Myth busted: Flying with an infant is only for the brave

I recently did some long-haul flights and on each one, I had the privilege of being seated near shrieking babies. It spurred me to do some thinking and research.

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Nothing is guaranteed

Lots of things can help, but nothing is guaranteed. Burping, changing, feeding, cuddling, swaddling often works, but if ears are sore or your child is colicky, it just might be a long, loud flight.

Babies cry

That’s not problem behaviour, that’s just what infants do. You need not feel embarrassed or ashamed if your baby cries. All around, good-hearted people will be sympathising with you (and rejoicing that that it is not them stuck with a crying infant). My experience is that people are willing to cut you a lot of slack, especially if they see that you are doing your best.

Some people are just grumpy

The tiredness and stress of long flights does erode patience, and there are some people who are grumps. So yes, some people might be irritated by you and your child. Such is life. If you are doing your best, you are not responsible for their response. In this situation, you have a beautiful baby, and they have a bad attitude – you have the best deal by far!

Doctors can help

Doctors can prescribe things to help children sleep. I’m no expert but I have heard of very variable results. Some can have the opposite effect – winding them up and making them inconsolable. I have a friend who gave antihistamines to his children to make them drowsy and ended up spending a long and unpleasant time in an aircraft loo cleaning up a semi-conscious five year old who had filled his pants.

Bribes are good

(Not something I would like to be quoted on very often, but we are talking about purchasing a few hours peace with few distracting treats, toys and gadgets). Space them out during the flight.

Recruit the cabin crew

They sometimes have a few tricks, and even if they don’t, at least you will get to talk to an adult for a few minutes instead of just your infant.

Bring treats for passengers nearby

A nice idea is to pass out bags of lollies and ear plugs to nearby passengers with a note, introducing yourself and apologising in advance if your child disturbs them. You shouldn’t need to, but what a nice thing to do.

And what do you do if you are an adult travelling near a loud child? Why not have a whip-around of the other passengers and purchase the parent and child an upgrade to business class? Impractical, I know, but the idea of that child disturbing six rich people up in the front of the plane rather than 50 of us commoners back in cattle class does have some appeal!

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