As we are getting over jetlag (although as you know, I think parenting in general is similar to being always jetlagged), it is important to us to make sure the little guy is getting everything he needs to transition quickly into our new time zone.
This means setting up routines for him – so that he will chill out. After all, everything is new and he is tired. Routines are the only thing that can get him into a good place with his surroundings so he is not a complete tyrant.
When I say routines, it’s basically about having a set rhythm to how you go about the day. For example, he wakes up in the morning, we change him into his clothes, he plays, and then takes a nap. Then he wakes up, eats, plays or we go on a walk, then another nap. And so on.
When you don’t follow any kind of routine is when you get babies who are freaking out all the time, and so it also goes that apparently routines help minimize the severity of temper tantrums.
I should point out that my wife and I firmly believe in not following a rigid routine, but just following a loose one – basically the order of how we do things is the routine we have. But we don’t make it super specific, because that can make you (and your baby) inflexible. For example if every night we read to our son, then that is a routine, and we keep rotating the books we read to him. But if we only read the blue book, then if we are ever without the blue book, then we would be in trouble. See what I mean?
The research on the topic is fascinating. Apparently the reason routines are important for babies is because it lets them know when their next meal will be (or that they can relax and trust that there will be a next meal). They know they don’t have to fight for their next meal, which apparently is the natural reason they freak out when things are up in the air.
A lot of times people say “oh, you have the happiest baby!!” And to that I think, “this is not only because he is just naturally happy – because he is not. His needs are met (like eating) before he knows he has them, because I pay attention to the timing of things thru the day.” There are days when the little guy doesn’t really cry much, mainly because me and him have a good rhythm at home.
Of course all of that goes out the window when you fly a long distance and when you are in a new place – for example, on the way home from the airport the little guy cried for 1 hour straight yesterday. Just nothing would calm him, until we finally stopped the car and I held him a little as we took a break. Today in the morning, he was also extra whiny. But this afternoon he started to be himself again – I think this is in part his routines and rhythm being back in place – which helps immensely for re-setting my wife’s and my rhythm, too.