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Our 6-month old is totally dependent on bouncing on our gym ball to get to sleep. We are trying to wean him off it and use other methods but aren't getting very far.

In a couple of months we will be taking a long flight with him, and are dreading not being able to have the ball for the duration.

Would anyone have any creative ideas about what could be used as a substitute gym ball during a flight? Ideally something like a sprung cushion we could put on the chair to mimic the ball's bounce.

2 Answers 2

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The best solution I can imagine for a flight is the original bouncer... your knee. Infants are commonly called "lap children" on flights, and you really have two or three choices:

  1. Car seat, in their own seat; not modified in any way
  2. In your lap, with your arms holding them
  3. In some long flights, you may have a built-in bassinet if you reserve the right seat.

You shouldn't be putting them anywhere else - planes, while generally far safer than cars, still can have sudden shifts due to turbulence, sometimes unannounced.

As such, the best choice would be for you to "bounce" them, as you can do that while holding them (and then, if you have a car seat, you can put them in that).

If you do get one of the built in bassinets, you may be able to rock them gently in the bassinet. You may also be pleasantly surprised - the gentle motion of the plane (usually!) is often a soporific for children. Not always - but for some! (For mine, it was.)

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  • Yes, parents are the original bouncy (object of choice). Agree that the plane itself may do the trick. :) Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 21:34
  • Knee bouncing or other manual bouncing doesn't cut it unfortunately. He knows the difference somehow. Agreed, there are limited options for most of the flight, but at times like when others are moving from seat to toilet, brief unrestricted moments could be used to try to get him to sleep.
    – Biscuity
    Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 21:46
  • @P_Jefferies More details of your seat might help here, but if you're in a regular economy seat and the infant is a lap child, there's certainly nothing you can do - there's not room. I'd add more details to the question - is the infant in their own seat, or do you have a bassinet seat, or are you in business class or first class, that sort of thing. Still, I think my default answer even in most of those cases would stand... it's hard to imagine anything working of the sort you describe, unfortunately, due to space and safety constraints. The flight attendants will have some say there also.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 21:52
  • Not an answer, but read the rules on luggage allowances and be creative. If you pay for an extra seat then a car seat underneath your child is likely to be free, which is handy if you are taking one anyway. You also get the full extra luggage allowance that comes with the extra seat. Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 14:22
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Gradual weaning makes a lot of sense for things like reducing the number of nursing or bottle feedings per day, but for this, maybe more of a cold turkey approach would give you quicker results. If you do decide to speed things up, it would probably be good to choose some days when you are well rested and will have a few days of low stress (work, etc.). Maybe the gym ball could be deflated and baby could see how sad you are that it is broken.

There are other natural sleep aids possible, for example, and you could experiment with several of them in advance of the blitz.

  1. mp3 player set to "Radio" with the tuning between stations, resulting in white noise. To be used with tiny earbuds or an over-the-ear old-fashioned headset.

  2. mp3 player set to some relaxing music. I remember when one of my children consistently requested "Musica Pacifica" from a Boston public radio station's podcast. (He was older than yours is right now so yours won't be able to make requests....)

  3. Hold him in your lap in a chair with arms and rock.

  4. Throw a receiving blanket over your shoulder and his head. It can help if the cloth smells like Mama. Mama can pre-treat the cloth by wrapping it around her torso under the nightgown for a couple days.

  5. Combine 3 and 4.

  6. If the plane staff will allow it, use a Didymos wrap, and walk up and down the aisle.

  7. With pediatrician approval, you could try a neck massager. My younger son, previously mentioned, who had massive difficulties with sleep for many years, used one of these for a while as preparation for sleep. Ours was plug-in but maybe they sell one that uses batteries.

  8. When said son was a baby, we had to loosen him up prior to nursing to sleep, by putting him in a carrier and dancing. The parent doing this would listen to their favorite rock music, walk around with plenty of bouncing, and give the baby a work-out - sometimes with the hands and sometimes with the legs. You know you're done when the baby's leg and arm muscles start to relax.

Re flying with a baby: bring some puppets. If there's an 8yo in a nearby seat, lend a puppet to the 8yo, and the two will have a grand old time. Also, plan ahead for what to do if the baby gets ear pain. (That would be a whole separate question -- maybe there is one here already.) Bring a folding "umbrella" stroller for getting around the airport -- this can be brought on the plane (at least that's how it used to work! Maybe verify this with the airline).

By the way I don't think it's too early to start establishing a bedtime ritual -- a certain sequence of things you do together at bedtime.

You might ask the pediatrician if you could try some baby Melatonin on the plane (and do one dry run at home in advance).

Lastly -- the current nap schedule is quite related to this topic. Does your baby usually take two naps? If it's more, you might want to review what Dr. Spock wrote about how to help a baby go from two naps to one -- I imagine the process would be similar.

Bon Voyage!

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