Travelling with an infant on long haul flights

I am an Indian by origin, now living in Australia. I delivered my daughter in Australia and post her birth I was keen on taking her to India so the family could meet the new little member. My biggest worry was travelling on a long flight where it took almost 24 hours to reach the destination that included 17 hours journey with a stopover. I remember how anxious I was while taking a decision to book the tickets as LO was just 10 weeks old. I was worried about how she will cope with the long journey, the ear pain that babies might get and her feeding as she was exclusively having expressed BM.

Today I am very confident about travelling with my LO on long flights anywhere in the world. From my experience, I know that we both will manage it well. But this confidence has come from the first positive experience of travelling that I had and it came with a lot of planning and organizing. In this blog post, I am sharing some important tips to make the journey with infants comfortable for both the babies and parents

1. Get a bassinet seat – a lot of international flights have options of choosing a bassinet seat for your LO. The limit is usually 14 kgs. The extra leg space for yourself and a designated comfortable space for the baby will add to better the experience. If bassinet is not available for your travel dates, change the dates but make sure you get it.

2. Plan ahead in terms of food/feeding – As my baby only had expressed BM from the bottle I had to store and freeze the BM from 4 days before we flew. I carried the BM in storage bags and in Ice packs. On arrival in flight, I handed the insulated bag to the air hostess to store in chillers. Whenever LO needed a feed I just took a bag and kept in warm water, poured it in a bottle and all was sorted. I travelled from Australia to Mumbai with frozen bags of milk. I also expressed about 3 times during the journey so there was enough food for the baby throughout the journey. If baby is breastfeeding then there is no hassle but even if the baby is breastfeeding it is a wise idea to carry formula milk just in case your body plays up a bit with supply due to travel anxiety. Using hot water from flights is safe to make formula milk.

3. Board the flight last – this might sound weird because usually while boarding the priority is given to parents with infants. But I feel that confined space and so many people walking into the alleys can make the baby cranky and restless. It is a good idea hence to board last so that there is not much gap before taking off after you get into the aircraft.

4. Onesies for babies – The temperature in aircraft can get cooler for the young ones. From my experience, a warm onesie or sleeping bag is great to make the baby sleep well. Don’t wear too many warm clothes as that too can get stuffy for them.

5. Feed at take off and initial descent – the main concern for parents travelling with kids is ear pain during flights. The solution is feeding during takeoff and descent so that sucking helps. A lot of blogs and forums mention feeding during landing and takeoff, but the major sudden altitude drop happens at initial descent and not so much at landing. Ask the air hostesses to inform you before that happens and start feeding the baby at right time.

6. Gate check in the strollers – A lot of international flights allow stroller as a free piece of luggage and one can carry that up to the gate. Make sure you specify at the check-in counter that you would like to gate check-in the pram. You can take pram up to the gate and when you alight it is ready just outside the aircraft. On stopovers, it is comfortable to have strollers for both parents and baby. Also at the destination, one has to walk large distances to come out of the airports and having strollers ready as soon as you come out if aircraft is handy.

7. Keep the baby bag handy – Infants have got a few designated kilos to be carried as cabin baggage. Having a well-stocked baby bag will make the journey easy. I carried diapers, wipes, hand and face wipes, nappy rash cream, sanitizer, extra set of clothes, toys, paracetamol, swaddle blankets and disposable changing mats in the bag.

8. As a parent be calm – Babies sense mother’s anxiety and so if the mother is calm it would help baby be calm too. It is obvious to be anxious about travelling with a baby but if you are organized you will be confident. Relax before and during the journey. Don’t stress even if baby cries during the flight and most of all do not be embarrassed. It is ok even if you see upset faces from fellow passengers. Do not concentrate on them rather be calm and try to calm the baby.

9. Keep older babies busy when awake – When I returned from India my baby was 8 months old. She was more active and stayed awake for longer times as compared to when she first travelled as a 10 weeks old. Older babies want to move around and do things. It is a good idea to keep them busy with a toy or teethers so that they don’t get restless.

10. Massage and warm water bath before the flight – I had a late night flight and before leaving gave LO massage and a warm water bath to help her sleep well. After the feed at night, she just slept through the first leg of the flight comfortably.

Overall even with my problem of the baby not latching, carrying a stock of BM and expressing thrice during the flights the journey with LO was smooth.

Every experience teaches you, either what to do or what not to do. Travelling with a baby is not at all easy but if you plan ahead, are prepared and are calm yourself it is not at all difficult too.

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