Travelling with your baby or toddler on a long haul flight? It doesn't need to be a nightmare, says child and infant sleep expert Kristy Griffiths. Here, she tells Lifestyle News her expert tips to make sure travelling with your family is as stress-free as possible.
Q: The idea of a long-haul flight for parents of toddlers is usually filled with horror! What is the best way to entertain them on a plane?
A: The beauty of a long-haul flight is that you can (almost!) be guaranteed that they’re going to sleep for at least part, if not most of the flight.
Some great ways to keep your little one entertained are water magic paint books, they are mess free and keep your little one happy for an extended period.
Suction cap toys are great to stick on the back of seats and windows, and you can never underestimate the power of the ABC app on an iPad or phone.
However, my number one must have for flying with kids is SNACKS, you can never have enough!
Most major airlines have activity packs for kids too. Where possible, I would opt for the night flight, this will mean more time sleeping and less time entertaining.
Q: How do you work out their sleep schedule when you are flying to a different time zone, like Sydney to Athens?
A: Stick to your normal routine for the flight, then when you land, try to stick to your normal daytime routine (if its daytime), aiming for bedtime within your normal afternoon awake window.
If it is nighttime when you land, but your baby is on their daytime routine, don’t fret! Bedtime may be slightly later that night and you may put them down and see them wake for short periods overnight (treating bedtime like a nap).
This is just an adjustment to the jet lag, and you will likely experience it too.
Try to keep a bit of a log of your baby’s sleep and awake windows so you can keep this in mind for the nights that follow.
Track if they are adjusting to the jet lag and their periods of wakefulness are getting shorter. I love the CuboAi Baby Monitor for this, its analytics component tracks everything for you and saves the data to the CuboAi app, so you can easily keep on top of your little one’s schedule.
Regardless of how well your first flight went, I always recommend waking your baby around 7am - 7.30am to start their day whilst travelling.
Exposing your baby to sunlight will help to reset their circadian rhythm (their internal body clock). You’ll be so glad you reset their body clock on day one, rather than staying in a cycle of jetlag!
Q: What are your best tips to get toddlers to sleep on a plane?
A: Try to time naps or bedtime around the time they would normally be going down. Don't try to force sleep when it isn't due, it usually results in everyone feeling more flustered. Be sure to bring any sleep associations from home like comforters, blankies or dummies.
Q: Is it actually easier to travel with babies as they sleep a lot?
A: Newborns and younger babies will have a much higher drive to sleep and shorter awake windows than toddlers and children. This will mean that you can get more sleeps in more frequently. So yes, If I had to choose between travelling with a newborn or a toddler, I’d choose newborn!
Q: How do you adjust a sleep schedule for a baby if going to a different time zone?
A: I recommend trying to stick to regular nap times and lengths where possible. This may mean they have three shorter naps as opposed to two longer naps.
It’s more about protecting their awake windows and ensuring they don’t become overtired.
My number one tip would be to try and get baby on a consistent routine before leaving, or at least become familiar with their awake windows. This way, each day is based around these as opposed to a more timed routine.
Q: What's your best travel tip?
A: I think it’s important to let go of the rule book when travelling and do whatever is going to make life that little bit easier for everyone.
If your routine looks slightly different, or you need to assist your little one with sleep more than normal, this is absolutely okay and if anything, you’ll probably find it’s the best way!
Kristy Griffiths is CuboAi's sleep expert and owner of The Sleep Teacher.