I’m a mom. I like to travel. Until recently I had not combined these two aspects of my life; and, like many -a-new-mom, I was nervous about taking my 6-month-old baby on a plane. An inconsolable baby screaming, passengers making snide comments about my parenting skills and a flight attendant asking me to disembark – these visions tormented me pre-departure. Naturally, I scoured the internet for tips. Then, I called my pediatrician to reinforce what I learned. I also talked to my flight attendant neighbor as well as the friendly travel store sales associate.
Here are the best bits of advice I’ve found for flying with a baby:
01. Nurse/bottle feed at take off and landing. Especially landing. This helps your baby’s little ears pop, relieving the pain that leads to screaming. If they aren’t interested in eating try a pacifier. My son won’t take a pacifier so I was set to nurse him on take-off. Easy. Then came landing. Not so easy. Hooter-hider (read: nursing cover) be damned, that boy was flailing all over the place. I took a bottle for the flight home and I would highly recommend it.
02. Take a – pillow if seat sharing with a sleeping baby. Much more comfortable for the both of you. I didn’t bring one along simply because I didn’t want to carry more than I needed, but I think it’s a great tip. Had I been on a longer or international flight I probably would have heeded this advice.
03. Dress for easy diaper changes. Changing a dirty diaper amidst turbulence is stressful. Trust me. And if your plane doesn’t have a changing table (they are often in the back lavatories) you’ll want quick and easy. Think zippers. I would recommend you bring a change of clothes for yourself as well as for your kiddo. That little bit of extra pressure can be dangerous, and a blowout doesn’t only affect baby. Especially when said baby is sitting on your lap.
04. Call the airline to ask about the plane’s amenities. Some plane models have bassinets that attach to the wall at the bulkhead seats. This would be uuuhhh-mazing on a long haul flight. It’s also worth double-checking on that changing table so you can plan ahead, mentally prepare or practice changing baby in your lap.
05. Check your stroller and car seat with your luggage. Wear your baby instead. Sure you can check those items at the gate, but getting through security is sooo much easier without them; TSA generally won’t make you take your baby out of the carrier and will simply swab your hands to test for explosives. You’ll still have to remove your shoes though, I would recommend wearing slip-ons if possible.
06. Bring some new toys or download a new app. Or whatever else you think will hold your babe’s attention. I brought a new book and a few quiet toys (nothing electronic that would disturb my neighbors.) I then attached them to the seat and tray table with colorful links. This saved me from constantly picking up dropped toys. Also bring something familiar for napping if you think it’s necessary. I brought my son’s lovey, but he didn’t end up using it.
07. Introduce your baby to the people around you. Just in case your child fusses. People might give you a little more sympathy if they see how cute he or she is before the screaming starts.
My worst nightmare came true on our return flight. My son – who I now realize was overtired – screamed for a good 20 minutes during take-off. He refused the bottle and he refused to nurse, a first. But still the people around me were incredibly nice, and luckily he did great during the landing.
08. Give baby a little Tylenol before you get on the plane. I would generally shy away from using Tylenol if I don’t have too, but my pediatrician recommended it and assured me that sore ears do in fact equal pain. She also recommended administering it before we took off since it can take a while to kick in. And if you’re lucky, it might make baby sleepy, too.
Good luck! And please feel free to leave your own tips on flying with an infant in the comments section. Help a mother out!