How to Cope on an Overnight Flight

I recently had a small ordeal on a flight with my 14 month old. It was an overnight 13.5 hour flight from Melbourne to Dubai, and I incorrectly made the assumption that the lights would be switched off for six hours and on for the remaining seven. Apparently this is not so on a westward bound overnight plane from Australia – the lights were switched off for roughly 10 hours! So all my marvellous planning to keep my small person entertained had to be ditched because the plane was in darkness and fellow passengers were snoozing away (Oh how I envied them).

So what to do with your small person in this scenario? The obvious answer (and ideal scenario even when the lights are on) is get them to sleep. But, we all know that sleep doesn’t always happen easily, especially in a new location. If your baby is under the age of one, you can still utilise the sky cot. It’s much harder for parents of one – two year olds as they generally no longer fit into the sky cot so you have to keep them on your knee for the entire way (unless you purchase a separate ticket), and if your child is not used to falling asleep in your arms, it can be a difficult experience.

Here are some things that I suggest:

Wear your small person out before you board. Let your child crawl, walk or run around in the hour leading up to the flight. Some airport departure lounges even have designated play areas. So make the most of this last chance on the ground.

Try and get a seat where there is little distraction. Fortunately, I was seated on the bulk head on my recent overnight flight, so lots of lovely leg room. Unfortunately, this was right beside the toilet so we had constant traffic throughout the night which is what interrupted my daughter’s sleep the most. So try and get a seat where there is little distraction, a window seat further back in the plane might be more ideal in this scenario.

A full tummy will help your small person sleep better. Feed your child a meal with protein and complex carbohydrates either before you board or just after take-off. I try to avoid giving my daughter sugar before or during a flight. Remember, sugar peaks in an infant’s system 4 hours after consumption.

Milk has a relaxing effect. Milk, whether it be breast, bottle or sippy cup, can act as a mild sedative, it contains tryptophan, a chemical that relaxes the central nervous system and promotes sleep. If it is part of your bedtime ritual it is also an important sleep cue.

Take a favourite or familiar blanket. Being wrapped up snugly in a blanket with a familiar scent should help your child sleep longer. This is particularly handy if your child still fits into the skycot. Aden and Anais make gorgeous muslin blankets that are great for travel because they are light and take up very little room in your luggage. They’re also a great breastfeeding shield.

Choose a flight time that coincides with your child’s sleep times. Hopefully, your child will fall into their normal sleep routine.

Otherwise, cross your fingers (bat your eyelashes) and hope for an upgrade