I try my best to feed my baby healthy, organic food focused on lots of whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and I try to minimize the amount of sugar, including juice, that she gets. However, I have to confess that recently my husband and I decided to give our toddler as many bites of our lemon cheesecake as she desired (which turned out to be about four decent-sized bites) after traveling from Chicago to South Africa. We know that when we travel to a new time zone she is going to take a good week to adjust, and selfishly, we resorted to sugar to see if we could speed up the adjustment process.
On this trip to South Africa with an eight hour time difference with Chicago, we spent the first few nights playing from midnight to 5 am, and I was exhausted. My husband had to be up early to work all day each day, and he wasn’t getting any sleep either. When Veda was 4 months old, one of us could contain our wide-awake baby at 2am when the other parent had to rest for work, but at 14 months Veda is not containable. She knew dad was in the bedroom sleeping, and even though I closed the bedroom door and directed her to her toys in the living room and kitchen, she wanted to play with her dad at 3:30am, too, and was happily shouting, “Daddy!?” by the bedroom door.
On the fourth night of sleeplessness in South Africa around 6pm Veda started to get tired. We knew that she would end up falling asleep by 6:30 or 7pm, and then would be up again at midnight. In the U.S., this would be her afternoon nap time, so it’s understandable. It’s not her fault we’re messing with her internal clock, and she can’t exactly convince her body to switch up the internal clock as we adults can do in a couple of days. As Veda started rubbing her eyes, my husband and I were sharing a piece of (very delicious) lemon cheesecake. My husband and I were also each having a glass of red wine sitting at a plastic children’s table on small plastic children’s chairs watching our daughter play in a plastic baby pool filled with balls. We wondered out loud between us if we fed her a few spoonfuls if she would get a sugar rush that would keep her up a little longer, go to sleep later, and hopefully crash and stay asleep a little longer? Are we horrible parents?
It turns out that our sugar-drugging scheme worked. Veda played happily until about 10:00pm, crashed, and stayed asleep until I woke her up at 10:00am. Success! The second night after the cheesecake feeding we did not need to give her sugar. She got back on her self-regulated 7/8pm to 7/8am sleep schedule with one morning and one afternoon nap. It also could be coincidence- perhaps after four or five nights of slow adjustment she simply adjusted by herself. Either way, it seems as though the sugar rush and sugar crash did help her sleep through the night for the first time in the new time zone. I certainly would not have tried giving my baby sugar before she was eating solid food (e.g. before 6 months), but at 14 months, is there harm in an isolated sugar rush incident? I did let her go to town on a cupcake for her first birthday, after all.
What have other parents done to help baby/ children adjust to jet lag?