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 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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  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???


  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.

      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…

  10. Carrie, can you please give me some information about the wheelie bag for young children that turns into a bed? I believe you wrote a review on it once but I am unable to find it on your website

  11. Hi Carrie, I was hoping you might have some tips for flying in business class with a lap infant (14 months old) on a overnight flight from San Francisco to Sydney on Qantas? We’ve booked a bassinet, but I don’t think she’ll fit in it, and I’m flying with my husband, so thankfully not solo, but I was wondering if you had any suggestions on the best sleeping arrangements?

  12. Hi Carrie

    I’m going on our first overseas trip from Perth Australia to HK (approx 8hrs) with my husband and 18month old next week. Ive booked the bassinet seat but he’s on the heavier side 12kg already and will likely be too big for it. We fly next week. He’s also quite a tall baby. Given that we will unlikely use the bassinet is it still better to have more leg room (We will likely carry him to sleep in our arms) or should I look at shifting to another seat?

    Also given that he is sitting on us do you recommend any other travel accessories that may help with comfort for him/us.

    Any feedback and suggestions are appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Cilla, I hope I haven’t missed you- I took a bit of a break over the school holidays so I wasn’t monitoring as often. The bassinet arm rest won’t come up so it may be better to try for the spare seat trick if you can? Ive some travel accessories under the Travel Gear section int he menu that might help you too. Let me know how you get on? Carrie

  13. 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!!!

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

    • 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.

  16. 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!

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