Parenting Tip Ep 12: Travelling with a Baby

If you are planning your first overseas trip with your baby, there are a couple of things to take note. 

First of all, you have only 2 pairs of hands and that is provided if you are travelling with your spouse. One of you will be carrying the baby while the other person is carrying the diaper bag and other necessities. Basically, you want to travel as light as possible without missing out a single essential.

What are the essentials you have to bring?

These are items we think you should bring. You can adjust according to the flight duration. The following is a good reference for a 4-hour flight. Also, you should add 2 hours or more to the overall duration to cover travelling time to and from airport. In other words, if your home and destination is each 1 hour away from the airport, you want to prepare for 4+2 (6) hours. 

  • Diapers x3 
  • 1 Diaper changing mat
  • Wet wipes
  • Pacifier
  • 1 set of extra clothing in case he/she soils the clothes
  • 3 bottles of milk (formula or breast) based on feedings of 2-3 hours per interval
  • A heat resistant container for warming up your milk since they will be kept cold in a coolant bag
  • Yes, you need a coolant bag
  • Baby passport!!! (We almost forgot to bring!)
  • A Diaper Changing Bag to hold all of the above
  • Your Baby Stroller – Check out our review for Babyzen Yoyo+ which is the friendliest stroller for travel

You can check in the baby stroller as well just prior to boarding the plane. Just make sure when you are at the boarding gate, get a tag from the customer officer. It is to identify you as the owner and for easy retrieval at the destination airport. 

Do you know…

You can board without joining the main queue (priority boarding) if you have a baby with you. Simply push your stroller with baby to the front of the line and the boarding officer will check your tickets and let you pass through in a jiffy. 

Take-off and Landing

During take off and landing, your baby may feel discomfort due to the change in atmospheric pressure. Adults resolve this easily by yawning, swallowing saliva but your baby won’t know how to do this. If she cries, it helps too. A less stressful experience for your baby is to use a pacifier. Alternatively, you can time your feedings at take-off and landing. This has the same effect as the pacifier and also keeps your baby fed. 

We usually try to feed her at take off and landing. Not only does it solve the air pressure issue, we won’t have to worry about feeding her until we reach our hotel or home. 

Feeding your baby on the plane

Any parent can agree to this. Feeding your baby on the plane is not the easiest thing to do especially if you are on exclusive breastfeeding. We tried it once and frankly, it resulted in a lot of spillage and wet clothing (both baby and mom). Eventually, we decided to go easy on ourselves and bottle feed using expressed milk. 

With bottle feeding, you need to keep the expressed milk cold throughout the journey. At the point of feeding, use a container filled with hot water to heat up the bottled milk for 5 mins. We find this to be the most convenient and fastest way since there is no way you can use an electric warmer unless you are taking First Class with power outlets.

Anyway, cabin crew are usually friendly and have a softer spot for babies. I asked for a cup of green tea and it took 15 mins because the crew member forgot about it but our baby had her milk readied in 5 mins. No complaints here though 🙂 Babies come first!

*By the way, we fly SQ from Singapore. Despite the challenges in air flight service lately due to increasing traffic, it is still by far the best airline we had flew. Keep it up!

Sleeping on the plane

At some point during the flight, your baby will need to sleep. Airlines provide bassinet for newborns as long as they are not more than 1 metre in height but you have to request in advance when you book your tickets. I think a comfortable range would be 80-90 cm. Otherwise, your little one may feel very cramped and unhappy. Our baby is 70 cm and already she fits the bassinet snugly. 

Though bassinets will be provided to babies, do make sure to book your tickets earlier if possible to avoid any unforeseen circumstances such as shortage of bassinet seats for example. In our trip to Sydney last December, there was a total of 11 babies on the flight. It was quite a symphony throughout that flight. 

If it so happens that bassinet runs out, you may have to hold your baby from take-off to landing. You will have sore arms after that. Here are two interesting alternatives for your consideration. No, we have not used them before but we found these from our research. If you have any experience with them, please leave a comment below.

The Infant Airplane Seat works by latching one end to the back of the seat in front. It can be ideal for very small babies but we are not quite sure if it works well for bigger size babies. The advantage is that you can see your baby all the time.

The Skybaby Travel Mattress is basically attached to the parent, allowing the baby/child to be firmly secured closely to the parent. For shorter trips, this can be a good idea but if you are going to try this for the long haul flights, it will be a challenge physically.

Poo and Diaper Change

Bassinet for baby to sleep

No parent wants to encounter this but sometimes it is beyond your control. If you don’t want your baby to poo onboard, you can try to train him/her to poo in the morning or evening and if your flights do not overlap those hours, you can maybe escape a poo explosion. 

No one wants to deal with a poo situation on the flight. 

The space for doing diaper change is very small and you need to work within very cramped conditions, sometimes with a line of people waiting behind you. Crying baby, stressful parents…

Here’s our tip to improve this situation. You can change your baby’s diaper using the bassinet provided. The bassinet is about a metre in length and seriously, it really makes things much easier. You may feel conscious that other people are looking but really they just marvelling at how great you are as a parent to “operate” under those kind of conditions. 

In our recent trip, I did a diaper change in less than a minute using the bassinet. When I turned around, I expect people to be applauding but most of them are sleeping or engrossed in their own work. So there…the concern doesn’t really exist.

Conclusion

From check-in to landing, we have covered what you need to take note when travelling with your baby. At first, it may not be easy and as first-timers, you may even lose your cool. But hey, travelling with a baby isn’t all that difficult once you get the basics.

Know that you can’t move around as fast as you would like in the past. You can’t push your baby around like a F1 racer like what you used to do, and going through security checks take a bit more time as well. So it’s better to start off a bit earlier and have allowances for delay here and there.

Secondly, if it is a shorter flight of 3-5 hours, try to time it so that your baby would want to sleep after they board. This may mean keeping them occupied with a bit of play time before setting off to the airport. Our baby slept throughout most of the flight yesterday, and only woke up for feeding before landing.

Well, that’s a perfect landing!

 

Products mentioned in this articles

Parenting Tip Ep 2: How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?

Before I start telling you how to get your baby to sleep, this is our story. Prior to our baby’s arrival, we thought we had it mentally prepared. After all, friends and families did not hold back their horror stories. They warned us…the first month or more will be a test of our mental strength. Baby will wake up once every 2 hours and therefore you guys better stock up on chicken essence, coffee, Red Bull. Or maybe take all three… 

True to their words, our baby was active throughout the night and after the first 3 weeks, I was looking more haggard than ever before since we were basically doing 24 hour shift together. 

Thankfully, this did not continue into the latter months. In fact, by the start of the 5th week, our baby was sleeping soundly throughout the night, without the aid of any pacifier. She did not wake up for milk and 10 – 11 hours sleeping stretch from 11 pm to 9/10 am the following morning became the norm. Everywhere we share this experience, friends marvelled at it and wonder what secret formula we have concocted. 

Hey, we are no magicians but here’s a list of things we did and they have been highly effective. 

Happy Baby Who Kept Everyone Up at Night

Getting your baby to sleep through the night is probably among the top 3 on any parent’s wish list.

Yet it can be a daunting task for some. We have friends whose baby continues to wake up two to three times during the night, crying for milk even after 1 year old. While this would be normal for the first month or so, if you find your baby waking up several times throughout the night consistently, this may be something you want to fix quickly.

Usually, the issue has to do with habit and once you manage to instil the habit in your baby, they will sleep soundly throughout the night.

We find the following methods work well and you can consider using all or a combination.

1. Keep Baby Active During Day Time

If your baby sleeps a lot during the day, there is a chance they will find it difficult to settle down at night. However, your baby will sleep whenever they are comfortable to do so, be it on their baby crib, on the stroller or car seat. It is really hard (impossible is probably the word!) to control their sleeping time. The general guideline is not to let your baby nap beyond two hours in one stretch. Usually, during the day, they may doze off for a while (30-60 mins) after each feeding.

2. Keep Baby Well-Fed

Well Fed Baby
Keep your baby well fed

We also noted from experience a hungry baby is an agitated baby. With bottle feeding, you can monitor how much breast/formula milk your baby has taken in and make sure her last meal of the day fulfils the necessary quota for the day. It is an interesting reference but our baby won’t sleep even if she is slightly under fed. We are talking about 10-20 ml less. So, we quickly learn that it’s best to feed her sufficiently.

How much is considered sufficient? This differs from baby to baby, even if they are of the same age. Ours’ is a slightly heavy eater and can handle 800 ml of milk for a single day from her 3rd month onwards. 

Keeping her well fed also ensures she won’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night looking for a snack, and we are pleased that she sleeps throughout the night for a solid 8 hours at least. 

3. A Good Bath

We didn’t do this for our baby but some friends are advocating this as they found it highly effective. Essentially, it is to give the baby a warm bath just right before settling them for the night. A warm bath makes the baby comfortable, and if you do it daily prior to settling her in the crib, your baby will gradually accept that it is time for bed. 

4. Create a Quieter Environment in the Evening

If you are playing with your baby in the evening, it may be difficult for them to settle down as they are excited by all the activity. 1 – 2 hours before settling down your baby, you want to keep activities down and adjust for a calmer environment.

5. Lights Out

Dim the lights to create a conducive environment for sleep
Dim the lights to create a conducive environment for sleep

Turning off the lights is a good way to get your baby to relax and settle down. Some babies cry immediately when the lights go off suddenly. If this is so, try dimming your lights or switching to a desk lamp can help in the transition.

Except for the warm bath towards the end of the day, we practised the other 4 methods and they work really well. Our baby is able to sleep by 11 pm daily and wakes up around 730 am in the morning. 

What if you do all the above and it still doesn’t work?

Here are some additional tips, which I consider as my final resort (when all else fails).

  • You can hold the baby in your arms and walk around. There is no doubt the human cradle (‘arms’) form the best crib for any baby. My baby will just doze off if I held her in my arms and walk around for a bit. Baby goes to sleep and your biceps become more defined over time. Win-win! 
  • Push her around in her stroller. Strange as it may sound, this somehow works very well, without you bearing the weight of your little one in your arms. 

For the above two ways, the key is to let your baby fall into a deeper sleep before removing her from the stroller or your arms back to the crib. If the baby is not deep in sleep, any slight movement can startle her and you would have to start from scratch. 🙁

  • With baby on the crib, hold both her hands gently to the sides of her body. This helps the baby to calm down. We usually do this with the lights off. As an added measure, you can also use the pacifier if she is trying to suck something (by default, it’s her fingers!)

Conclusion

Helping your baby to sleep well at night is of paramount importance to the baby’s well being, and for the parents as well. It helps the baby to develop better especially in the earlier formative months. The methods mentioned in this article are well tested by ourselves and the families we spoke to. In the end, humans are creatures of habit and getting your baby to sleep at preset timings and throughout the night is about establishing the habit of doing so. While such a habit takes time to solidify, once it’s habitualised, parenting will become less of a burden, and more of a joy.

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or need any help. We will try to get back to you at the very soonest.