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Aug 7, 2010

Europe trip update - jet lag with kids

I survived my first solo (intercontinental) flight with 2 kids, aged 2.5 years and 3 months! The trip itself went quite well. It was a night flight, which helped a lot. Once the kids fell asleep (with some difficulties for Charlotte due to the over-stimulation of the new environment), they both slept through the flight. It was even one of the most quiet flights I had been in in a long time.
It was great to come and visit family. The kids loved being with the grand parents and they enjoyed the extra attention. Daniel had the grandest time, with all the activities planned, from visiting the zoo to riding the bus and trains, going on a boat trip, etc...all very exciting! He did really well during the days despite several bumpy nights due to jetlag.
Jetlag definitely is the bitter side of the trip. And, contrary to what doctors say, it affects babies a lot. That is, unless you are unlucky to have a baby who never settles into a day/night rhythm. With 9 hours time difference between California and Germany, the kids definitely had a hard time adjusting and we lost the great night schedules we had been enjoying at home..

Poor Charlotte had no idea what was happening to her. She would wake up happily in the middle of the night and be ready to play, like she did at home during the day. She didn't appreciate to be put back in bed right after feeding, and cried several times up to an hour when this happened. It took 3-4 days for her to stop crying when put back to bed at night, but she never reached the point where she slept through the night -European time- as she had been doing in the US for 7 weeks. Hopefully, she will be able to readjust to her natural schedule quickly when we come back home, and I need to go back to work.

Daniel was easier to handle, fortunately, as he can respond well to incentives ("you have to try to sleep in order to be fit for the zoo") and understand "rules" ("stay in bed until the sun comes up"). I had also tried to explain beforehand that we would have some problems with sleeping, although I don't think Daniel understood the reasons why. At least, i felt that he wasn't as surprised as Charlotte. That said, he still had a hard time adjusting and got impatient when he still couldn't fall back to sleep after laying quiet in bed for an hour or more. It also didn't help that he would hear his sister wake up and cry in the room next door, and saw that Mama went to take care of her. This triggered his own crying spell, and It sometimes felt that the kids were taking turns waking each other up. Unfair!

Somehow though, despite the many rough nights, I didn't experience this vacation to be exhausting. The first time we had come to Europe with Daniel at 3 months ( same age as Charlotte right now), I had a much harder time. I was disappointed to lose the precious nigh routine we had finally achieved at home. And I felt bad about the long and unavoidable crying at night. This time around, I was a lot more prepared to go through this. I also know that, even if the cries sound really desperate, the baby won't be traumatized. Daniel is a very happy and flexible baby, he loves coming to see the grandparents in Germany. So, jet lag and the sleeping discomfort isn't affecting his memories of the great vacations he has had in the past.

I still hope that things will get better over time. It's not very relaxing to enjoy less sleep on vacation than at home!

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