How to help your baby sleep on a plane (and what NOT to do)

How exciting that it’s the first time your baby has flown long distance!

The flight is going surprisingly smoothly up until this point.

This seemingly endless circus has entertained baby for a long time.

Wait!

Lights are dimming.

The pilot, along with hundreds of passengers without babies, silently signals to you: “Ok now it’s quiet-time.”

Your baby may be restless and overstimulated. It’s only a few cries away from falling asleep.

There is hope. With our several-times-tried-and-true method, baby can fall asleep and stay asleep, with little to no cries. This setup will keep the baby’s screams away from the other end of the aircraft if they do cry.

You only need:

  • A blanket
  • stroller clips
  • A graceful touch
  • Milk and patience will not hurt you.

How to help your baby sleep in the airplane:

  1. Check to see if they’ve used up all their energy. It won’t work if the child has been in their car seat for an entire day. Let your baby play in the car, or bounce on the floor, walk down the aisles with you, or climb the seat. Whatever they are physically capable of doing, allow them to do. Afterward, just disinfect their hands. On our first trip to Europe, I took a sheet with me so that our six-month-old can crawl around and avoid germs before boarding.
  2. Fill up your belly. It sounds simple. The excitement and commotion of traveling can make it difficult to recognize hunger.
  3. Try to mimic your normal bedtime routine at home (e.g., night diapers, pajamas and songs/books/sound machines). Night diaper, pajamas and milk, song/book/sound machines, night diaper …)
  4. Close the shades and keep away from bright light.
  5. When baby is ready, place them on the window (either in your lap or their car seat) once they seem to be settling. If the flight lasts more than 3.5 hours, I would prefer that they sit in their own car seat . Some bulkhead seats on international flights have bassinets. British Airways has an open-air rocker instead of the tiny bassinet. The baby bassinet / cot was too small for my six-month old, but on the return flight he fit perfectly in the open rocker.
  6. Hang a blanket in between the middle and window seats to block out distractions.
  7. Clip the blanket to both the headrest of the airplane seat as well as the seat in which the baby is sitting. If the baby is in a car seat, make sure that the vents above and on both sides of the seat are open.
  8. You can also tuck it into your headrest if you’re holding the baby or wearing him. It might be easier to hold it with stroller clip. Try the closed tray, magazine holders, or any other place you can get the blanket corners to stick.
  9. Be calm and patient. Your baby may require extra milk (or time) After the excitement, it is important to relax.
  10. When baby is waking up too early, I wait for a few minutes and see if it goes back to sleep by itself. In that case, I will give them a little more milk. It’s important to avoid being seen. If they make eye contact or see you, the game is over.

Every time it works. It works every time.

Follow this same routine each time you fly. As your baby learns the drill, it should become easier.

The Wrong Way To Do It

Avoid oral supplements or medicines. You can get adverse reactions from them.

There are too many stories about children who become overly excitable after taking Benadryl. Also, I have spoken with mothers who reported that their children had a strange reaction to melatonin.

Ask your doctor if the medication is safe. Then ask him if you can test it out at home a few weeks prior to flying.

Don’t lose hope if your child’s first trip doesn’t turn out perfectly. As they become more comfortable with flying, you will find out what suits you best.

The blanket is clipped on to both the handle of the seat on the left and the headrest to the right. There are gaps at the side for air circulation.

This is what you need to know!

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions… I’m always happy to assist.