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Top Tips To Help Baby Sleep On A Plane

Top Tips To Help Baby Sleep On A Plane

(And older kids too!)

*This post does contain some affiliate links, which will cost absolutely nothing to you. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Wondering how to get your baby to sleep on plane? The these tips will help. 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?

How Old Does A Baby Have To Be To Fly? infant on the plane asleep in mothers arms

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.

Emirates Bassinet Seat on the B777
Emirates Bassinet Seat

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 (unless on B747) 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 as a gift, 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. We still use the grown up one now on trips away.

Top Tips to Help Baby Sleep on the Plane - This Works baby pillow spray
This Works – baby pillow spray – Top Tips to Help Baby Sleep on the Plane

4) Stick to your routine. Babies generally respond well to routine. Although you can’t bath them on a flight, you can change them into their pj’s and give them an evening feed and read a story to signal that it is bedtime. 

Baby Sleep Aids

5) 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 which reduces the chance of waking them up; plus it’s 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.

An idea that is very popular at the moment is a similar concept to the Skybaby, but it is a brand new dog bed! It’s comfy and has raised sides, (but as always do keep a close eye on your baby as it’s obviously not tested for babies.)

Some parents have bought an airplane seat extender or 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! It does come as an extra charge.

Sky baby travel mattress, Top Tips to Help Baby Sleep on the Plane
Sky baby travel mattress

6) If you do have a bassinet, hurrah! I’ve recently road tested a bassinet cover by CoziGo. ( photo of it in action below) The only airline which currently seems to have an issue with are Virgin Atlantic, whereas other airline even Virgin Australia, British Airways, Emirates etc do officially allow it and no others I am aware of have had any concerns.

(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, Top Tips to Help Baby Sleep on the Plane, airline bassinet cover
CoziGo Bassinet cover

7) 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.

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

Do you have any other sleep travel tips for babies that worked for you? Please do comment below and let me know. If you have an older baby or toddler read on..

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 and keep to you normal routine as close as possible. 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, Top Tips to Help Baby Sleep on the Plane
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, Top Tips to Help Baby Sleep on the 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.

Top Tips to Help Baby Sleep on the Plane
Using the travel snugs on a plane. Great for sleeping on a flight!

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.

Car Seats

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. Obviously on a long haul flight, this can be hard to monitor if you are tired too.

The American Journal of Paediatrics has published FAA approved car seats will help!

Please do comment below if you have any more sleep travel 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
Top Tips to Help Baby Sleep on the Plane

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Sara

Thursday 27th of June 2019

Hi, Thanks for your tips! They're really helpful. I will be traveling solo with my 6 year old and 6 month old next week overseas and we have requested the bulkhead seats in order to have the bassinet for the baby. I had a (possible crazy) thought: should I be nervous about falling asleep with the baby in the bassinet? I guess just being on a big airplane with lots of people and without my husband...I was wondering if there was some kind of strap I could use to put on her and in my hand while I sleep? I know this might sound crazy, not sure if anyone has ever voiced this kind of concern before...TIA!

Elle

Monday 13th of May 2019

Hi Carrie, great tips on your blog! Just an update - we just flew Qantas to Australia from the UK and were not allowed to use the SkyBaby for take off or landing and were also not allowed to use an inflatable footrest similar to those used to create toddler beds at any point during the flight (and apparently that applies for both bulk head seats and normal rows). Very frustrating, but Qantas (and Australia generally!) do tend to be more safety conscious I suppose.

CarrieB

Friday 17th of May 2019

Thanks for the update. i always appreciate hearing how people get on with airlines. The sky baby shouldn't have been an issue as its just like holding your baby with a blanket, but yes Qanas also don't allow the inflatable leg rests but Virgin Australia do.

Flying With A Baby (@flyingwithbaby)

Thursday 4th of April 2019

Hi s, sorry you feel that way. There are plenty of options to buy the things I mention second hand or borrow form friends. I’ve lent my CoziGo to several people. Also suggestions like trying for a spare seat is completely free as is using a blanket to shield from the bright cabin lights. Food like bananas doesn’t cost a lot either. Where are you flying to and what airline? Perhaps I can help with further suggestions.

s don

Thursday 4th of April 2019

great tips....all i need to do is re-mortgage my home to pay for everything you suggest. Ridiculous blog.

Pam

Wednesday 6th of February 2019

Hi Carrie, We are planning on visiting relatives in Manila, that's a very long flight. I've been looking for something to use to keep my child safe, he will be on our lap. Is there something we can use that will keep him safe just in case there's a turbulence (I'm praying there won't be any) and is FAA approved. THANK YOU!!!