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How Do I Help My Baby Adjust Sleep For a Different Time Zone?

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Dear Heather,

I’m traveling with my 7-month-old baby, and we’re changing time zones (West Coast to East Coast). How do I help her adjust and not ruin our sleep schedules?

Pacific (Sleep) Time

Dear PST,

My general rule of thumb for West Coast kids (including my own) is that if you’re traveling to the East Coast for under 2 weeks, you can keep them on their home time. If the trip is longer, it’s often better to let your little one’s body adjust to the current time—overall, we feel better if we’re in sync with the actual day-night cycles.

RELATED: Late to Bed, Early to Rise, No Naps. Help!

So if the trip is under 2 weeks, you can start by putting your baby to bed at her bedtime plus 3 hours starting on your first night of vacation back east. In other words, if you're baby's bedtime is 7 p.m. out west, put her down at 10 p.m. in the east. What is key is making sure her bedroom is absolutely blacked out, so the morning light doesn’t start to re-train her internal clock.

You may have to explain to skeptical family members or friends that you and your baby feel best when you don’t deviate from your routines

If she’s able to sleep until at least 9 a.m., continue with this schedule and shift her naps accordingly. If you notice that, despite your best blackout efforts, her wake-up time begins to drift, then you’ll want to make her bedtime follow suit. If by the second week, for example, she’s awake at 7 a.m., her bedtime should now be 8 p.m.

RELATED: My Toddler Won't Go To Bed Without a Bottle

Other traveling and sleeping tips include giving your baby time to play and adjust to the room she’s sleeping in before bedtime. Try not to let your routine and sleep habits change too much—especially with a young baby, who may not be as flexible as an older child. Do the same bedtime routine you do at home, with the same components: loveys, books, sounds and so forth—so she’s cued to feel comfortable and sleep in the same way.

You may have to explain to skeptical family members or friends that you and your baby feel best when you don’t deviate from your routines—that could mean skipping a few outings or calling it a night earlier than others. But if it protects your sleep and your baby’s, you’ll feel better all around, which allows you to enjoy your travels even more.

Happy sleeping!

Heather

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Do you have a sleep question you want Heather to answer for Sleep Fix? Email her at heatherturgeonmft@gmail.com. Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

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