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Getting ready for Red-Eyes

urbanMamas are a traveling bunch!  Doe emails and requests your tips and tricks on flying red-eye:

I'm packing up to bring our 8.5 month old back to Vermont for a visit. Looking forward to the green mountains, but I'm nervous about the red eye to get there.  We've done well on shorter flights, but never done the overnight thing. Our girl Hanna is a good sleeper and typically goes down at 7-8 pm with a bath and breastfeeding.  She'll wake up once or twice to eat during the night.  Thanks for any advice.


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You are lucky you have a good sleeper! I would recommend two things:

1) If you can, keep her up until you get on the plane. Then she'll really be ready to sleep! My little Bean was always so excited by the newness of travel (so many people to look at!) that she was always ready to nurse and crash when we were pulling away from the gate. I would have preferred waiting until take off to help with cabin pressure but you know what its like telling a baby to wait to nurse right? :-)

2) stick to the bedtime routine as much as possible. If she normally gets a bath then try to wash her with a washcloth in the bathroom (I know space is tight). Don't skip the book or nurse down or whatever it is that you normally do that would indicate that its time for bed.

Have a great trip!

I have to agree about the bedtime routine thing, but I have mixed feelings about the "keep them up as long as you can" strategy. I was recently on the jetblue redeye to new york right next to a woman with a little boy about that age, and that's exactly what she'd done. fortunately I was very understanding because he had a terrible time settling down -- he must have just been overtired and was really in a state. i spent the flight trying with all my might to transmit calming thoughts to him :). babies tend to jerk and flail around when they're fighting sleep and he did so much that he kept bonking his head against the window -- so I might consider an aisle seat.

when I've travelled with babies, I've always brought whatever baby carrier I can get them in most securely (for me with an older baby, it's a mei tai, similar to an ergo). the airline might not let you take off and land with the carrier on (some of them have obnoxious rules about that) but once you finish the takeoff sequence, you can strap them in and hold their head as snugly as you can. if babe is fighting sleep and struggling, they might wail for five minutes or so but, in my experience, will usually fall asleep afterward.

good luck!

We took a redeye w/ my daughter when she was 13 months and, to be honest, she was sooooo tired that she fell asleep at the airport, was roused long enough to board the plane, then fell asleep again once we were on & comfy... And we even had to make a connection at some godawful hour, but same thing: She woke during the transfer from plane to stroller and then slept again until the next transfer.

I think your child is young enough that she ought to succumb to the call of the night w/o too much difficulty. Nursing & bathing (to the extent possible) are good ideas, but also don't stress it too terribly much. It'll be fine...

We took a couple red eye flights with our boys when they were about that age and it worked out better than I imagined. I agree with Sarah who warned about keeping them up until the flight. We put the boys to bed at the usual time and took them out to the cars when it was time to go several hours later. They woke up and were awake in the airport but eventually fell back to sleep on the plane and sleep most of the way to NY. I would definitely plan on extra nursing and perhaps not much rest for yourself, but I bet the baby will do just fine. Good luck!!

Although we always say, "We'll never fly a red-eye again", I think we've done at least 5 red-eyes with our girls, maybe even more. We have family on the east coast, west coast, and Hawaii, so sometimes it's the only itinerary that makes sense.

It can be hit or miss. I do agree with not fighting the normal schedule much. The girls have taken their baths and gotten into their cozy jammies. They've fallen asleep on the way to the airport and we've had success with transferring them into the stroller/sling. Making them walk through the security checkpoint is disruptive to the sleep, but they are sometimes so tired, they'll just konk back out.

I guess what has worked well for us is keeping calm when they fidget and can't get comfortable on the plane. We have put out blankets at our feet so the bigger girl can sleep on the floor, then have the smaller girl lie down on our laps. When our daughters were younger, staying in the sling/bjorn was the comfy way to go. There was one flight, though, when our bigger girl was so uncomfortable, she tossed and whimpered for most of the flight. Poor thing. With nursing babes, I didn't mind nursing pretty much the whole flight.

We also try to make sure we have a long family nap when we arrive at our destination. Sometimes, the morning after is the hardest part of the red-eye.

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