Taking a flight with baby in tow? Nicole Dastur-Arsiwala shares pointers on how to survive the skies with an infant, while keeping your dignity intact
TRAVELLING long-distance flights can often be tiring. Add an infant to the equation, and you’re bound to be even more exhausted. What with little or no sleep during the flight, and the stress. After all, it’s no mean feat keeping your under-six-month-old quiet and content in public places for long periods of time, let alone throughout your journey by air. However, with just a few tips and tricks, you can have a peaceful, tear-free and enjoyable flight. Here’s how…
BEFORE YOU BOARD
Choose a night flight: A little bit of pre-planning goes a long way when on the flight. Where possible, book a night flight so that baby will sleep for most— or all—of the journey. Most infants don’t sleep through the night till well past four months, or even later, but they do sleep longer and more sound than during the day.
Select a bassinet seat: Irrespective of whether your baby will sleep in it or not, ask for a bassinet. It’s useful to dump pacifiers, milk bottles, toys or any other baby paraphernalia. It’s also a safe place to keep baby when you need to eat or just need a break! Remember to ask for one when booking your ticket itself as they often get booked out.
When flying with an infant, don’t tug along too many pieces of hand luggage. The trick is to travel light but smart. Opt for a backpack (with lots of handy compartments) over a conventiona nappy bag—so your hands are free to carry your baby. If you must take another piece of hand luggage with you, make sure it’s on wheels. Ditch the fancy big purse and put just your essentials (passports, phone and money) in a small purse slung across your shoulder. ‘Sling’ it on! Unless you suffer from a back problem or your baby refuses to be put in a sling, carry one! It is much easier having baby straddled onto you than having to carry him around the airport. Also, you will be hands-free to manage luggage and passport checks, especially if you are travelling solo with your infant.
Keep baby active before boarding: Most airports abroad provide free baby play areas. Once you’ve checked in and completed security, head straight there and let your baby be as active as possible before boarding the plane. “Your infant may not be crawling yet, but even sensory play can stimulate—and thus, tire—an infant,” says UK-based childcare worker Laura Walsh. It’s a win-win situation: your baby is active and will be more tired en route, which means more rest for you on the flight.
Keep your baby entertained: This is important to avoid irritablity and crankiness. Things you could carry to keep her stimulated on board are rattles, small plastic mirrors (babies can spend a considerable amount of time looking at themselves!), soft toys that she can comfortably hold herself (if she’s mastered the grasp) and picture books in bright contrasting colours. For smaller babies, research suggests that books with black and white images are the most enticing.
If your infant is over three months, you could also walk around the aircraft showing her the different parts of the aeroplane, and talking to her about it. You may think that’s a pointless exercise considering she won’t understand, but it is a proven fact that talking to babies from a young age helps their communication skills develop. The aircraft is a new environment for her and you’ll be surprised how interested your little one will be in everything around her.
Avoid overstimulating your baby: It’s easy to overstimulate babies so even if your infant isn’t cranky or showing signs of sleep, put her down for a nap according to her regular routine. She will settle much easily and quicker, if she isn’t overtired.
Use white noise apps/cds: Many babies use the aid of ‘white noise’ cds/ machines to drift off to sleep. If white noise helps calm your baby, download a white noise app on your phone or carry a portable cd player with her favourite white noise cd. The familiar ‘noise’ will aid your baby to sleep.
Medication to calm babies: Most babies adjust to the change in air pressure and atmosphere, but some tend to get extremely irritable during long flights. If no other method of soothing works, Dr Joseph Mathews, a pediatrician from London, suggests giving baby a dose of calpol (paracetamol) to calm her down . “An infant cough syrup can also make baby drowsy, which will help to soothe her,” says Dr Mathews. “However, do not give more than the recommended dose and always check with the baby’s doctor before administering any medication,” he advises.
Allow others in: Distraction is the best cure for an irritable baby. So, it’s okay if other passengers want to make faces, or coo, at her. If toys and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ aren’t doing the trick, allow a willing fellow passenger or air-hostess to play with your baby for a while. A new face playing peek-a-boo can keep your infant occupied. Keep in mind, however, that some babies don’t like mixing with strangers, especially in an unfamiliar environment. In this case, don’t force it; it might just make her more anxious. ■
“Ensure your baby is sucking on something during takeoff and landing to prevent her ears from‘popping’ and aching due to the change in air pressure. The best idea is to breastfeed a baby or give her a pacifi er to suck on.”
– Nataasha Goradia,California, US
“Always carry a sachet of paracetamol with you in case baby develops a fever or pain on board.”
– Surabhi Mehta, Mumbai, India
“Long journeys can get tiring for babies, so don’t lose your cool if your baby is cranky or not behaving. More importantly, don’t worry about what others will think, as that will stress you out even more.”
– Mansha Arora, London, UK
“I always make sure there is a teether in my nappy bag. Nothing causes more discomfort for babies than sore gums!”
– Nicki Cheung,
“Mums always pack an extra pair of clothes for baby, in case of toilet accidents or spit-ups. But remember to put in an extra pair of clothing for yourself as well, incase baby throws up on you!”
– Daphne Wong, London, UK
“Carry your baby’s blankie or favourite soft toy. The familiar object will make your baby feel secure and calm.”
– Emma Richards, London, UK
HOW TO DEAL WITH PASSENGER ‘LOOKS’ AND STARES
Fellow passengers often assume that if there is a baby on board, there will be crying and noise. So you will get certain ‘looks’ that suggest you—and your baby—being on the aircraft is not a good thing. The best advice traveller mums give is to simply ignore these looks. “Be prepared to get stares and don’t be shy to ask for help. Act as you normally would with your baby; it will keep you calm. Don’t allow the nerves to kick in,” shares mum Madhurima Ray.