Many parents delay flying with their children due to concerns over their child disturbing others and not sleeping. However there are several strategies to encourage your little one to drift off on-board and to help minimise jet-lag once you arrive!
How to get your baby to sleep on an aeroplane
- Choose a night flight: If the departure time is particularly late, try and put your baby down for a nap and wake them up just before you leave for the airport. A small rest at home can help alleviate a complete tiredness meltdown at the airport.
- Dress your little one in their pyjamas and try to keep the bedtime ritual as familiar as possible. Several layers (which are easy to remove) helps to keep them comfortable with cabin temperature changes.
- Request a baby bassinet. These are available on most long haul flights but are in limited supply and are located at bulkhead positions. Be aware that height/weight/age restrictions vary from airline to airline. As a very general rule, most are suitable for at least an 8 month old. This handy bassinet chart details over 50 airlines requirements.
- Consider purchasing a bassinet cover or packing a light weight blanket and duct tape. Both can shield your little one from the harsh cabin lights or daylight. The airline blanket can be used to make a tent over a seat for older children too!
- If you have a fidgety baby, try and settle them in your arms first before transferring them to the bassinet.
- Bring some familiar items with a scent of home; whether that's a blanket, favourite toy or even a baby sleep spray.
- Pack extra snacks: Baby food is not always available to pre-request for a flight. If it is, usually only pureed jars are available. Bringing your own food helps if you are delayed too. Snacks like bananas have sleep inducing qualities too!
- Choose seats carefully: If you have a toddler or older child consider pre-booking the two aisle seats and leaving a space in one of the middle seats. Single middle seats are always the last to be filled, so if the flight is not fully booked, you could end up with a spare seat for free and can stretch out! Another option is to book a seat for your baby and use a car seat. Make sure it is airline approved first and be aware that Iso-fix seats are not suitable.
- Another tip to contemplate is plan to not sit altogether. That way you can take turns in parental duties whilst the other (hopefully) has some rest.
Getting your little one over jet-lag
So you have survived the flight and made it to your destination, however, now you have jet-lag to tackle! Use these strategies to minimise sleep disruption:
If your schedule allows it, build in a stopover and stay a night or two before continuing. Breaking up an ultra-long-haul flight half way can make the journey much more bearable for everyone, plus it gives your body more time to adapt.
- Keep hydrated before and during and after the flight.
- Stretch your legs during the flight and let your little one crawl or toddle around.
- Go outside: Fresh air, light exercise and daylight all help to re-set your body clock.
- Immediately establish a new routine based on the new time zone. If you are breastfeeding, a new time zone can temporarily impact your supply – try and eat & drink even if you don't feel like it.
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm, particularly if you are breastfeeding.
- Encourage your little one to consume most calories during the day. This will hopefully help to avoid them waking up due to hunger.
- Avoid long naps during the day, however tempting they are!
- Take turns during the night shift: It’s inevitable that someone will be up during the night, but by taking shifts with your partner hopefully you will both have enough sleep to power through the next day.
- Use minimal lighting at night: If you are all wide wake, still keep the lights down low, and play quiet games. For example, sticker books, puzzles, reading a story etc.
- Give a light snack if needed at night: A bowl of warm porridge, milk or food high in magnesium such as bananas can help make you feel sleepier.
For more family travel tips visit www.flyingwithababy.com