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.
How To Help Your Baby Sleep on A Plane
1) The Holy Grail of airline flying- request an airplane bassinet if available. See my complete 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. Plus the cabin is quieter, the lights are dimmer and the white noise buzz of the engines all helps.
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.
Baby Sleep Aids
4) If you don’t have an airline bassinet and have a lap baby, then I recommend considering the 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 Skybaby review here.
Some parents have bought a travel bed for babies; essentially an inflatable travel footrest, (sometimes known as an inflatable flight cushion) but bear in mind, unless there is a spare seat or you have purchased a seat for you baby, you may not be able to use it.
These devices can be inflated manually or with a hand pump and slot in-between your seat and the seat in front in the footwell. The most well known ones are Plane Pal and the BedBox by JetKids but there are other versions available too. I share a lot more details including the rules for using these devices on my tips to help your Toddler To Sleep on A Plane post here.
If you are flying long haul economy with Air New Zealand, consider booking their Sky Couch, where the bassinet fits into your ‘couch’ and you can both lie down to sleep!
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.
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.
Top Tips To Help Toddlers Sleep On A Plane
Below are some additional tips in brief to help settle your toddler on a plane. For a more in-depth read, my post here, details some more ideas plus includes some travel gadgets which you may find useful to help get your little one to sleep too!
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.
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!
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.
Can my baby or toddler sleep on the floor of a plane?
No – this is not allowed due to safety reasons; including unexpected turbulence and being able to reach oxygen masks.
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…
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