The thought of flying with a 12 week old baby was traumatic. I was petrified that George would scream and everyone would hate me. Mentally, I practised some quick witted retorts for anyone who wanted to pass comment about my parenting skills. By 18 weeks old, George had clocked up 66 hours of flight time. In this post I’ll share some simple tips to make a long haul flight easier for first timers.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE CREW
There are a lot of passengers on a flight. Some can be very demanding, others can be rude and a few somewhat ‘needy.’ Tell the crew it’s your first time flying with your baby and that you’re nervous. They will reassure you and check on you regularly. When your baby needs some stimulation, or becomes upset, head to the back of the plane. 9 times out of 10, this is where you will find the crew preparing food or drinks. Good crew members are more than happy to talk, entertain and help you if you need a little break or a toilet break if you’re flying solo.
Make eye contact and speak with the passengers sitting next to you or around you. A little small talk at the beginning of a flight goes a long way. When we flew 9 hours from Manchester to Houston, I had a brief chat with the lady and man sat behind us. Fast forward a few hours, and I needed to grab George’s feeding gear from the overhead compartment. Some of the milk had leaked and fell onto her leg. I was mortified! But she was really understanding and even helped me clean up the mess. If we hadn’t spoken beforehand, the situation may have gone in a different direction.
LEAVE YOUR SEAT
Your baby may become frustrated and bored whilst on a long haul flight. A flight duration of less than 3 hours, and you will be able to keep them happy from the comfort of your seat. Moving around the aisles helps you to keep awake, healthy and comfortable (as much as you can be). It provides your baby with passengers to look at and interact with. You can also introduce and show them a lot of different aspects of the plane to stimulate their curiosity.
For the parent, leaving your seat with your baby allows fellow passengers to see you and your baby. More often than not, fellow passengers can be encouraging, sympathetic and helpful. And believe me, two minutes of crying feels like 10. When you’re tired, your baby has been upset and you are just body is beginning to unwind from the rigidness of your child being upset – a sympathetic smile and a few words of encouragement from a stranger makes a big difference to your mind set.
ORGANISE YOUR HAND LUGGAGE
Be prepared and organised before you leave the house. You will have to get up several times throughout a long haul flight, for yourself and for your baby. Have your feeding equipment, bibs, muslin clothes at the front of your bag. The most frequently used items should be in zip sealed bags, making them easy and quick to locate and grab. For ideas on what you will need in your hand luggage click here for a checklist. The main aim is to eliminate any potential stress or frustration, from not having items easily available.
TAKE OFF AND LANDING
Bassinet or no bassinet, when the seat belt sign comes on one adult must be responsible for your baby. Your baby must wear a seat belt that is attached to that of an adult. This is expected for take off and landing. Depending on the airline, you may be required to remove your little one from their bassinet and into a seat belt/on your lap when experiencing turbulence.
The pressure may build up in your baby’s ears during take off and landing. If you are able to feed them, cuddle them or let them suck on a dummy, the swallow mechanism will help to relieve the pressure. These are the normal times where your baby may become upset, keep calm and try to help them through it.
PLAY WITH YOUR BABY
Pre-parenthood, flights were a great excuse to relax and do nothing! Your baby will not sleep for the entire duration of a long haul flight (short haul they may). Enjoy the one on one time. Tummy time on the aisles, peek-a-boo in premium economy and smile at other passengers!
When we took George to Singapore at 12 weeks old, he required minimal interaction and slept for most of the 12.5 hour flight. However, on the flight to America, he was 18 weeks old and he required a lot more attention, time and play.
CHOOSE YOUR FLIGHT TIMES TO FIT YOUR BABY’S SCHEDULE
Sometimes you have no choice. But if you do, choose carefully the time of day your flight departs. Paying close attention to the arrival time at your destination. We prefer day flights, as it helps to keep George in his normal routine. The last thing you want is to arrive at an unfamiliar destination at 3am, jet lagged, hungry and unable to help your baby transition the time zones. Think before booking and come up with a plan to manage the jet lag and adjust your baby. Click here for advice on how to cope with jet lag and a baby.