can be moved progressively back to the regular bed time. The very early morning waking will require patience, but if you keep the environment dark and non stimulating, there is a greater chance of your little one returning to sleep… eventually.
We don’t recommend sleep training for this at all, rather we suggest you go with the flow for about a week to 10 days, and see what is needed then. Some babies bounce back after just a couple days, and some, like some adults, take a little longer.
Jet lag will pass, so be kind and gentle and try to support your baby and provide sleep opportunities as needed. You may need to wake them from their late afternoon sleep so you can do the evening rituals prior to dinner and bath - before everyone collapses into bed for the night.
It helps to keep some patterns such as the evening routine as this helps babies with the readjustment to local time.
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There are some common themes when it comes to managing our children’s sleep. And although every baby and toddler is an individual, parents tend to share similar responses to sleeping problems. One is hoping that things will get better with time, the other is finding it difficult to ask for help.