I’m an organiser who loves a list and I had our first flight with my 13-month old daughter planned to precision. What I hadn’t factored in was her getting ill with a cough and a cold the night before we flew. This meant dealing with a cranky, tired and poorly baby on a 6:30 am flight – not the best start! But you know what, we dealt with it, survived and certainly learnt a few lessons about flying with a baby for the first time…
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1. Don’t expect your baby to sleep
[responsive-image id=’2734′ align=’left’ caption=’Nosey and wide awake!’]I thought with an early 3 am start that by the time we boarded the plane my daughter would be ready to drift off into dreamland. I was wrong. She was very nosey and wanted to bounce around, press buttons, play with the tray table and definitely did not want to take her seat when the captain switched on the fasten seatbelt sign. She did of course give in and sleep eventually, choosing to nod off 10 minutes before landing, when we had to wake her up again.
2. Take sugar-free snacks
I found snacks were perfect to keep her occupied when she had to stay in her seat. We took a banana, a pot of raspberries, a baby biscuit and a sugar free croissant to keep her seated during take off and landing.
Be wary of taking anything containing sugar as the last thing you want is them bouncing off the walls on a sugar high! Feeding them snacks whilst on your knee will mean you won’t be getting off the plane in clean clothes, so it’s worth packing yourself an extra outfit in your carry-on, just in case. I got drenched by the water in her cup spouting out uncontrollably because of the pressure!
3. Shiny new toys!
I was advised to get some new toys to reveal throughout the flight to distract them from pulling the hair of the unfortunate passengers in front. Look for light, small toys that can fit easily into hand luggage. We found new ‘Lift the Flap’ books went down well, whilst Lego Duplo was a bit of a mistake as it was too easy to throw around and go missing. The absolute winner was a buckle toy which became a firm favourite throughout the entire holiday.
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4. Prevent ear pain
My daughter didn’t seem to suffer too much with her ears after landing, but I was recommended to take some Calpol to relieve the pain just in case, so it’s worth having in your carry-on bag. Try to prevent any pain by having them suck a dummy, drink or chew. For younger babies, nurse or give them a bottle during the descent to landing as this should prevent their ears from popping.
5. Kids to entertain kids
If you don’t have a reserved seat, look out for other families and sit on the neighbouring row. They’re understanding of your situation and on our return flight we found that a game of peepo over the chairs between the two children entertained them for a good while – leaving both sets of parents thankful!
6. Pack wisely
Make sure you pay for checked in luggage so you’re not overloaded trying to manage everything within your hand luggage. Reserve your carry-on allowance for toys and take advantage of the extra baby bag allowed on some airlines for the essentials like nappies, wipes, change of clothes etc. It’s definitely worth taking a lightweight pram to the aircraft doors as passport queues can be long and tricky with a wriggling little one.
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7. Don’t expect to sit down
I spent most of the flight at the back of the aeroplane; initially it was a space where I could try and get her to sleep without worrying too much about the crying, but then after giving up on that, it was at least an area with a bit more space to let her toddle around in. Although do watch out for curious hands – my daughter nearly switched off the cabin lights!
8. Don’t worry about other people
From flying childless, I know what it’s like to hear other people’s children crying or misbehaving and my biggest fear of flying with a baby for the first time was the disapproving looks of other passengers. But to be honest, I was so focused on keeping my daughter occupied and preventing her from crying that I didn’t even notice what the other passengers thought!