what can i give my baby to sleep on a plane (3)

What Can I Give My Baby To Sleep On A Plane?

A long haul flight with a toddler can be intimidating, but setting the right expectations is half the battle. Going into your flight with a toddler expecting to spend most of the time entertaining your toddler will make it much easier.

Getting your toddler to sleep on the flight will be a bonus but well worth the effort!

We believe that getting your toddler to sleep on the plane is more than worth the effort. This doesn’t mean keeping to a rigid schedule, but you’ll both be happier if your toddler isn’t so overtired.

In our post on flying with a toddler, we advise on how to keep your toddler busy and what to expect during your flight. We also mention that one of the key tips to surviving a flight with a toddler is to get them to sleep, so we thought it would be helpful to expand on how to get a toddler to sleep on the aeroplane.

These toddler sleep tips may not work every time (trust me – we had a massive failure on a 10hr+ flight with our toddler), but this will give you the best chance to get toddlers sleeping on airplanes.

Babies on a plane. No passenger likes to see the board, and no parent wants to deal with the annoyed looks as they pass by each row on the way to their seats.

One blessing about airline travel with a baby, though, is that babies generally do sleep. You have to have a few tricks up your sleeve to make it happen.

The more you fly with your baby, the easier it will be, but if you are flying for the first time, we have a few simple tips to help you out.

Every parent wants their young child to sleep on an aeroplane. It’s just the truth. Having a sleeping kid on an aeroplane makes everyone less stressed.

Whether your flight is 2 hours or 15 hours, it’s a good feeling to get some much-needed relaxation while the little one sleeps the miles away.

We have put a baby to sleep on an airplane, put a toddler and a baby to sleep on an airplane, and even gotten two toddlers to sleep on an airplane.

We have one good sleeper and one not so good sleeper, so it’s not always easy.

There are a few tricks to sleeping on a plane! To help other parents who feel overwhelmed by sleep time on a plane, we put together ways to get your child to sleep on a flight, so let’s get snoozing!

FAQs About Baby Sleep

It is usually best only to give Benadryl to children above 12 months old. Those younger than 12 months have greater side effects and variable sedation. It's best to give one dose. If on an international flight or cross-country drive, you don't want to sedate the child continuously.

When travelling, babies should sleep alone in a crib, portable crib, bassinet or pack and play.

Request an airline bassinet if it is available on your airline/flight. If you are flying with an eight-month-old infant as a lap baby, then good news – your little one will fit in almost all airline bassinets, meaning hopefully they will sleep in the sky cot, allowing you to get some rest. Too!

Don't let children sleep on the floor of the plane.

Even if you may have gotten away with it in the past or friends have recommended it, please note that infants or children sleeping on the plane floor is a big no-no – refer to the fact above that they must be wearing a seat belt.

Little ones can use Joie travel cots from birth until 15kg (approximately three years) or until they can climb out. Most accessories, such as changers, bassinets, and napping seats, are usable up to 9kg or until the child can sit, kneel, or pull themselves up unaided (approximately six months).

21 Tricks To Getting Your Baby To Sleep On A Plane

what can i give my baby to sleep on a plane

Stick to your routine

Babies love routine. They know that at night they get their bath, are wrapped in a soft blanket, have a little milk, get a bedtime story and are kissed goodnight. Whatever your routine is with your baby, when you want them to nap or go to bed at night, do it on the plane. 

You may not be able to bathe your child, but you can change them into their pyjamas, have a little warm milk and read a story to signal that it is bedtime. This soothing routine will cure your child that it is time for bed, so they better get ready.

Walk, walk and walk some more.

If you have a baby carrier, bring it with you on your next trip. Besides being invaluable when exploring a new place, it is a natural nap zone for your baby. Snuggle your baby into their carrier, preferably facing in towards you so they can hunker down for a little rest, not be face out where all of the stimulation is on the plane.

If there is a hood, put it over the baby's head to create a little dark space. Just make sure their mouth is not covered so they can still breathe. Now go for a walk. That soothing, rocking motion should have your little one out within minutes. 

If you need to do a little bounce as you walk the aisles, don't be afraid. Everyone on that plane wants your baby to sleep just as much as you do. They won't laugh when you do your best to keep the plane quiet.

Create a quiet zone

Ideally, you will have an extra seat on your flight, so you have more room for your baby to stretch out and settle in for bed. This isn't always the case. Most planes are so packed that an extra seat for a baby is a pipe dream. 

You can still create your quiet zone, though, even without the extra space. Turn off all electronics, darken the seatback screens and shut the window shade. You want to take away as much stimulation as possible. 

Turn your baby towards the window so they can't see people walking by. This doesn't always work, but the less your baby has to occupy him or herself, the more likely they will settle down for a little snooze.

Build a tent

Not every baby can settle down if you take away the electronics. Some need a physical barrier to stop them from seeing what is happening. This is when those airplane blankets or the blanket you brought come in handy, allowing you to build a tent. 

Build a wall with your blankets by tucking one side into the top of your seat and the other side into the tray table (you should still be able to put your tray table up). If you know the person in front of you, you can also tuck the second end of the blanket into their seat's headrest. 

You can build walls using this method and even a roof, effectively creating a tiny cocoon for them to snuggle down into for the duration of your flight. This even works on toddlers and slightly older kids who have a hard time shutting down with so much going on.

Naptime and bedtime on a plane are possible when travelling with your baby. 

Sometimes you will have to get creative, and sometimes it will mean very little rest for you, but at least you will have a happy kid when you land. Your fellow passengers will be thrilled as well.

Bring a white noise machine on the plane for your toddler.

It might seem unnecessary on a plane, but a white noise machine can help block out more of the sounds and distractions on the plane. It’s also helpful to keep your toddler sleeping.

Use an audiobook or music for your toddler on the plane.

When it’s time for your toddler to sleep, he may still want to explore the aeroplane. Use an audiobook (for older toddlers) or music to help your toddler calm down if you can get your toddler to lay down and listen.

Create a tent on the plane for your toddler.

One of our favourite toddler travel hacks is to create a tent for your toddler to sleep in. The aeroplane blankets are perfect for making it darker and blocking more distractions for your toddler. 

You can tuck it in the tray on the seat in front of your toddler and somewhere on their seat (either the headrest or even along the back of the seat will work).

Don’t stick to a rigid schedule.

Don’t try to get your toddler to sleep as soon as you get on the plane – give your toddler time to play and explore.

This one is for your sanity. You’ll get frustrated if you get on the plane and immediately try to get your toddler to sleep. It’s a new environment, and it’s exciting.

There will be a lot around them, and they’ll want to explore and touch everything in arm's reach. Even if it’s their usual bedtime, put it off until later.

Choose the right flight time with a toddler.

If your toddler does pretty well going to sleep for naps or at night, and she also sleeps well in new places, there’s a good chance you can get her to sleep on the flight. If you have a long haul flight with a toddler, plan it overnight to get a few hours of sleep.

Book the right aeroplane seats with a toddler.

Don’t pick seats right near the toilets or where people congregate when they are tired of sitting. They’ll be talking loudly, and your toddler will be distracted.

Talk to your toddler about the flight.

This has been and continues to be one of the best ways to get kids to sleep on a plane for us. We started doing it before our toddler was two years old. A week before the flight, we’d start talking about it. We’d describe the plane, explain the seat belt light, and go through what our flight would look like.

For example: “Once we get on the plane, we will play and eat. Once the food is cleared, we will get our pyjamas and read books. Once we are done with the books, it will be time for you to go to sleep.”

We’d have this talk over and over throughout the week. Then there were no surprises on the plane. And even on the plane, we’d talk through each part: “See, there is the seat belt light. Is it on or off? Should your seat belt be on or off right now?”

Minimise your toddler’s sugar intake.

Travelling with a toddler on a plane is hard enough. Keep the sugar and sugary treats to a minimum before and during the flight.

That’s not to say you should pack a few treats for emergencies.

Pack all the snacks and milk for your toddler.

Bring plenty of toddler aeroplane snacks. Snacks are great for keeping your toddler busy on the aeroplane and their bellies full. Don’t forget the milk, especially if it’s part of their nighttime routine.

Some of our favourite aeroplane snacks for toddlers were cheerios and blueberries. We’d also bring a couple of food pouches, assuming that our toddler wasn’t likely to eat the aeroplane food. Don’t forget a spillproof snack cup to prevent the entire thing from being dumped on the aeroplane floor.

Use your sleep routines on the plane for your toddler.

What do you do before bed at home? Toddlers thrive on routine. While a bath is out, put your toddler in their pyjamas and read books. Sing the same songs you typically do at home before bed.

Follow the same bedtime routine on the plan with your toddler, just like you would at home.

Pack a favourite blanket or stuffed animal in your toddler’s carry-on luggage.

Help create a familiar sleeping environment for your toddler on the plane by packing a favourite blanket or toy.

Your toddler will be happy to have this to cuddle with on the plane, and it will be worth the space in your toddler’s carry-on. 

Travel with a toddler car seat on the plane.

If you have (or can get) an aeroplane seat for your toddler and think it will make a difference in getting your toddler to sleep on the flight, you should bring a travel car seat for your toddler.

Let your toddler burn off that energy before you get on the plane.

While waiting for your flight to board, let your toddler burn off all that extra energy. Just don’t let them get too overtired, as overtired babies and toddlers are even harder to get to sleep.

Pack some quiet toddler travel toys to entertain your toddler on the plane.

Pack a few books, small toys, or any screen-free toddler travel toys in your toddler’s carry-on. You’ll want the books as part of your bedtime routine anyways.

Choose the appropriate seats. 

what can i give my baby to sleep on a plane (2)

Let the baby sleep!! If you’re travelling with an infant in your arms, you may want to call the airline to request a bassinet for the baby.  

(only available on long haul flights) These bassinets give the baby their place to lay down flat and sleep uninterrupted on the plane. If you’re travelling with older children, try not to pick the bulkhead seats.  

The armrests typically do not go up, so you lose the extra space. With two children, we always try to snag the middle row of 4-seats across to have the entire aisle to ourselves. This gives all the extra room to stretch out and relax.  

We also try to be near a restroom, but not so close that the traffic in and out is constant. (and loud) Ideally, I like to be about 5-7 rows away.

Invest in an Inflatable Foot Pillow

We give this travel tip a lot because it’s one of our toddlers' best investments for travel. For long-haul flights, we inflate them for each kid just after the seatbelt sign goes off and don’t deflate them until we have to put our tray tables away.  

Our kids have slept through the night because they can lay down flat. If you want your young children to sleep on an aeroplane, inflatable footrests are worth their weight in gold. After all, the most comfortable way to sleep on a plane is lying down!

How to make a bed on a plane:

  • Wait until after the inflight service
  • Inflate pillow
  • Layout a blanket over the seat/pillow
  • Lay child down (if possible, keep them buckled for safety reasons)

Again, an aeroplane seat extender for toddlers is one of the best travel tips I can give for these long flights and for keeping your sanity.

Seriously. Don’t force the sleep issue. Don’t expect your child to fall asleep before take-off and wake up after landing. (Although that does seem awesome!) If you are relaxed, your children will reciprocate.  

Be gentle with them, understand it’s not their typical sleep environment, and try to go with the flow. Sometimes your child will sleep 2 hours after their typical bedtime (or not at all), and sometimes they will take a 3-hour nap when they normally only sleep one at home.  

With all travel, it’s the journey that makes the trip! If your kid doesn’t want to sleep, check out our guide to Entertaining Your Toddler/Baby While Traveling.

Test new toddler travel gear before bringing it on the plane.

If you bring an inflatable aeroplane travel bed for babies and toddlers, take the time to set it up at home first. 

The same goes if you are planning to use a toddler carrier during the flight for those flights when you are flying with a lap toddler or think your toddler might need some extra help to fall asleep.

You don’t need any surprises while on a long flight with a toddler.

If you are feeling frustrated, trade spaces with your significant other.

Getting a toddler to sleep on a plane can be frustrating. Don’t hesitate to get your significant other to take over for a bit. They might bring some extra calm to the situation if they haven’t been dealing with it up to this point.

Ignore and pretend to sleep yourself.

This is all going to be a novelty for your toddler. Your toddler might not be used to having you beside them when it’s time to sleep. He will likely try to keep playing and engaging with you. Tell your toddler it’s time for everyone to sleep, including mommy. Then close your eyes and pretend to sleep.

Conclusion

Flying with a baby is inherently anxiety-producing.

What if they’re restless and won’t sleep? What if they cry the whole time? It’s understandable to be nervous, but flying with a baby doesn’t have to be a bad experience.

The trick is to stay calm and plan. We’ve put together this list of tips to help you get your baby to sleep on a plane and make flying as smooth as possible!

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