Adjusting Baby to Time Zone Differences While Traveling

Going from our home to England was a 7 hour time jump, then to the rest of western Europe was another 1 hour jump, for a total of an 8 hour time difference. How do you adjust baby’s schedule?

Here is what we (or rather, Zachary) did …

  • We kept Zachary on his home time zone schedule the day of travel.
  • For the overnight haul on the plane, we tried to get him to go to sleep early, like we usually do for ourselves when we do the long haul flights, but he didn’t understand what we were trying to do, so instead he went to sleep at “normal” home time, around 9 PM. He slept in the airline’s bassinet:

Sound asleep in the airline’s bassinet

  • The thing to be aware of, that we acutely knew as it was happening, was that he would only get 4 hours of overnight sleep vs his usual 10, since 9 PM our time is 4 AM England time, and we were landing at 8 AM England time. Same for us – since we couldn’t really sleep until he did, instead of going to sleep right after dinner service like we typically would, we went to sleep about 10 minutes after we were assured he was down for the “night,” and got up an hour before landing in order to eat a bit, gather our things, freshen up, etc. – so we each had less than 3 hours. Urgh
  • Okay, so then we got to Heathrow, exhausted but knowing we needed to stay as awake as possible. We had planned to just let Zachary sleep as long as he wanted and just go 100% on demand feeding for the day, but he decided to wake up in the passport line, be ready for his first morning bottle by the time we picked up our bags, and to be super alert on all the train connections we had to make to get to the town of Tunbridge Wells, where we were due for a wedding.
  • By the time we got to our hotel at 1 PM, we were all ready for a nap. For adult travelers, this isn’t really traditionally advised with overseas travel, but we just went with it because there is no way we would have been able to function. All three of us took probably a 60 minute nap.

Taking a nap in the hotel room

  • Overall that day and for the first few days, we just fed Zachary every 4 hours rather than trying to do any sort of schedule, and to also let him nap whenever he wanted. That first night, he fell asleep just fine. He did wake up in the middle of the night (for the first time in a long, long time) and proceeded to do this for the first 3 nights.
  • By our 4th day, the day we got to Brussels, he had fully adjusted to European time and was on a reliable schedule. A little different schedule than at home – up at 8:30 AM local and down at 11:00 PM local, but it worked. I would tell you that if you are planning a trip with a baby with a big time difference that is less than 7 days, you may want to re-think your plan, as by the time baby is adjusted, it will be time to come home!
  • I think it really helped that despite so many different locations and different apartments, we always had him in the same travel cot, so at least there was some consistency for him, which babies crave.

Asleep for the night in his “Little Life” travel cot


After a month of being on a very reliable European time zone schedule, we weren’t sure what to expect. Here is how it went coming back home:

  • We left our apartment at 5 AM local on our travel day back home. Plan was for Zachary to stay asleep and then feed his first bottle on the first plane leg. But, as we were strapping him into the carseat in the taxi/shuttle, he opened his eyes and was wide awake, seemingly excited to see what adventure was being had that day.
  • As soon as we got to the airport, we sat down to give him his first bottle (we had gotten one ready to go just in case), so that was around 5:30 AM local, 3 hours earlier than what he had been doing for the past month.
  • By the time we boarded our first plane (a short jump to Zurich), he crashed. Then, for our overseas flight, he was pretty awake and alert through most of it, taking bottles reliably and napping in the bassinet for a couple of hours. We didn’t do any solids that day – it was just too much to coordinate with everything else.
  • That night back at home, he fell asleep in his own bed around midnight local time and did wake up briefly in the middle of the night. Honestly, he seemed disoriented, which I think I would be too!
  • The next morning, he woke up alert and ready to go back to school.
  • After about 3 days back home, he was fully adjusted back to local time and to his normal schedule and routine.

 Bottom line is this – babies are super resilient, will take their cues from you, and crave routine. So, don’t stress about this and they will adjust!

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