Flying Home for Christmas
Updated: Sep 28
Ah it’s that time of year again, lights are glistening, shop windows are full and saffron is in everything! Or at least here in beautiful Sweden. As the festivities kick off, families are beginning to mobilise themselves and for many that means taking a flight home.
The excitement of introducing your new bundle of joy to the family will be overflowing, but underneath it all there may be the pang of anxiety (and that is ok) of how do you travel with such a baby, how will you cope with so many people holding your baby, how will your baby cope with so many new people and the change in routines, temperature, smells…
Fear not you will all get through it like the many before you, but it can help to keep a few things in mind as the business of the festivities kick in.
Starting off with the flight, it is helpful to consider how your little on might feel physically and emotionally on the flight.
First off their ears, it is commonly shared anecdote to feed your baby on take off and landing, however part of the difficulty with a long haul flights is that babies can lose their appetite, also if your baby is becoming too distressed to feed it can be really handy to have other tricks to try. For those of you have been in my classes and any other IAIM course you will have learned the face massage strokes, including “behind the ears and all those chins”, this stroke helps to equalise babies ears when they are not sucking – helpful on take off and landing, however also during any moments when you feel your own ears “popping” during the flight.
Second up from the face strokes is the “happy sinuses”, these are particularly helpful for opening up the sinuses and clearing congestion – so very helpful before taking off, and equally through out the flight and following the flight to help ease the discomfort caused by air conditioning – try to remember to do this even the day after to help clear your little ones sinuses, as we all know how yuk that feeling can be when you get off a flight.
Thirdly, finding space to move, even if your little one may not be on the move yet, they may still feel the cramped holding position due to the lack of space on a flight, remember you can use the Gentle movements as a fun way to help them stretch, and those bottom relaxers – a good bottom massage, can do wonders for relieving physical tension.
Lastly, how can we keep little human’s calm on a flight. It is a very instinctual thing to calmly stroke our babies, this simple act shouldn’t be under estimated, when you are on the flight try to remember to calmly stroke skin to skin (E.g. hand to arm, or hand to hand) your little one, raising their oxytocin and reducing their stress levels, this will help to sooth and keep them feeling calmer – perhaps there is space for them to lay on your knee whilst you give them a back massage – if you achieve a full body massage please do tell me. Having little one in a sling close against your body can also help as they can hear and feel your heartbeat and smell you – all elements that help to calm and reassure your little one. Go the extra bit for your baby and refrain from wearing perfume so in amongst all the strange and strong scents from other passengers and the plane they can clearly smell you when they snuggle in.
The holiday season is extremely stimulating for little ones, not just babies but for older children too, there are coloured lights everywhere, music and new imagery coming from every direction, beautiful decorations, new smells and tastes – and then the tree with ALL those gifts just waiting and willing them to open them! To have a restraint like a kid at Christmas is an incredible thing, it is a wonder how any older child manages to resist tearing through all the packages left under the tree – don’t you think? (I won’t even try and hold my 2-year-old accountable for his actions this Christmas – our tree will be a riot by the 25th, I just know it!)
Holding that thought in mind, how can we therefore help our little ones through this stimulating and fairly overwhelming but yet joyous time of year….
Once you arrive with family it may feel out of your control as baby is passed around (or toddler gets more and more excited to the point they look like they’ll pop), but it is good to think of a way that you can feel confident to ask for your baby back if you feel they are not comfortable - and don’t forget hick ups can be your cue that your little one is beginning to feel overwhelmed or a little anxious. By holding your baby when you feel they need you your baby will be secure, not spoiled – this doesn’t change as they get older – pull your big toddler on to your knee or under your arm for a story – or asking them to help you with something on your own could work.
Through using massage – skin to skin to help re-center your little one each day you will reduce their cortisol levels/ stress and help them to feel secure and more able to cope with the constant change around them. If you feel your little one is being more “fussy” than normal, it may just be they need some calm, quiet, one to one time with you their parent that isn’t sleepy time or a feed. It can be hard to fit this in, but for a more enjoyable holiday season for both your baby and you it could really pay off.
Listen to your little one, allow them to have their emotions, and if that means crying on your shoulder whilst they process the travel from one place to another let them, you may find a much calmer baby on the other side if they are no longer holding on to emotional tension.
I’m saying little one, and you can read this as 2 month old, 1 year old, 4 year old or older… The bottom line being that all children need us adults to help them feel calm, secure and to regulate their emotions through this season.
In amongst all of this, remember yourself and how you too can benefit from massage and the skin to skin had with your little one, lowering your cortisol, and helping you relax. Take some deep breaths and remember to breath. Let your little one feel your calm and your heart rates slow and synchronise together.
Happy travels to where ever you are heading this holiday and have a wonderful time creating new memories! Clan "Toghether with You" are staying put – time to embrace the Swedish Christmas traditions and create our own Swedish Scottish mashup! Mince-pie bullar anyone?