how to conquer long haul flying & jet lag

My Experience

We flew to Raleigh on American from Heathrow so it was over seven hours on a plane with an eight month old baby.  My husband and I are both experienced world travelers so flying this distance is not a big deal for us since it’s sooo much better and easier than flying from Sydney.

Before we left a friend of ours takes the same flight to Raleigh on American and let us know that there is no in-flight entertainment on the plane.  Yes you read that right none in the back of the seat in front of you.  There may be some on overhead screens but nothing for you to control when you want to.  So I would definitely check out what your plane offers before making any flight arrangements especially with kids.

Our return flight from Philadelphia was a red-eye.  I was really not looking forward to it and had no idea how it would work since she all of a sudden was no longer sleeping easily and often cries in sleepy anger for 10 minutes to an hour before falling asleep.

And then there is the jet lag to overcome both times.

How We Coped

So we loaded up our iPads with things we wanted to watch and hoped for the best.  Our flight there was a day flight.  Take off and landing she looked out the window and loved it. She wasn’t drinking or chewing either time and she never cried because of the change in altitude.   However the actual flight was difficult for me.  I even bought two toys she had never seen before until we got on the plane to try and keep her entertained – they worked for a little while but she squirmed a lot and got fussy.  She didn’t cry but she makes noises when she is bored and frustrated so she was making noise on and off during the flight.   She only slept for about 25 minutes so basically the entire flight was devoted to me distracting her so as to not bother other people.

I made sure she was wearing something comfortable, warm and easy to take on and off to change diapers in a small bathroom.  So I dressed her in a Bonds Wondersuit (from Australia) they are amazing because it is not pj’s it’s meant for day wear, has a zipper instead of snaps (poppers) and has the ability to fold over the sleeves and legs to create more warmth by simulating mittens and socks.  I took her to the bathroom twice to change her and it was really easy to do.  The other thing that makes it easier in such a tight space is having a diaper clutch because there is no room to bring in a bag.  I always only take my diaper clutch and pad with me to any bathroom and leave my bag.  I got my diaper clutch on Etsy and it holds wipes, a couple diapers, butt paste and hand sanitizer.

I also held her in the back of the plane so she could watch the flight attendants work and let her look around the seat and see other people.  But the biggest blessing of all was that she has been watching Baby Signing Time to learn sign language since six months and absolutely loves it.  We had four episodes 30 minutes each on the iPad to keep her distracted.  However we didn’t want her to disturb other people on the plane as well with the sound and we had no baby specific headphones and didn’t know if she would even keep any on.  Luckily I brought a pair that fit over the ear and even though they were slightly too big they worked well enough and she kept them on because she knew it was helping her watch her videos.

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So the flight there for me was exhausting and difficult – you can’t get comfortable, it’s hard to eat and I never got to watch anything myself so it makes a short seven hour flight for me turn into an amazingly long seven hours with a baby.


This was a totally different scenario and different things to worry about.  I knew that we had the experience from the flight there, but a night flight where everyone wants to sleep is a different story and over the two months we were gone she mastered crawling and started cruising.  I had no idea if she would sleep or sit still and watching the iPad would be too stimulating so the only thing I could do was hope she fell asleep and stayed asleep the whole flight.

We got to the airport four hours before our flight and we still weren’t the first family to check-in.  On American they only have one baby bassinet is what we were led to believe unlike other airlines and if there is no baby seat option then once sitting up and close to 25 lbs a bassinet is too small and they have to be strapped into it like a mummy.  So I read on another site that sometimes if there is room on the flight they will book you next to an empty seat so you can use it even though we only paid for two.  We had to wait in line instead of doing the online check-in then bag drop in order to see if we could get an extra seat for her.  Luckily the lady at the check-in desk was friendly and in a good mood so she put us in a row of four with an empty seat in-between my husband and I hoping no one would pick that seat as the flight wasn’t full.

It worked out and the lady on the fourth seat on the end had a 22 month old on her lap which was great in the beginning, but as soon as it was time to go to sleep a crying baby inches away was no longer a good idea.  He wouldn’t go to sleep unless he had a bottle of cow’s milk every time he woke up, and he woke up often and screaming.  This scenario totally reinforced why it’s best not to get them used to milk = sleep and to ditch the bottle completely at one – for more info on why and how to not create dependency Why The EASY Method Schedule Is The Best Thing I Did , Baby Eating Solid Foods But Not Sure How Much Milk Or When To Ditch The Pouch And Bottle? 

With red-eye flights they already take off so late and then there is always dinner service before you can go to sleep so that makes lights out around 10:30 or 11pm when our flight was around 9pm.  I also kept her in daytime clothes when we boarded and did not feed her airplane dinner to avoid confusing her.  She has her last bottle at 4pm and nothing before bed so I didn’t have to worry about milk on the plane till breakfast (I kept my two clean bottles in my baby bag and had a formula dispenser that has three sections to correctly portion a bottle).

I put her in another Bonds Wondersuit for bedtime, brushed her teeth, used our saline nasal spray that we use every night (to prevent her getting colds but even more important to use on a plane), sprayed our lavender bedtime spray, and put her blanket around her and held her until she fell asleep.  I then carefully laid her next to me on the empty seat and luckily she slept for six hours until we had to wake her up to get off the plane. I put an airplane pillow at the top of her head in between her and the next seat armrest and one at the back of the seat to make her feel comfortable and more enclosed.Which it all sounds great right?  Well yes from the standpoint that I wasn’t totally stressed out from comforting a screaming baby while getting daggers from strangers, however I again had a horrible flight.  Once she was asleep I could not get comfortable because she was also taking up part of my seat and I was afraid she would roll over and fall off the seat to the floor.  So I couldn’t sleep for the entire flight or watch TV because the screen was too bright and I was too tired.  So I just laid there with my eyes closed half sleeping moving from one uncomfortable position to the next and having to literally lay on top of her and shhhh in her ear every time the toddler inches from her head kept crying which was multiple times so she wouldn’t wake up.  At one point I was even on the floor with my head on her seat.  When we were getting off the plane I gave her a bottle like I do every morning when she wakes up except I gave her 210ml instead of 150ml and did not immediately feed her breakfast because it wasn’t possible and I was hoping that would hold her over and possibly allow her to fall asleep again.

Getting off the plane we had a lot more luggage than we did going – I carried her on in my arms, baby bag cross-body behind me, my ‘handbag’ over my shoulder (an extra-large LL Bean bag so amazing) while pulling my carry-on suitcase.  My husband carried his carry-on, backpack and pram which by the way is the smallest one in the world and easily folds up into a bag that fits into the overhead compartment so there is no need to worry about gate checking and then collecting all the way at baggage claim – Mothercare XSS even if you don’t live in the UK I can’t recommend this stroller enough!!

So since she was still sleeping when we were getting off the plane we decided to try to see if the stroller would work ON THE PLANE – IT DID!!  So I could easily push it with one hand in the middle and guide it through the narrow aisle perfectly while still carrying my bags!!  SO if you are going to be doing any airplane travel this is an absolute must-have!  And of course it also is great while on your trip to use.  Now that we are home we keep it in our car because it takes up soooo much less space (fits on the floor behind her car seat) than our pram which fills our entire trunk and is super easy to use around town or the store.




Because we did a day flight there we arrived around 4pm in the afternoon US time.  I kept her up until 7pm (12am UK time) and fed her dinner beforehand and she had a bath and played a little and she was so exhausted she fell right asleep.  However she did wake up at 4am so I gave her her morning bottle and breakfast and she was up for an hour and then I took her into bed with us to see if she would sleep longer and luckily she did.  When she woke again I gave her her morning snack bottle and then we ate lunch at the normal US time and it was the right time in between her bottle snack and lunch that she is used to back home.  She didn’t wake in the middle of the night again and seemed to be on track as long as we fed her the right times throughout the day and gave her opportunities to sleep in the car instead of forcing her to take a nap.  We left the next day from Raleigh and drove four hours to the beach so she slept a lot in the car – I am working on my next post How to Do a Road Trip with a Baby and will link it here once it’s finished.

On the way back I think because it was a red-eye the jet lag and timings were a lot harder to overcome and adjust.  She would go to bed around 10pm UK time and then wake up at 1am wide awake for four or five night in a row and gradually by the fifth night I was able to leave her in her own bed without picking her up and just rubbing her back to go back to sleep.  But because she was also waking up so late around 10am it was hard to get her back on track for feeding times.  There are pros and cons to both flights and different types of stresses during and after.

What We Used:


****UPDATE****I have found out that these are sold-out and my friend wanted one so she found one at John Lewis called the GB Pockit I saw it in person and its pretty much the exact same stroller with different fabric from what I can tell.  The only difference I can tell is that the John Lewis version is £20 more and you need to pay an additional £20 for the bag it fits into.

NEW TOYS – bought two new toys for the flight she’d never seen

SNACKS – for the daytime flight I made sure that I had snacks available in case she got grumpy because food almost always works, I packed things that don’t stain or make a mess like little yogurt discs and cereal like organic puffs

CLOTHING – Bonds Wondersuit you can get them on Amazon outside of Australia and they are amazing

BABY COMFORT STUFF – her blanket, lambie & bedtime spray by THIS WORKS

SALINE NASAL SPRAY – I have used a bunch now and the best is Sterimar at Boots because it is actually a full on powerful bath so you know that the spray is getting up there

DIAPER CLUTCH – you can find loads on Etsy

IPAD– download videos they like

HEADPHONES – ones that fit over the ear and somewhat can stay on their head



#baby #babytravel #babyonairplane #babyjetlag #babytravelstroller #newmom #millennialmom

6 thoughts on “how to conquer long haul flying & jet lag

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