Top Tips To Help Baby Sleep On A Plane

(And older kids too!)

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It’s possibly every parents’ nightmare to have their baby or toddler cry all night on a plane. It was definitely mine – the thought of dozens of eyes silently questioning why on earth did I bring a baby on to a plane, during a night flight? After many long and ultra long haul flights, I’ve pretty much learned to ignore any stares. With family living in Australia and us in the UK, we are always going to travel long distances. Besides my other half and I enjoy visiting somewhere new, and letting the children experience different cultures too. We’ve learnt a few tips to make it easier for babies and toddlers to settle and have a good sleep on the plane, ensuring that you get a bit of shut-eye too. Hopefully, these top tips to help baby sleep on a plane will help you too.

 

1) The Holy Grail of airline flying- request a bassinet. See my guide on airline bassinets to check your little one fits the size regulations before you book! Also bear in mind all airlines, except Virgin Atlantic and Qantas, require you to remove the baby from the bassinet during any turbulence.

 

2) Choose a night flight. This seriously helps even if your departure time is after normal sleep time. Depending on the flight, we put our tiniest tot to bed at normal time and wake her up when it is literally time to walk out the door. This means she generally has enough energy to get her through the journey to the airport, check in and finally to after take off.

 

3) I love this baby sleep pillow spray from This Works and it smells divine. I didn’t use it with my eldest, but my husband bought it shortly after M’s birth and I’ve have found it really helps. A few sprays of it on board the plane, in the bassinet, in the hotel cot etc, means it is a familiar smell which helps settle her.

 

4) If you don’t have a bassinet, then I highly recommend SkyBaby mattress. It is easy to move baby from person to person; handy for in-flight trips to the loo. It can also be used easily with the infant lap belt, meaning no annoying removal of baby if there is any turbulence. Read my full review here.

 

Sky baby travel mattress

 

5) If you do have a bassinet, hurrah! I’ve recently road tested a bassinet cover by CoziGo.

(Full review is here)  It blocks out light from the cabin and is fully breathable. Worked a treat and M slept for hours even with the meal service ongoing. Genius idea and beats the old duct tape and blanket method.

 

Cozigo

CoziGo

 

 

6) Still on the bassinet subject, if you have a fidgety baby, or one who cries in unfamiliar surroundings,  settle them in your arms first, then move to the bassinet.

 

7) Pack extra snacks, and extra milk if bottle-feeding  as they do get thirstier in the drier cabin air.

Do you have any other tips that worked for you? Please do comment below and let me know.

Top Tips To Help Toddlers Sleep On A Plane

 

1) As above, choose a night flight. This seriously helps even if your departure time is after normal sleep time.

 

2) Choose seats carefully. If it is just the three of you flying, then choosing a DEG seat and deliberately not choosing the F seat, may mean you end up with a row of 4 for free, as middle single seats are always the last to go- and worst case, the person who may be allocated that seat will always be happy to swap to the aisle so you can all be together.

If you are also travelling with a baby, then the bassinet bulkhead seat in the middle in newer aircrafts ( A380, new B777) – seats DEFG have a flexible armrest between seat E and F meaning they can stretch out and lie on you.

Emirates A380 seats DEF Seat E/F armest moves up

Emirates A380 seats DEF
Seat E/F armest moves up

 

3) Dress them in their pyjamas and keep the bedtime ritual as familiar as possible, brushing teeth, story etc

 

4) Bring a familiar toy or comforter if they have.

 

5) With no bassinet for a toddler over 2, consider bringing an extra blanket or using the onboard one to make a canopy over the seat in front of you– slotting it into the headrest. This obviously only works if you are not in a bassinet bulkhead position, but means again they are shielded from the cabin lights. This is one of our go to tips and both girls slept nearly 10 hours on a recent flight back from Thailand!

 

What to pack - top tips help baby sleep plane

Making a ‘den’ to sleep in

 

6) Consider using a Travel Snug. These fleecy blankets provide some cushioning over the hard armrests and almost ‘cuddle” the child. They are a bit bulky to lug around but we wouldn’t be without them now they are a bit older. We’ve also used them on really uncomfortable car seats from abroad. Full review on the Travel Snug is here.

 

7) Bring extra snacks- full tummies and food like bananas help with sleep.

Carseats

I’ve decided to cover this in a separate part. Although, car seats are obviously safer in terms of an unlikely event of an aircraft accident, they are not recommended by doctors for babies to sleep in  according to the most recent research. The American Journal of Paediatrics has published research showing how several babies have died due to sleeping in car seats- mostly due to the improper use of the restraints. They also advise constant supervision at all times.  In the UK doctors also don’t recommend babies to be kept in car seats for longer than two hours at a time. Well worth a read…

Please do comment below if you have any more tips to add.

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Top tips to help babies and toddlers sleep on the plane. This practical guide is full of useful tips to help little ones sleep whilst travelling. Tried and tested tips to make flying with kids easier. #familytravel #flyingwithababy #sleep #tips

27 Comments

  1. I will be traveling internationally in a few months, at that time my daughter will be 18 months. Any suggestions as she will not fit in a bassinet? She’s tall for her age, already is passed the bassinet weight limit for United.

  2. My husband and i will be flying from Auckland to America when our son is 2 months old, is there anything to help prevent his ears from popping? I’ve heard to just feed him during take off and landing, also a cup with a damp cloth or napkin placed over one of his ears. Any other ideas? Cheers

    • Hi- I wouldn’t worry too much about his ears- unless he has a cold as that can block ears. If that’s the case it’s always a good idea to check with a Doctor before flying. Otherwise feeding is a good option.

  3. Hi! Great tips!
    I’m scared!!! Lol We are traveling from Chile to Orlando next thursday with my 4 years old daughter and 9 month old son. It’s a 10 hrs flight, we booked it at night ( usually they are great sleepers), I was thinking that it could be more comfortable for my son if I take his booby, hace you traveled with one before???

    Thks!

  4. hi, if i don’t really have the budge to get the snoozeshade thingy for the bassinet. are there any other ways to cover the bassinet so that the baby doesn’t get hit with too much light? she doesn’t really need total blackout but some cover to help dim and also so she doesn’t see people moving around would be very helpful. thanks

      • I saw that you mention that in your article but how and where did you duct tape it? I just keep worrying about the blanket covering or drooping over babies face and her not being able to breath.. thanks

        • I just duct tapped it to the bulkhead wall and then let the bottom trail over the bassinet- so it made a tent like covering. Plenty of air as both ends open as the blanket trailed down the longest length of the bassinet not covering the 2 ends.

          • Thanks so much for your advice! I ended up getting velcro dots n doing the same thing you did with the duct tape but this way I’m already set for the return trip as well ^.^

  5. Traveling on 12 hour flight with 16 month old. We have 2 seater bulkhead seats. Any advice on how to help baby/toddler sleep comfortably since we did not purchase additional seat and I hear the armrest do not go up.

  6. Hi. I will soon be flying solo with my 12 month old. I’m flying from South Africa to Rockhampton Australia. 17hours+
    I ordered the Cozigo and got it delivered in Australia. So I will only have it on the way back. What can I use with a blanket to make it a bit darker in the bassinet?

  7. The AJP article you referenced summarizes, “The reported elapsed time between the last time a child was seen by a caregiver and found deceased [was] a mean of… 140 minutes in car seats.” It is never recommended that babies sleep in car seats unattended. However, car seats are much safer for babies in terms of the extremely frequent event of airplane turbulence, which is why they are recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration. To suggest anything else is irresponsible.

    • Thanks for you comment Rachel and I appreciate your feedback. I have purely put the research and information there so readers can make an informed decision on the choice of restraint they wish to use for when flying and weigh up the pro and cons. I think it would be irresponsible of me not to mention the risks of prolonged sitting in a carseat.

      However, I do not think I have been irresponsible in pointing out the risks of prolonged sleep in a car seat (which is directly from Doctors) – but provided information and points of discussion so parents can research and make up their own minds based on their circumstances….My first line does state that ” Although, car seats are obviously SAFER in terms of an unlikely event of an aircraft accident” …

      However, if a parent is asleep on a long haul flight for 9 hours and a baby is in a car seat also asleep -then the parent is NOT checking on the child unless they wake up every 2 hours and move their child from the car seat for a period …. – unlike a car journey- where the driver is clearly awake, and you regularly stop. In an ideal world, parents would take turn on duty every 2 hours or so but this is not possible if you are a parent travelling solo with you baby.

      The main issue from research seems to be angle of car seats- and on a plane you can’t angle the car seats as much as in a car due to the plane seat.

      “This novel study used a vehicle simulator to look at the effects of placing a newborn baby in a car seat at the 40⁰ angle required for travelling.
      Researchers tested 40 newborns, who were a mix of preterm and full-term.
      They found that while sat at this angle for 30 minutes – either stationary or when in motion – the babies’ heart and breathing rate increased, and their blood oxygen levels were lower compared with lying flat in a cot.
      The difficulty is knowing whether this would put the infants at serious risk – for example, whether their risk of stopping breathing goes up.
      We don’t know how many harmful effects may occur while a baby is travelling in a car seat, so a larger study is now needed.”

      Here is some information from doctors in the UK.

      “Dr Renu Arya, consultant paediatrician at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who led the research project, said: “Parents should not stop using car safety seats to transport their infants. Infants must be protected in moving vehicles, and UK law requires car seats be used whenever infants travel in cars.”
      But it may be a good idea to rethink leaving a baby in a car seat for prolonged periods when they’re not travelling.
      Taking regular breaks when driving long distances is also recommended. As well as giving a baby a chance to move out of their car seat, it will also help keep the driver alert and reduce the risk of accidents.
      The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents recommends taking at least a 15-minute break every two hours. https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/warning-over-babies-sleeping-in-car-seats/

      I hope this clears my view up- I’m simply providing information for both arguments for parents to make up their own mind, based on research and their own circumstances. Obviously, a 2 hour flight is very different from a direct flight of 17 hours from London to Perth; and a car seat is the safest way in the event of an plane accident, but the health risks need to be weighed up too.

  8. Hello Carrie. Firstly, can I just say how much of a God send your blog has been. Thank you for your invaluable advice!

    So.. I seem to have done everything by the book, apart from selecting a night flight. I’m travelling to Japan from London with my 2 boys (10mo and 4yo.) I’m super anxious about the 10mo. In the last few days his teething has been horrific and, he just won’t atop screaming and crying- even when he’s in my arms, which is unlike him as he’s extremely clingy, which is my other issue. I don’t think he’ll allow the cabin crew or anyone else to hold him. I’m weary about how this journey will end. Also I’m travelling on my own.

    Flight is indirect-we stop over at Helsinki for 1h45 mins. We arrive in Tokyo at 0820 in the morning and we aren’t allowed to check in until 1700. I don’t know about you but I can foresee how this will all end ? any possible tips? Thank you!

    • Hi Obi – I hear you! Our then 11 month old did this to Australia and it caused bad nappy rash so she was in a lot of pain. I think I would give the ground staff and the crew a heads up when you arrive. Explain the situation and ask if there are any empty seats can you be considered for them? I always expect the worst and then anything else is a bonus. Its always worth asking if you can check in earlier yo your hotel room, too- once you are there and they can see you need assistance. Please try not to worry to much. It is a long flight but it will end. i hope he feels better – Make sure you have your call in your hand luggage ( they do 5ml sachets so you don’t have to carry a heavy bottle) Please let me know how it goes.

  9. Hi Carrie,
    Thank you so much for your blog. I’ve been coming back to it a lot in preparation for my first flight with my son. I have a couple of questions I would love to have your opinion on (I apologise if you have answered these already!)
    – what would be the best seat when flying solo with a 7 month old in a bassinet? I don’t think I can get an aisle seat, can I? It worries me not to be able to stand whenever I want because my son will for sure cry and want me to stand and bounce him.
    – how do you breastfeed in such narrow seats and with the armrests!?! I can’t quite picture how my big boy is going to fit…
    Thanks,
    Fanny

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