Baby’s first holiday – part one – tips for the flight


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We’re just back from a week away in Majorca. It was a very pleasant and relaxing trip, with one exception being the journey there… not only were we hit by a delayed train to the airport (meaning a last-minute manic and expensive taxi ride) but there was also a delayed flight, a turbulent descent/landing due to heavy thunderstorms, a broken shuttle transfer bus, a driver that repeatedly got lost, and a closed hotel reception waiting the other end. On top of all of that, we were sat behind a family with a screaming child throughout the entire flight and veeery long shuttle bus transfer.

Obviously I’m around young infants and babies a lot, and I know that they cry – it can’t be helped, and it’s something you just have to accept (and feel sorry for the parent for) on any form of public transport. However, there are also some things parents can do to soothe them on their journey – so I’ve collated together some helpful tips here:

Think twice about boarding early – that’ll mean longer to entertain them in confined spaces whilst everyone else is boarding. Instead, send your partner ahead to find the seats and stow the bags, whilst you keep moving around. If your baby is mobile, encourage them to wear themselves out in the airport play area or a quiet corner of the departure lounge.

Try to travel during nap time. Some children fall asleep in a plane as they would while riding in a car. If you’re crossing time zones and are worried about upsetting your baby’s schedule, take steps to fight jet lag. Try shifting your baby’s sleep hours for the few days leading up to your departure and exposing them to sunlight once you reach your destination. You may also want to keep the same schedule in the new time zone if that works best for you.

If your baby is traveling in a safety seat, rub a knotted handkerchief over you to transfer your smell and let the baby hold this on the journey. Not only will it give them something to chew on if they are teething, it will act as a comforter.

Pack for playtime – bring a few favorite toys and books and a few new ones to keep things interesting. If they’re slightly older, you can even wrap the new toys (a la Pass the Parcel) to add to the excitement. NB: You may choose to hold onto these toys until your child becomes antsy – if the flight goes well, then save the toys for the flight home. Good toys include finger puppets, pop-up toys, toys with moving parts and if possible a toy with a rubber suction cup that will stick to the in-flight tray.

Think outside of the box (or baby bag). You can improvise with what you’ve got: Make an airsick-bag puppet, play burp-cloth peekaboo, count all the doggies in the Skymall catalog, and try to see the journey as a chance for playtime uninterrupted by chores. You may feel daft playing pat a cake, peek-a-boo and singing in front of other people, but a happy giggling baby is a far more pleasant passenger than a bored grizzling baby.

Just like when you’re driving with your baby, it’s wise to tether objects to something secure, since it’s even harder on a plane to duck down and retrieve lost items from the tiny space between your seat and your neighbor’s. Another dummy travel tip — if your baby uses one, pack a few extra.

Remember to pack for feeding time. You’re allowed to bring small jars of baby food and formula (if you’re bottle-feeding) on board. Your baby’s routine may be turned upside down, so they may be hungry when you’d expect them to nap.

Ease ear pressure discomfort (displayed by increased screaming and obvious discomfort) – especially during take-off and landing – through feeds (as swallowing can help relieve some of the pressure) or sucking on a dummy/bottle/sippy cup. For older infants a lollipop is equally effective. Another quick pain reliever is a handkerchief or paper towel soaked in hot water, placed in the bottom of a plastic cup, and held gently against the child’s ear. However, if your baby’s sleeping soundly, leave them be – not all babies experience this pain.

Ask for help. You’re not the first to fly with an infant — airlines are used to accommodating young families. Flight attendants can help you get comfortable, bring you water to mix up a bottle, sometimes dispose of stinky nappies, grab an extra dummy out of your bag in the overhead and even hold your baby so you can take a trip to the bathroom if you’re flying solo. If your baby won’t take a cold bottle, it’s perfectly reasonable to see if a flight attendant will warm one up for you (use the same bottle heat test you’d do at home to avoid scalding your baby).

Dealing with tears. Traveling is hard on everybody and some babies are just less amenable to changes in scenery and routine. Try nursing or giving them something to suck, walking the aisles (if you can) or adding or removing a layer of clothes. Also let your baby look out of the window, and remember: If you’re calm, baby is more likely to be calm. So try to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Bring earplugs, not for your baby, but for yourself and the people around you. If your child cries uncontrollably, then you can show your concern by handing your neighbors an inexpensive pair of foam earplugs with a kind smile.

And lastly, a little gentle massage of hands and feet can go a long way in relaxing baby into the new environment, and encouraging sleepiness…

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