Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jetlag and a baby

Since we mainly travel east-west rather than north-south, Zoe has been through more time zones than most 1 year old babies. On our first trip to Sweden when she was only 3 1/2 weeks this was the last thing on my mind because she hardly had any sleeping habits down for nighttime vs. daytime. I was right, she only stayed awake 4 am to 6 am for three nights, together with her equally jetlagged parents. Later on though, I started to worry and search for advice on the wonderfully informative internet. Most articles provided the same piece of advise that they give adults: try to get on the new timezone as quick as possible, but I could not find anything more concrete. Perhaps traveling with babies through timezones was just not that common and nobody really knew anything about it? It turns out that there is another reason few people write about it, which is that it simply isn't that difficult. As it turns out babies adjust to new timezones much quicker than the grownup and because the baby tends to travel with a grownup, who also has jetlag, the grownup's jetlag often takes mental precedence.

When I traveled to Scotland with Zoe on my own, at 6 months, she simply skipped her jetlag all together. When she woke up at night I fed her a bit and she rolled over to her other side and fell asleep again. I, on the other hand, lay awake for 2 hours in the early morning, staring at this magically sleeping baby next to me. When we went to Copenhagen for Christmas, just her and me for the first week, she woke up a couple of nights, scrabbling about in the big bed, clearly tired but unable to sleep, for an hour until she fell asleep on my arm or on my belly. In China when she was 10 months she simply woke up at 4 am for 3 mornings in a row; since I was awake as well we went into the giant bathroom of our hotel room, not to disturb Mark who did not have jetlag, and played until breakfast started at 6 am.

Well, I do have a disclaimer, because I think I have lucked out so far and I am not looking forward to a jetlagged 15 month old when we travel to London in the end of August. Two key things helped: breast feeding and bed sharing. Zoe could always be calmed down by a little 'midnight snack' and she could fall asleep again, right there next to me, while eating. She is now too big to sleep in the same bed as me, mainly because she goes to bed 4 hours before me and is so mobile that I am worried she would fall down, but also because she loves spreading out and a double bed is only a double bed, not a triple bed. But given those two 'secrets', jetlag before 1 was not that bad.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It only gets more difficult

From when a baby is 1 months, it actually only gets harder to fly with him or her, month by month. Now that Zoe was walking I am dreading the flight back to Europe in August. Last time she flew, she was 13 months and still just crawling, scooting and walking slowly with an adult holding both her hands, which meant that she was fairly okay sitting down for most of the trip. I took her for a few walks up and down the aisle, but she was mainly happy on my lap or on the seat next to me in the case the airline generously provided extra seat. Still, I longed back to when she could hardly sit up by herself and could not reach for the food, my water bottle and all the magazines in the seat pocket. She for some reason had particularly taken to the safety folder, which she would gnaw on for most of the trip. I didn't mind because it was always laminated, apart from all the scenes it generally depict which I am then forced to look at. I'm not worried she would get scared of flying but I am constantly reminded of the safety procedure when I take it out of her hands in exchange for food, water or the occasional hug. I don't really want to be reminded that I have to take off my heels before sliding down onto the ground when the plane is on fire, or that I have a life west under my seat. To make it even more explicit, Scandinavian Airlines are actually giving you an infant life west before take off, so you have one 'just in case'. Most other airlines rely on crew being able to hand them out in an emergency.

In any case, Zoe was not going to be satisfied with the laminated emergency pamphlet anymore (not that she really ever was but it seemed like it thinking back) and I would have to come up with more inventive entertainment. She was a flying toddler.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Driving with a baby

Although Zoe and I tend to fly places, on the rare occasion, we drive. Last weekend her dad suggested that we go to Palm Springs for the weekend, staying until Monday evening. Our nanny was away that day so we had the choice of working for half a day each or simply take the Monday off and well... work harder the rest of the week. We got a sweet deal at the Colony Palms, a wonderful little gem of a hotel with a pool and a poolside restaurant and the most welcoming staff you can think of. Imagine walking over to the pool with a babbling baby who you know is going to scream as soon as she touches the water, while slim, tanned 20something mermaids and bodybuilders lie on the recliners with their daiquiris in hand, scrutinizing your every move. I was certain that not only would they huff and puff at me with a baby but also that the staff would ask us to leave after 20 seconds of Zoe tears. I was pleasantly surprised. Although the most tanned and daiquiried pool goers ignored us, several other people came up and showed Zoe some interest and compassion. "She will get used to it", one said and another reassured me that she would be happy in a different flotation device than the blue ring we had brought. In fact she did do better when I was just holding her and we quickly gave up any floating remedies. What finally made me relax though was the manager, who had greeted us briefly at check-in; he came over and said "We are so glad to have you here with us today", a sentence that out of context sounded very odd, but made perfect sense and helped me relax my still tensed shoulders. Babies are okay, even crying ones.

Zoe made the hotel room her new home and went straight for the minibar. She learned to open the fridge within minutes and I had to save several bottles of wine or sparkling water from her peeling off the label wondering if we would have to pay for unopened chocolates with teethmarks on the wrapping. Unfortunately we did not have a room with a balcony, something I had never realized the importance off before having a baby that goes to sleep a good 4 hours before we do. Well, it turns out that there is an app for that. Actually there are several but the one we ended up with was "mommy's voice", an iPhone app that detects sound (after a 60 second period of letting the parents leave), then plays a recording, in our case daddy's voice, and if the noise continues it calls another phone, in our case my phone. This worked brilliantly and after putting Zoe to sleep in the pack-and-play in our hotel room, making sure the windows were very tightly closed so we wouldn't end up in a Madeleine situation, we left and sat down 30 feet from our door in the rocking chairs on the reception's front porch with two glasses of wine. The next evening we were so confident in the app that we ventured all the way across the pool to the restaurant for dinner. I was partly overly happy to have a 'date' without a babysitter fee and partly panicking that Zoe was crying and the app had stopped working. I went back occasionally and found a comfortably sleeping baby and a working app.

The drive home was not as well-planned as the way out where we had driven most of the 3 hours during Zoe's morning nap. I wanted the last bit of pool time, Zoe fell asleep as a surprise to me (as a mom I should surely know when she sleeps, yet, out of ordinary week schedules, I forget) and I had to put her on one of the little cushioned couches in a cabana by the pool covered by a towel. We left as soon as she woke up but she was not prepared to be sitting in a car seat for very long. She started screaming and after only 15 minutes of driving we had to pull into a McDonalds somewhere outside Palm Springs. Buying a McDonalds bottle of milk for her (and a chocolate milkshake for myself) was probably one of the (many) lows of me a semi-veggie, sort-of-hippie mom. We were out of almond and rice milk and we needed to get home. I poured the milk into her bottle and gave it to her in the car seat, which bought us a full 45 minutes. I had to repeat twice times but after a short dinner stop, we got home in time for bed. So much for my pre-baby statements that "My baby will never drink or eat in her car seat".

What I learned from our little trip was that driving with a baby is not easier than flying because, 1. you cannot walk around in the aisle when the baby gets restless, 2. you cannot bother other people with your adorable baby's smile and get a little attention and acknowledgment and 3. you cannot breast feed a baby that is tied into a car seat. Yet, the trip was worth it and hopefully so does Zoe think.