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Survival Tips for Flying with a Baby or Toddler

on Friday, 05 July 2013. Posted in Toddler Tips, Life With Baby

Stressed out about flying with your infant? Fret not. Our tips for flying with a baby or toddler will make take-off, landing and everything in between turbulence-free.

Survival Tips for Flying with a Baby or Toddler

Flying with a baby or a toddler can have its fair share of stress, for both parents and fellow passengers, especially if your little one cries and has a temper tantrums during the journey. For new and inexperienced parents, crying babies and insensitive passengers can create an extremely stressful situation.

To cope with the travails of flying with a little one, we’ve compiled a list of tips on how to survive flying with your baby that will make the trip as pleasant as possible for you and for everyone else on the aircraft.

Book wisely

Experienced parents highly recommend booking overnight flights for long distances. If your baby is on a regular sleep schedule, picking a flight to coincide with baby’s longest nap of the day ensures a few hours of quiet time for you. However, if his or her naptime isn’t like clockwork, you’re better off not trying to schedule a flight during usual sleeping time because the baby might stay awake and act fussy.

Seating strategy

For older babies, purchasing a separate seat to place baby and his or her car seat will be a blessing on long haul flights if you can swing it. Babies are more comfortable and more likely to fall asleep in a car seat than in your lap.

If you are unable to get a separate seat for your baby, consider these tips for flying with a baby in your arms:

  • Use a sling or a soft baby carrier so that your arms free and you are confortable and relaxed.

  • Get an aisle seat so that you can get up more easily for diaper changes or to walk a fussy baby.

  • Opt for bulkhead seats which have bassinets and more legroom when selecting your seats. The larger floor space means you can change diapers easily or create a makeshift bed on the floor for an older baby if you don’t have a car seat.

Bassinet basics

If your child is under six months old and in general under 10-12kg in weight, most airlines will provide free bassinets for long haul flights. Some airlines may also have a specially trained flight attendant who can help families with young kids.

It is best to request a bassinet early and double check whether the airline has recorded your request. If you’re a frequent flyer on a premium tier, make sure that the airline is aware of this, as bassinets are scarce and there can be many requests during peak times.

Don’t forget to pack a dark scarf to throw over the bassinet to block out the light when baby is sleeping.

Less is not more when packing your carry-on bag

Make sure you have more than enough of everything in case your flight is delayed. Include all the basic necessities such as diapers, baby food and wet wipes. Calculate the number of diapers you will need depending on the length of the flight and on the amount of waste the baby generates. Always pack extras for those just-in-case moments.  Prepare for the worst and bring along a small quantity of medication (like Panadol, or any regular medication your child might need) for long-haul flights.

If possible bring a small quantity of water with you or plan on buying some mineral or distilled water from the airport once you pass through the security checks. Milk, medicines and baby food is exempt from airport security restrictions. Present all items for inspection when going through security screening.

Stick to separates

Temperatures on board an aircraft can fluctuate heavily so pack wisely and have layers of clothes to put on or strip off when your little one gets hot or cold. Babies also tend to fall asleep faster when they feel warm and cosy. Additionally, studies have shown that when babies have cold feet (literally), they feel uncomfortable and cry, so make sure the toddlers put on a pair of cosy socks!

Plan for mishaps so have at least 3 sets of clothes for your baby to change into. It’s also best to dress your baby in separates as this makes for easier changing when only his or her pants are soiled. Don’t forget to pack an extra top for yourself too. It’s no fun sitting on an airplane for 8 hours reeking of baby vomit.

Ease ear pressure

Babies and children can feel uncomfortable during initial stages of take-off and descent (up to 30 minutes) due to changes in the cabin’s air pressure. This discomfort is another reason why they might be crying.

Paediatricians, flight attendants, and seasoned parents suggest giving the baby a bottle, breast or pacifier to help ease pressure in the ears. If the baby has never used a pacifier before and feeding him or her is not possible, then try rubbing his or her ears while singing a soothing song. For older kids, lollipops or chewing gum is a good way to relieve ear pressure.

In-flight entertainment

Your baby or child is going to need entertainment and often, lots of it. It is highly recommended to bring along some toys (old and new) for the younger kids. For older kids you can also pack cards, board games or even a puzzle book like Sudoku, depending on what keeps your child from getting bored.

Experts recommend bringing along iPads, toys and books that the kids have never played with. While this sounds like a luxury, new toys and books can add a significant amount of distraction time to the flight.

Toys like Magic Drawing Boards (the type with attached magnetic pens (as long as your don’t mind drawing for 8 hours). Avoid crayons and pencils as you will lose them during the flight. Transformer type toys which change shape without falling apart are a great hit too.

New books can keep kids entertained too. Each new book could buy you about 15-30 minutes time.

Some airlines might have one or more in-flight TV channels for children showing popular Disney and kid’s shows like Sesame Street. If this is a priority, check with the airlines to make sure that they offer these channels on your route. However, do be prepared in case the in-flight system isn’t working on the day of your flight, iPads are an excellent backup so load up the iPad with movies and games.

Airborne snoozing

Other than entertainment, it’s important to let the child get some sleep. Studies show that cabin noise usually hovers around 100 decibels and is even louder during take-off. Using cotton balls or small earplugs will help decrease the amount of noise your baby is exposed to, making it easier for them to relax and sleep.

Studies have shown that soft gentle music has a sedative effect on children. Consider bringing an iPod with ‘sleeping’ music and a comfortable set of headphones to drown the noise and send the child to the land of nod.

Be stroller smart

If possible bring along a sturdy umbrella pushchair with you, so that the baby or toddler doesn’t have to walk far or can continue sleeping in the airport with minimal disruption. Do make sure you have enough hands to carry your luggage AND push the stroller along if you opt for this option.

In the end, no matter how much advice we can offer you, remember, only you as parents know your child, so trust your instincts and rely on your experience. Your flight fears will seem insignificant in a few years when your kid grows up and asks you for your car keys.

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