Flying with babies and children
Some called it lunacy and others called in Bravery. A few days ago I embarked on a 26 hour flight to the other side of the world on my own with a 4 month old and a 2.5 year old. It stretched my parenting and sleep expert skills to their limits! Here is how it went: There were two things that I decided I was going to prioritize on the trip trip:
- Don’t let Eva, the 4 month old get over tired, I really wanted to avoid the overtired high pitched screaming which I know all of my fellow passengers would have loved me for!
- Don’t let Conan, the 2.5 year old, get hungry, he is just like me and gets hangry BIG TIME!
The rest of it, I decided just to let slide for the day.
In order to address my targets I did the following:
I had a bassinet booked for Eva, but I decided that a back up plan was also needed aswell. Eva will sleep well in the front pack, being bounced, its what I have always used since she was a new born if I needed an assisted nap. She will go down pretty quickly if I can catch her at the right time.
This turned out to be the best thing I could have done, because the captains on both flights were very trigger happy with the seat belt signs. Every time I managed to get her settled in the bassinet the seat belt sign would go on and I would have to take her out again and pop her on my knee. This was extremely frustrating after the 4th or 5 th time, and confusing for Eva, she didn’t know what she was supposed to be doing! As a consequence the back up plan was used A LOT!
I played a game on the plane. Each flight was 11 hours and Eva’s age appropriate awake time is around 2 – 2.15 hours. I broke up the journey in my head. Each time she woke from a nap, I would count forwards 2 – 2.15 hrs on the flight count down clock, until the next time she had to have a nap. I would then put her in the front pack, give Conan his headphones and have him watching his favourite program, then bounce her to sleep. Once she was sleeping I would sit in my seat and power dose until she woke up again.
I felt like Ellen MacArthur power napping her way across the oceans! Luckily she slept a lot during the first flight, as it was over night. However the second flight was a different story, it ended up being: sleep for 45 min – 1hr and up for 2 hours all the way from South Korea to NZ!
Conan the 2.5 year old was a different challenge sleeping wise, as no amount of bouncing would have got him down! For the first few hours the excitement of being on a plane was just too much for him. So I decided to watch how he coped, and keep giving him sleeping suggestions and cues. Eventually by midnight after several attempts at getting him down, he began the over tired melt down. Luckily it didn’t last too long, and he fell asleep whimpering “I want my airplane” over and over like a little mantra.
I tried to make the sleeps easier for him by reducing his monitor time before sleeps, and just having him play with toys and looking at books. By about half way through the flight he really began to get the hang of curling up in the seat with his cuddly and sleeping for has long as he needed too. I brought an extra pillow for him to give him some level of comfort. He seemed to get the hang of the fact that there wasn’t much to do when he was awake, so he may as well just sleep anyway! By the end I could hand him his cuddly and he just crashed.
So my take on luggage consisted of an Ergo front pack, Conan’s cuddly and his favourite healthy snacks along with nappies, wipes, changes of clothes, ipads, headphones, toys etc etc…
Mental attitude plays a huge role in these adventures. Choosing your battles, and not allowing yourself to get paranoid about what others are thinking when your toddler is having a melt down because the seat belt sign is on and all he wants to do is roam around the plane. It was all part of the adventure. I found as long as I was able to stay calm the meltdowns were pretty short lived, and the cabin crew were so helpful playing with him and distracting him from his discomfort
My husband came to meet us at the other side. I think he expected to see me crawling through the arrival gates, and had the pleasant surprise of a very enthusiastic cuddle from Conan, and a slightly exhausted smile on his wife’s face!
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.