Perth to Heathrow is a really long way, even for adults. So to say I felt some sense of trepidation about doing it with a six-month-old would be an understatement. Want to know our tips on surviving a long-haul flight with an infant? Read on.
What we learnt on a long-haul flight with an infant
The first thing to remember is that every baby is different – and every flight is different and a long-haul flight with an infant could be anything from easy as pie through to hell. All you can do is whatever you can to make things as easy as possible, but worst-case scenario, it’s going to be horrible and you are going to have zero fun…but also never ever see those people on the plane again.
We were fortunate and Gemma (who was 6 and a half months when we flew) was a happy traveller. This was probably a combination of her being a pretty chilled out baby, planning on our part and a dash of good luck.
What to pack for carry-on for your baby
I definitely overpacked, but I think that’s preferable to needing something and not having it. We had no poo-explosions so we didn’t go through a lot of clothes but there was the potential!
Here’s a rough list of what went in the bag (for a 19 hours flying, 5-hour stopover plus a couple of hours at each end to allow for getting to/from the airport):
- four all-in-one long sleeve/long leg romper suits and four long sleeve onesies (plus the outfit she wore).
- 1.5 tog and 2.5 tog sleeping outfit (we use Love to Dream sleepsuits) – she spent all her sleeps in the 1.5 tog, but it got a bit chilly a few times and I think I’ll put her in the 2.5 tog on the way home.
- Twelve nappies plus nappy change things in a small bag to take to the toilets (you’ll find a change table in at least one of the plane toilets).
- A couple of muslin clothes for rolling on the floor at the airport/catching spit ups etc and a dark colour scarf (see how we used it further on).
- One old favourite toy (crinkly soft book) and one new toy (tactile giraffe soft toy with rattle).
- Liquid baby paracetamol and Weleda teething power (just in case).
- A dummy (Gemma hadn’t used one before but in case she wouldn’t breastfeed when it was takeoff/landing).
- A couple of packets of baby corn crackers and a couple of plain rice cakes.
I also wished I’d packed some moisturiser as Gemma’s skin definitely got a bit dry in the cabin air.
What to do with your baby at the airport
I would definitely recommend bringing a baby carrier of some type (we have a Lille Baby) and Gemma spent most of her time in transit and during boarding/disembarkation in this. At the airport, you should be able to use a complimentary stroller from your airline while you wait to board. We took one in Perth but to be honest, we just used it to put out stuff in and I carried Gemma in a baby carrier for 90% of the time.
With five hours to spend in Changi, we took advantage of Gemma being wide awake when we arrived to explore the airport – it is pretty amazing and the gardens are well worth exploring (we hopped on the driverless trains connecting the terminals to check them all out).
We found a little noodle shop with some quiet lounge seating nearby and Gemma gnawed on a rice cake while we had dinner. We spent the next few hours kicking back on the lounge chairs – it was the ideal space as the lighting was lower than the main sections of the airport and Gemma hung out in the baby carrier and mostly slept.
We headed to the gate about 90 minutes before take off and, in retrospect, that was a mistake. We had imagined more comfy lounge areas but we instead ended up in a brightly lit thoroughfare featuring hard seats with a grumpy baby.
Where to put baby on the plane
Do you have a baby who will still fit in a bassinet? Then definitely request one when you book. I did ring to confirm we would have one prior to the flight but our airline would only commit to saying that we had one ‘requested’ but that it couldn’t be guaranteed as there might be more babies on board than bassinets.
If you get a bassinet, you might like to consider taking a dark coloured muslin or light scarf that you can use to cover the bassinet to make the sleeping conditions better for your little one. I used magnetic swaddle clips to hold a scarf up off the bassinet (pegs would work too). I am not 100% about SIDS risk factors but you might want to do some research to decide if you want to use this idea.
If you can’t get a bassinet or your baby is too big for one, it’s probably not going to be much fun. You will definitely need a baby carrier or sling to avoid being totally exhausted from baby holding all that way.
What to feed baby on the plane
It really depends on what approach to food you use, but I’ll speak from our situation. Gemma has been exclusively breastfed until she was six months and just a few weeks before we left she had started experimenting with food. We are doing baby-led weaning (so basically you start with solids from the get-go and baby feeds herself – I recommend this book if you want to learn more).
I just breastfed as much as she wanted and food was really for entertainment when we were eating and she was also awake (which wasn’t often) so she just had a rice cake while we ate dinner in Singapore and shared my breakfast of fruit salad on the plane.
Final thoughts on surviving a long-haul flight with an infant
However, the flight goes, keep in mind that it just a few (well, quite a few) hours out of your life and if it’s not great, it’s not the end of the world. We are just crossing fingers that our return flight is as smooth as we are flying non-stop so it could be a long time in the air with a cross baby.
What are your tips and tricks for making it through a long-haul flight with an infant? Or got a question? Leave a comment and let us know.