Should I Fly the Red-Eye with My Baby?

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Mother holding sleeping baby on airplane

“Should I fly the red-eye with my baby?” I see this question come up a lot in the mom groups on Facebook because moms are worried that taking a late-night cross-country flight with a baby or young child will be, well, a nightmare. If you read the comments on these questions, you’ll get a wide variety of perspectives on the topic.

We’ve flown the red-eye with our twins twice, once when they were 4 months old and again when they were 12 months, so this definitely doesn’t make me an expert on flying with all ages, but I’ll share what I learned from flying with two during their first year.

We were able to get the twins to sleep in the airport while waiting for our flight (in car seats or in the stroller) and both times the kids slept on us in carriers for the entire six-hour flight. My husband and I only slept for about 3 hours, which is less than ideal but manageable. Luckily, we were visiting family which meant we could sneak in a nap while the grandparents took over.

Dad with baby sleeping in carrier on a cross country red-eye flight The other benefit, for us, of flying the red-eye was that it was super easy to adjust to the new time zone. Since we landed at 7:00 AM, we just followed our normal schedule and they adapted pretty quickly.

Here’s what to consider when taking a red-eye with kids:

Age of your kids

Generally speaking, if your kids are under the age of 18 months old, then I think a red-eye is fine. The white noise and darkness of the plane makes sleeping pretty easy. Bring bottles and pacifiers to help soothe if needed.

Your kid’s sleeping ability

Luckily, the twins are great sleepers and as long as we provide the framework for sleep (dark, white noise, pacifier, lovey) they’ll be out cold. If your kid(s) is not a great sleeper, then a red-eye might not be for you.

Your own anxiety

If your kid is going to sleep the whole flight, but you’re going to be stressing out and not getting any sleep yourself, I’d probably skip the red-eye. You’re not going to want to arrive at your destination at 7:00 AM not having slept in 24 hours. Even just getting three to four hours of sleep on the flight makes a big difference. I always take Benadryl for a little insurance policy that I’ll get some sleep. Neck pillows and earplugs are also great.

An extra seat

Both times, we did not purchase extra seats and the twins slept on us in carriers. If you are buying an extra seat, you might consider bringing your car seat onto the plane and having your baby sleep in that (assuming they don’t hate it). That would give you, the parent, the ability to get some better sleep.

What about older kids?

I’ve heard from friends that attempting this maneuver doesn’t really work as kids get older. This makes sense because there is more excitement, more newness, and less room. Kids are bigger, it gets harder to get comfortable to sleep, and traveling to go on a fun vacation is exciting. If you’ve flown the red-eye with older kids, what has your experience been?

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