I read that babies don’t adjust or have any concept of time difference so they will continue to sleep at their home country schedule – WRONG! At 10 weeks, our baby slept on Japan time for the first 2-3 days and then flipped to Minnesota time.
All in all, I think it worked well for us. Overstimulation with new people helped her get sleepy and as long as we could get her to a dark and boring place before long, she slept well and was a generally happy traveler. The first few days were spent in one place with the same family members so we could allow her to adjust without feeling pressure to have her happy and alert at certain times. After that we had mostly lunchtime and dinner time meetings and planned on long detours in the car in between so she would get at least one good nap in the day. She was mostly happy with some trouble at night. I have no idea if this would work for others, but it was successful for us. I also think it helped that we are very flexible on her sleep times anyway, so she has no rigid routine regardless of where we are. Again, this may not work with all babies, and surely some kids just create their own rigid schedules. Personalities are apparent even before they are born. We have a carefree and entertaining LEO!
The flight back was hardest because it was a day flight when she is normally most awake and only taking short cat naps. As expected, she was up and playful for the whole 12 hours and did not like to be ignored. Provided we played with her, she was fine. I feel bad for parents who really need solid sleep to function. Luckily, I have never been a big sleeper so I can be awake for a 12 hour flight and I was traveling with my husband who sprung into baby action when I was noticeably exhausted and literally drained (of milk, that is!).
Even when she wasn’t sleeping the bassinet came in handy. We could prop her up and still coo at her while eating. The bassinet says that it is safe up to 25 pounds (13kg), but I think that our baby will be too long at that time. At nearly 60cm (22in), she can reach both ends of the bassinet with outstretched hands. I will have to seriously consider buying her a seat next time when she is nearly 1 year old and I likely travel alone. Two major factors for that considerations are: hands-free time for meals (bassinet possibly too small for that so car seat), and breastfeeding. Her head and my elbow jutted out beyond the armrests. I wouldn’t want to do that to a neighboring stranger.
Day three back in Japan and she is still adjusting. Props to United who were great on all four flights. (two trans-pacific and two domestic), including time spent in lounges in Narita and Denver. They were generally friendly and supportive. I felt totally comfortable traveling with an infant and breastfeeding openly (though I tried to be discreet, I did not cover up since she usually fusses with a blanket).