Flying + Babies + Holidays = STRESS
Or does it?
For those traveling with babies one and younger, taking a flight during the holidays is filled with questions about the stuff, the potential stress, and sleep. As in, will the babies sleep on the plane, sleep at the destination, or sleep at all!
The National Sleep Foundation shares that babies 0-3 months need 14-17 hours of sleep a day and 4 to 11-month-olds need 12-15. That can be 2.5 to 3 times more sleep than their parents are getting!
Nervous about sleep options while going through the hectic lines, layovers, and new environments? Here are some ideas:
BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
Consider starting a sleep routine. Helping to signal sleep time with a song, specific book, a comfort object nearby helps babies know what to expect, and can reduce stress. The environment may change once you start traveling, but establishing positive triggers that signal rest time will help your baby adapt easier.
Consider introducing the travel crib before you leave home. Will you be using a pack-n-play or other travel crib while away? Consider using it for a week before you leave to acclimate your baby to the sight, smell, and feel of this space. Giving them a chance to associate positive experiences with the sleeping area before leaving removes even more new-ness when you arrive at your holiday destination.
Consider using tools that travel. Beyond a travel crib, some tools sleep experts recommend for creating an environment that supports safe sleep also help put your baby to sleep! A white noise machine (or app on your phone), swaddles (for children four months and younger) or sleep sacks, and pacifiers are all tools that could be useful to offer comfort to your child without much bulk.
Consider packing less than you need. This advice may sound ridiculous, but hear us out. Most families are not traveling to remote locations where things like diapers and wipes are unavailable. Consider shipping some of those supplies ahead so you can use your bag space for things that matter - like snacks!
DAY OF TRAVEL
Check TSA Wait Times. The MyTSA App is available to check wait times for security lines at your airport. Long lines mean you may need to give yourself more time, which may impact that last nap time at home.
Consider baby wearing at the airport. Babywearing devices allow for your child to be close, feel safe, and stay cozy warm - all things that can help a tired child drift off to sleep. Consider using one of these tools as you roam through the airport, and keep the stroller nearby do the heavy lifting of your carry on and diaper bag.
Organize your essentials. Regardless if you use paper tickets or digital, having a spot where you put your ID, phone, and wallet every time you are done using it will keep you from setting it somewhere or shoving it into a pocket you forget existed a few hours later. Having small children means your attention is almost always divided, and that can cause our brains to go on autopilot. Plus, if you get stuck under a sleeping child on the plane, don’t risk waking them because your headphones slid to the bottom, and are now out of reach!
Eating and sleeping often go together so have a plan for how you can comfortably feed your child. Do you use a hand pump incase there is no plug in? Are you bringing bottled breastmilk or formula? Do you plan to nurse on demand? Many airports have mother rooms in one terminal or breastfeeding pods like Mamava. Mamava pod locations may work with your travel plans.
It can be helpful to give your child something to suck on while taking off and landing to ease ear pressure changes. Breastfeeding, offering a bottle, or using a pacifier during these times may reduce discomfort, or perhaps trigger your baby to enjoy their first or last nap of the flight.
REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE TRAVELING
If things don’t go as planned, your baby is overtired, and you start to question why you are going through all the trouble of traveling in the first place, take a moment with your partner and take a breath. You don’t have to pretend. There is nothing wrong with you or your child. Babies feel stress just like adults, and traveling and holidays are stressful. You can help your baby by offering them a supportive snuggle, calm reassurance, and love.
We suggest, again: take a breath, slow down, and make eye contact with someone who makes you feel seen. Ask for a hug. Ask for help.
As a growing family, you are not expected to have it all worked out.