This is a guest post written by Michelle from Sydney, Australia. She had contacted me before her trip to Vancouver with her 5 month old (solo) which she talks about below, and we had a few email exchanges, mostly about adjusting to jet lag. She was kind enough to let me know how the trip ended up going for her, and so I asked her if she’d write a post on her experience, which she also kindly and energetically agreed to. I think her recent solo trip with her five month old adjusting to an opposite time zone makes her an expert in this subject :).
Every baby is different, but there also some similarities, and some tricks that seem to work with many of them. I have written about my own experiences with Veda and jet lag, but the more we as parents share our unique experiences, the more we can learn from each other and become less anxious as we dive into the unknown with our little ones, and hopefully, as a result, a little more patient, nurturing, and loving. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!
I thought I’d share my experience with flying with a baby as I had many anxious feelings prior to my experience and I’m hoping that my story will help others feel more relaxed about flying with a baby as well as coping with different time zones.
Here’s the background information about my trip. I flew solo with my 5 month old son Loki from Sydney to Vancouver and back. It was a short 2.5 week trip visiting family.
I was extremely anxious and nervous prior to flying, even though I could confidently fly on my own, but I knew flying with a baby would be a whole different experience! You hear horror stories about babies who cry non stop throughout a flight and my biggest fear was that he would do that for me and without my husband being there, I wondered how I could cope with this on my own. How can I possibly try settling him for the duration of the 15.5 hr flight? How I can eat? How can I go to the bathroom? How will I manage bottle feeding him as I stopped breast feeding him by that stage?
To add to my fear and anxiety about the trip, my son was a terrible day sleeper and would only nap 30 mins at a time. And of course the flight from Sydney to Vancouver was a day flight. He also gets bored quite easily and loves the fresh air! My thoughts were: how will I keep him entertained on this LONG day flight? He also came down with the cold just prior to departing so he was getting over his congestion!
Well, in the end… Loki coped with the flights there and back quite well. I wouldn’t say it was a piece of cake and he did make me work hard but he didn’t cry that much. He did get bored as I predicted and I did have to walk up and down the aisles repeatedly and hang out in the bathrooms when there were no line ups so he could giggle at himself in the mirror. He didn’t sleep more as most people said babies would because of the engine noise. He still slept only 30 mins at a time. But I did realize on the flight that he does have an internal clock that I was surprised about because come 7pm, which is his bedtime in Sydney, he slept for the next 5 hours until we landed.
Everyone will tell you to have the baby sucking on something during the take off and landing. Well, I can tell you from my experience that I was not able to get him to suck on anything for both landings and his ears coped with the pressure change with no problems.
Once we landed, I knew the battle still wasn’t over as I now had to deal with getting him adjusted to the different time in Vancouver! I followed Jessica’s advice and allowed him to sleep wherever and whenever for the first few days. The difficulty for me was that we just came off a day flight and now landed in Vancouver at 7 am!! I did try to keep him outdoors as much as I could during the day and let him nap for as long as he needed. And I wondered how tired he would be though come night time in Vancouver because of his long naps during the day. Again I took Jessica’s advice and napped when he did during the day to have the energy to play with him at odd times during the night. I’m glad I did because I was up until 3 am playing with him the first night! I dimmed the lights and played quietly and sure enough about an hour after he was tired.
In the end it took me about 4 or 5 days to figure out what bedtime would work for him. I originally tried to make midnight his bedtime in Vancouver for a few reasons. Midnight is much closer to 7pm Sydney time, our flight home departed at midnight and we were in Vancouver for only 2.5 weeks. But interestingly enough his internal body clock figured out 7pm Vancouver local time within a few days because he showed extreme tired signs come close to 7pm even if he woke from a nap not to long before that! It wasn’t that easy though and this is the part that I didn’t think about when adjusting him to local time. The time that the sun set made a big difference for Loki. The sun would set in Sydney at approximately 5:30 pm when we left but the sun didn’t set in Vancouver until 9:30pm!! So sure enough just when I thought he figured out local time, he was still confused when I put him to bed at 7pm because the sun was out and he would wake shortly after thinking it was a nap! I ended up giving him a 9pm bedtime and was able to put him on the routine that he had in Sydney with the times readjusted with the 9pm bedtime.
Upon our return, again I was nervous that it would take several weeks to adjust Loki back to Sydney time. We did have one night where he woke more frequently than usual but he was back on track the very next day!
So, all my fears that he would be colicky on the flight, cranky while adjusting him to the different time zones and taking him several weeks to adjust him to the different time zones never occurred. Ya! We had an amazing trip home visiting family and everyone had a chance to see the ‘happy’ Loki!
I would like to add that I was also quite surprised with how helpful fight attendants and other passengers were on the flight. Many passengers, once realizing that I was flying alone with my son, offered to help me in any way. Some even offered to walk him up and down the aisle to give me a break!
All I can say when planning a trip with your little one, prepare for the worst and hope for the best!