Juliette was three months when we decided to fly to Boston from San Francisco…on the red eye. I figured this was either going to be the best idea or my worst nightmare. Would she treat this as her regular night’s sleep and conk out for the whole flight or decide to scream her head off for six hours?
tl;dr Totally depends on the age. For me, flying with a three month old on a red eye was wonderful for her but exhausting for me since I was staying up to feed her frequently and so didn’t really sleep. But, the cabin was dark the whole time and it was during her usual bedtime, so she slept quite well. I nursed her on take off and landing but also when she stirred — giving her top offs throughout the trip. She basically drank in her sleep and never fully woke up. She probably could have slept longer stretches, but it meant she was fed and sleepy the whole time, which was a huge relief for me and I think worth the sleeplessness on my end. I would probably do it again with a baby of this age but will be prepared to be quite tired the next day.
So, should you do it? Here are some considerations and how to make your life easier:
Should I keep my baby awake during the day so she is more tired at night? No! You’ve likely heard with babies that sleep begets sleep. If they are overly tired they are often fussy. I tried to ensure she was well rested during the day so she would also sleep well at night.
Do I have to hold the baby during the whole flight? Please don’t — save your arms! If you are on an international flight, you can try to get a bassinet seat for the baby. They don’t offer those on domestic flights. Some folks bring Boppy pillows or other things for the baby to lie on (and double as a nursing pillow). I couldn’t imagine schlepping more than we already had in tow so we didn’t bring anything like that. Instead, I kept Juliette in the carrier almost the entire flight. This was great because she sleeps so well in the carrier and I liked having her tucked away close to me to protect her from germs. (Below is a rare moment of her sleeping in my arms…I did it for a little while.)
How do you prevent the baby from being exposed to germs on an airplane? This is important irrespective of the time of day you fly:
- Wipe down EVERYTHING before you sit down. We brought a pack of Purell wipes and wiped down the seat, armrests, tray tables, screens, seat back pockets etc.
- Use hand sanitizer constantly, especially before touching or feeding the baby (or yourself).
- Don’t let onlookers peek in on or touch your baby. Folks will want to coo at your little beauty but keep your babe away from other people and their dirty hands, breath and faces.
- Keep you baby tucked in tight on your flight. I like to hold Juliette in the carrier because she sleeps well but also because she is tucked away from the open air and germs.
Should I choose an aisle or middle seat? Check out this post for my thoughts on this topic.
What if my baby screams? Then your baby screams. It happens. Have some soothing strategies (pacifier, bouncing, walking etc.) ready in the event it happens. And if it does, it will pass. Your baby likely can’t scream for five hours straight! And folks around you will understand.
Will my baby sleep okay? Only you know your baby! If your baby is not yet sleep trained, taking a red eye is likely a non-issue. They are tired at night anyway and will likely sleep well. At three months, Juliette slept almost the entire six hour flight. I didn’t even change her diaper and we treated it like her regular nighttime sleep. We’ll see how that goes once she is sleep trained!
After this experience, I now think red eyes are quite easy for young babies so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger and book one. I am glad that we did for her at this stage. And once you make it to your destination, you’ll feel like a total rockstar (and may get to take in a pretty spectacular sunset)!