The look on other passengers’ faces when they see that a baby will be sitting next to or even close them has the ability to cause a parent to have mild palpitations as they quickly reach for the calpol. How on earth do you keep a baby quiet and occupied for the duration of a flight? What if he or she starts fussing when everyone is sleeping, has a full blown tantrum, kicks over someone’s glass of vino mid tantrum and refuses to sit down when the fasten seatbelt is switched on? Or worse still, has a nappy leakage at 35,000 feet! I am as clueless as the next person and once distraction tactics have grown old I’m generally out of ideas. So the priceless hints and tips that others passed on to me, I pass on to you and wish you a very pleasant journey!
#1 Goodbye (for now) routine
Those of you who know me (and my OCD tendencies) may know that I like Sophia’s predictable routine. However I thoroughly advise throwing the carefully planned eating and sleeping timings (I can’t quite believe that I’m typing that) out of the window on a long haul flight, for the sanity of other passengers if nothing else. The thought of this caused my ‘all my ducks in a row’ personality type to almost have a nervous breakdown at first, although I quickly made my peace with my ducks and bid them a fond farewell in the hope of one day seeing them neatly lined up in a row again.
#2 Nap the day away
Our 10-month old daughter has three nap times each day, usually at regular intervals. She is like clockwork; bedtime is at 7pm and we usually don’t hear a peep from her until 6.45am the following morning. Angel child brag. Undoubtedly feeding and sleeping patterns are linked but during the 28 hours of travel to New Zealand I just bit the bullet, took off my watch and let her cat nap and feed at will. On previous shorter flights I have stuck to her feeding and sleeping times, but with the 12-hour time difference, it was best to be led by her. As soon as she slept, I tried to nap too even if there was a really good movie that I wanted to watch.
To help our bubba sleep on board, we brought along our snooze shade (a lightweight, portable black out material for car seats and buggies). We normally use it when we’re out and about, but it was particularly good for naps on the planes and around the airports as it blocks out the bright lights. It has a built-in zipped area for you to peek in and check on your sleeping beauty without letting in loads of light and waking them up. It also can come in handy as an additional sunshade if you get a window seat.
Whether or not infant ear defenders actually make a difference on a flight, we always use them in loud environments to protect Sophia’s ears; we want to do everything we can to avoid hearing damage. For our peace of mind Sophia wore these during take off and landing. We also popped them on while she was sleeping as there is so much background noise on flights and the annoying bing-bong announcements are loud enough to waken the dead! Coupled with the snooze shade, the ear defenders ensured that our little beauty could get snoozing on board. Eye mask for one please!
#3 Food glorious food
With all the changes for bubba on the journey; time zone, different sleeping arrangements, bright airport lights, plane food, new smells and sounds etc, I wanted our little one to be as comfortable as possible, so fed her on demand (something I had never done before) for the duration of the flight. Feeding during take off and landing helped soothe her and may have reduced some of the pressure in her ears too. I also had a couple of bottles of expressed milk on standby just in case we were delayed taking off or she couldn’t feed comfortably with the seatbelt on. I use MAM anti-colic, self-sterilising bottles, which come with interchangeable sizes of shaped teats which suit the different stages of development. Sounds complicated, but these bottles are the only ones that our little darling would take expressed milk from.
I packed enough Organix Finger Food Snacks to feed a small army and my own brought home-made baby food in reusable travel pouches as well as some Ella’s kitchen pouches. I am into healthy eating in a big way and as Sophia hadn’t ever eaten anything other than home-made baby food before the flight, I wanted her to have familiar tastes during the journey. I found two brands of really great reusable, dishwasher safe travel pouches online; one called Nature’s Little Squeeze and the other Pouches2go. Both were great. The Pouch2go is clearly marked as 100ml on the pouch which made it easy during the scrutiny at airport security. Nature’s Little squeeze seems to have a greater capacity but this isn’t labelled on the pouch. Either way, all ten little pouches got through Security and managed not to burst for the entire flight!
I made a few simple, quite runny purees of sweet potato, parsnip&carrot and pear&appple. These could be eaten hot or cold and were easy to heat up in a cup of warm water if available (not microwave safe). The nozzle is the same size as the Ella’s kitchen one so the attachable spoon heads fit on the end too, although Sophia was often happier feeding herself from the nozzle. It was less messy that way! There was baby food provided on board as well but I wasn’t sure about the brand or flavours in advance and didn’t want any new flavours upsetting Sophia’s tummy mid-journey.
When we got to Auckland airport I washed out the travel pouches that Sophia had eaten from and was ready to throw away the uneaten ones after declaring them at Security. To my pleasant surprise, all of the homemade baby food was allowed through. Bonus.
- Toys which baby hasn’t seen before are likely to grab your baby’s attention so we purchased a couple before flying; nothing flashy or noisy (for the sake of other passengers) but ones with a buggy clip! A new favourite game of Sophia’s is to drop things on the floor so buggy toys or fabric books with clips that attach to the car seat or bassinet might mean less rummaging around under the seats for you.
- I didn’t ever have a strong opinion for or against dummies and when Sophia was born we decided to be open-minded and see how we got on. I think it was at about 3.00am on night four when she was screaming the house down, had just been fed, winded, had a nappy change and was still testing out her vocal chords for the entire neighbourhood to hear that we reached for the dummy and haven’t looked back. The dummy came in particularly handy on the Eurotunnel as well as flights as it seemed to relieve the pressure in her ears. We try just to give it to her to as a sleep prop now. They’re not for everyone, but they worked for us. Dummies were packed in each coat pocket and every bag compartment, well at least enough to allow for some to get lost and it not cause pandemonium. I prefer the NUK dummy range as they are developed by dental health experts. It has an orthodontic shape that promotes healthy oral developmenthe. They sit nestled in the roof of the baby’s mouth and don’t fall out straight away.
- Dummy clips were so useful and prevented a lot of lost or dropped dummies. We got the MAM soother clips two pack however for the moments when the dummy did hit the nappy changing table or drag on the floor, the portable dummy steriliser was priceless. It comes with its own little pack of mini-steralising tablets for use on the go, and stays sterile for 24 hours.
- Teething? Or the potential to start at 35,000 feet? My dear friend Emily introduced me to sachets of teething granules which relieve sore gums. Sophia and Emily’s little boy, Seve (who we miss a ridiculous amount) have been teething on and off for months and these little sachets of chamomile goodness are a God-send. They are measured out in ready-to-pour sachets and all you do is empty the contents into your little darling’s mouth. They can be given every 2 hours for up to 6 doses and work a treat. At the first sign of flushed cheeks, dribbling and relentless chewing, I reach straight for these and think of Seve and Sophia’s little date days.