As any frequent flyer will tell you, flying with a baby can be frustrating. Just being near a fussy baby is hard at the best of times, but in a confined space, the situation can be intolerable. And it’s even worse if the baby is yours. Each squeal is magnified as you are conscious of the other passengers, and with every temper tantrum, you just wish the skies would open up and swallow you.
Avoiding a meltdown at 30000 ft is all in the timing – the most common cause of extended fussing in babies is over tiredness and overstimulation. The excitement of getting through check-in as well as the delays in sleep times as you board the plane may result in an overtired, overstimulated little one. Add to this, the drone of the plane, which creates a white noise that lulls a tired baby. The combination of a tired, irritable baby who is being kept awake by a novel environment results in a little one who really fights sleep. To avoid this scenario:
- Try to have your little one sleep in the car on the way to the airport so you have a longer window period before overtiredness sets in.
- If you have the choice, book a flight that takes off just as a sleep is due so that your baby’s natural dip in alertness coincides with the white noise to lull him to sleep.
- Wear your baby in a concealed sling to decrease over-stimulation as you check-in and board the flight.
Managing a two-year-old’s behaviour from a departure lounge to arrivals hall is a big task! To keep your toddler happy, try to time the flight just after a sleep or in the case of a long haul flight to take off when the sleep is due. Make sure you have a good selection of toys and games to keep your toddler occupied. Finally, make sure your toddler has healthy snacks to keep him occupied on the flight – this limits boredom and also prevents blood sugar dips.
Crossing time zones and dealing with jetlag is enough of a challenge for adults, never mind babies. Once your baby or child is in a routine, flying across time zones can cause major disturbances to sleep. This can result in poor sleep habits for the entire holiday, which is enough to ruin any parent’s relaxation time whilst away. To decrease jet lag:
- 4 days ahead of arriving in the new time zone, move bedtime 30 min closer to the new time zone each day.
- On the flight, move the bedtime an hour closer to the time zone, using ½ capsule of Melatonin to encourage your little one to fall asleep.
- When in the new time zone, keep day sleep times according to the age-appropriate awake time for your baby.
Packing a nappy bag. The essential nappy bag for traveling has the following basics:
- Nappies and wipes sufficient for the journey plus two spare
- Bottle of cool boiled water, even if you are breastfeeding, a little water may come in handy
- Baby’s comfort object (dummy, doodoo blanky and favourite toy)
- Baby Sling or carrier to make travel through an airport easy
- 5 age appropriate toys which may include a book, a feely toy or play dough for toddlers, a chewy toy – especially for teething little ones, an imagination toy such as a car or doll for older babies. IPads can be really useful with toddlers too.
My final tip is to travel – don’t be afraid to follow your wanderlust, visit loved ones and take a trip down memory lane. Children love to be with loved ones and a trip generally means more face time with loved ones. Be calm, be as consistent as possible and have fun.