What Every Parent Should Know About Flying with a Baby

What Every Parent Should Know About Flying with a Baby - http://www.incredibleinfant.com It’s one thing to take your baby on a long car ride.

It’s a completely new nightmare to enclose your infant in 2×2 space and tell him he can’t move for several hours while sitting in a capsule with hundreds of complete strangers.

Strangers who all seem poised to mark up some “Parent Evaluation Form” the flight attendants must pass out when you land.

It’s nerve wracking.

Today we’re going to go over the 10 “rules” for flying with a baby that will boost your confidence.  (Imagine that!  Flying with a baby AND feeling confident in your parenting… Who knew?)

Flying With a Baby Rule#1:
Choose Your Containment Method

You’re going to be easily distracted in the airport:  checking luggage, finding gates, going through security, avoiding bulldozer-businessmen…

So take my advice:  Contain that child.

Holding hands with your toddler is fun for the park.  It’s an Amber Alert nightmare at the airport.  Scary.

Remove that worry by choosing your containment method ahead of time.

Contain the Cuteness in a Car Seat

If you decide to bring a long a car seat to contain that sweet jumble of cuteness, purchase an airport travelmate or travel straps to magically transform the car seat into a stroller-like device.

You have 3 options to store the car seat during the flight:

  • Use it on the flight in an empty seat.

Ask the flight attendant before boarding if you could move next to an empty seat and use it there.

  • Purchase an extra seat next to yours.

There’s no guarantee there will be an empty seat you can use.  Purchasing another ticket removes the gamble.  (Btw, the FAA requires all children over 2 to have their own seat.)

This, of course, means you’re going to hold your baby through the entire flight.  I highly recommend getting an infant flight vest.  It secures your baby to your lap so you don’t accidentally drop her during turbulence.

Contain the Cuteness in a Stroller

Usually you can use the stroller right up until boarding, wheel it down the jetway and then leave it before boarding.  The flight attendants will stow it away and then set it out there again when you leave.

Still, here are some things to remember:

  • Don’t be in love with your stroller.  Not every flight attendant will be as careful with it as you are.
  • Bring a bungee cord from home to tightly wrap it up and secure it together.  This prevents accidental opens that can cause damage during flight.
  • Take everything out of the stroller baskets!

Contain the Cuteness in a Baby Carrier

The final “containment” option is to carry your baby in the world’s most comfortable (and non-back-aching) baby carrier.

It frees up your hands for necessary airport tasks and will keep your infant close to you during the flight, when unexpected turbulence can cause nasty boo boos.

Contain the Cuteness with a Safety Harness

For toddlers, the car seat/carrier/stroller option may not work.  In this case you’re left with holding a slippery little hand or using a safety harness.

I call a spade a spade…so let me just say that these do in fact put your toddling baby on a leash.  (We’ve all seen them, you know what I’m talking about.)

Some people have strong reactions about the “toddler leash”, but really I think you should use whatever you think would help you keep your child close to you in a busy area.  And sometimes that means a cute little monkey backpack with a line attached.

Judgers gonna judge. 

Let them feel self-righteous, and then move on knowing that your #1 job is not to make them approve of your mothering, but to make sure that little Houdini stays safe by your side during the entire trip.

What do you think about using safety harnesses?  Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Flying With a Baby Rule#2:
Pack Yesterday & Get There Early

I realize this is rather a yawner of a tip.

Still, I have to mention it because you’re freaking tired and you’ll forget.  (We’ve all been there.)

Pack up ev-er-eee-thing the day before, so that all your fuzzy-brain has to remember is to GRAB THE BABY.

Then plan on arriving several hours in advance.  Not only will it take longer than you expect to get all your gear where it needs to go, you will probably be subject to more security checks.   Here’s more TSA help straight from the horse’s mouth.

Sometimes, if you ask nicely, the TSA will let you cut to the front of the security line.  If your TSA agent isn’t taking the hint, try batting some Kardashian-like false eyelashes or, in an emergency, weeping and wiping snot on their sleeve.  This will move you ahead faster than you can say “postpartum hormones.”

If you’re going to bring any liquids onto the plane (formula, breastmilk, water, juice, medicine, etc.) let the TSA agent know right away.  They will need to triple check your bank balances, look into your great-grandfather’s 2nd cousin once-removed’s criminal records, and get a hair sample off your pet (to test for nuclear residue) before you can board.

As for your stylish appearance…wear shoes you can easily slip off and skip the jewelry – you may have to take it all off and put it all back on – which is a pain in the tushie, especially when you’re corralling kids.

Flying With a Baby Rule #3:
When In Doubt, Stuff with Food

Few things will quietly comfort your baby during a flight like nursing, suckling a bottle, or snacking on a few Cheerios.

When it comes to flying with a baby, all feeding schedules should get tossed out the air shaft without a parachute.  

Feed. Whenever.

So make sure you’ve packed a Snack Attack Sack.  (Try saying that 3 times fast…)

Flying with Baby Rule #4:
Prepare for Ear Pop-age

As the plane lands and takes off, the air-pressure in the cabin is going to change drastically.

As adults, we can yawn and chew gum to pop our ears.  Babies can’t.  They need our help.  Give him a pacifier during the take-off/landing portion of the flight.  Don’t feed your baby so well before the flight takes off that he doesn’t want to suck during takeoff!

If he’s not a binky-fan, let him drink a bottle or sippy cup.  The sucking movement of moving the lower jaw down, will stretch the ear canal and help the ears pop.

Flying with Baby Rule #5:
Prepare for Diaper Poop-age

In the last few minutes before boarding, change your baby into…

  • An overnight diaper that’s more absorbent
  • A diaper that’s one size LARGER than what he usually wears (again, more absorbent)
  • TWO diapers, with the first diaper slightly cut so it can drain into the 2nd diaper

Any of these options should help him last a little longer than usual (hopefully until you land!) without having to do a diaper change.

That said, there’s always the ornery child who seems to wait until you’re 30,000 feet in the air to  drop a diaper bomb that reminds everyone in the cabin you’re traveling with a baby.

Considering that the airplane bathroom only gives you 4 cubic feet of movement, I recommend having a mini-diaper changing kit prepped and ready to grab-and-go.  Inside it, you should have…

  1. Changing pad to try to create a surface somewhere
  2. Diaper (preferrably a super-absorbent one mentioned above)
  3. Wipes (5-10)
  4. Hand sanitizer
  5. Diaper Rash Cream in a snack-size ziplock – my favorite is Bottom Balm
  6. A bag to take the stink-bomb with you – Arm and Hammer to the rescue

The mini-kit is an absolute lifesaver, because it prevents having to take the entire diaper bag into the bathroom closet.

Flying with Baby Rule #6:
Heaven is a Well-Stocked Toy Bag

Since you can’t let your baby toddle up and down the aisle (yes, please don’t), it’s vital that you have a plethora (nod to The 3 Amigos) of toys and activities to keep him busy.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Wonderous Quiet Book

The Quiet Book is any book that has activities already built into the book that baby can fiddle around with. The idea is, since they are so intrigued by the zips, buttons, shapes, and flaps in the book, they end up being…brace yourself…quiet.

Here’s a few I found across the web:

For those readers who are whizzes with a needle and thread (I envy you.  Really.), check out the Quiet Book Blog to download a free template of Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head and make your own!

Mom’s Magic Bag of Distractions

Here are a few other things you may want to stash in your “magic bag of distractions”.

  • Scotch Tape ~ Make a loop with the sticky side out.  Trust me.  He’ll be fascinated, trying to take it off.  (Make sure he doesn’t eat it!)
  • Teething toys ~ My post on teething remedies has a few toys and relievers you’ll find interesting!
  • Fun baby apps for your phone or tablet ~ This is a great sanity-saving baby app list by Gizmodo.
  • Some Post-It notes ~ Again, the pull-off-and-stick adventure is addicting.
  • Crayon Rocks ~ They don’t need to be sharpened, fit perfectly in baby’s palm, and are the perfect distraction for a long flight.
  • A calculator ~ Buttons she can actually push!

Round & Round & Round It Goes

This is a simple hide & seek game you can play with a palm-sized ball, crayon rock, or rattle.

Round and round and round it goes…
Where Mommy/Daddy/Baby hides it…
(slip inside sleeve, or under baby’s pant leg, etc.)
…nobody knows!
(baby pulls out item, plane rejoices…repeat until bored)

This is a great skill for babies who are beginning to learn something called “object permanence” – that something still exists, even when they can’t see it.  They can lift up the blanket and it’s still there!

Additional Sit-Still Developmental Toys

For more don’t-move baby toys that can boost those brainwaves mid-flight, check out my “Best Baby Toys” post.  Nothing distracts a baby more than a brand new toy!

Flying with Baby Rule #7:
Bring Bribe Bags

Your baby isn’t going to be perfect.

She’s a baby.  

Which means, despite your snacks, cuddles, toys, and smiles, it’s very possible she will give the middle finger to everyone on the plane and cry the whole way anyway.

Such is life.

This is why it’s so important to dabble in a little plane politics.  *hehehe*

What is the first thing people think when they see a young child on an airplane?

That’s right: “Uh oh.”

My husband has a favorite saying:  “Whoever gets to it first, wins.”  In other words, whoever can acknowledge the problem first, has the opportunity to change how people think about that problem.

So, address the “elephant in the room plane” head-on.  Give the people sitting around you Bribe Goodie Bags filled with candy, earplugs, and a cute little apology note from your baby.  (Like this one at Team Eddy or this one at How Does She.)

This will immediately lay their fears to rest by letting them know that you are aware they’re on the plane too.

It gives them confidence that you have a plan to help your baby, and even if he starts to cry, you’re doing your very best.  Most people will reward your thoughtfulness with extra votes of grace.

Flying with Baby Rule #8:
Divide & Conquer When Possible

If you’ve only got one child, split up the duties between parents.  Have one parent handle the logistics and guide the path through the airport, and the other be on “kid duty”.  If you’re traveling with several small children by yourself, see if a grandparent or friend could come along with you.

Flying with Baby Rule #9:
Listen to Other “Been-There,
Survived-That” Moms

The Incredible Infant Facebook Page asked experienced mom-flyers to share their favorite tips.  Here’s what they suggested:

I have flown with both my babies multiple times now. I never really had too much trouble. I would say try to have someone going with you. I’ve done it both ways but, having someone to help is greatly appreciated. Specially since you have to hold them.

~ Robyn Lennie

If its an airline that doesn’t do assigned seats like Southwest ask if the flight is full.  If it’s not you can bring the car seat on board with you.  I was able to stick the seat next to me and stored items in it so that it was easier to grab like the paci, toys and a blanket.  This way I didn’t have to reach down by the feet for them.

~ Courtney Reilly

I’ve tried: Fly at nap time and nurse/feed while you’re waiting to take off if it’s a baby. Nurse or paci or bottle/sippee cup on descent (ear pressure tricks). Pretoddlers/toddlers – we read a book about traveling on a plane, watched Bubble Guppies “Gup, Gup & Away” that teaches all about planes & flying, and had a travel kit of new toys (a magnets set, travel color wonder kit, and kindle fire w/earphones). 

~ Megan Kaiser Mueller

I flew when he was 2 months, and I purposely picked a flight time that was after his lunch and during his prime nap time. 

~ Amanda Ashour

Flying with Baby Rule#10:
Know Your “Mom Value”

Here’s the last thing I want to leave you with today.

Your value as a mother isn’t decided
by strangers on an airplane flight.

Following these unwritten rules are more for your confidence and your sense of peace during traveling, than for anyone else.

Before you walk through the gate and the “fun” begins, remind yourself that you’re a good mother.

What happens at 30,000 feet, stays at 30,000 feet.

If your baby goes bezerk and people are annoyed, oh well.  You’ve done your best, you’re holding, rocking, singing, shushing, doing all your baby needs from you.  You’re being a good parent.

Life is full of uncomfortable moments.  In the span of eternity, your little “disaster flight” is a teeny-tiny blip on the timeline.

Good or bad, determine to not feel ashamed or guilty, but to do your best and then learn whatever you can from the experience.  Even if that’s “no flying until they’re 20.”  Wink

Share what you’ve learned below so other flight-fearful parents can benefit from your experience!!

 I ♥ honesty. Affiliate links may be present. (See what this means.)

Comments

  1. If baby won’t take the pacifier, this is one of the FEW times you can dip it in something like sugar, juice, etc. Toss the pacifier after the trip, but you need them to suckle for that ear poppage, and it’s far more important to get their ears to pop than to have them screaming from pain or have a potential ear infection later. Once they’re old enough, I buy salt water taffy, works great! I’ve also heard tale of a hot washrag put in the bottom of a cup and put over the ear. This creates a vacuum hopefully that will gently help the ears to pop.

    Also… buy the seat. It’s just not safe to carry your baby on your lap in a car, or airplane, and why we haven’t fixed that is beyond me. Keep them in a car seat. The extra room gives you room to maneuver and fix fits better, and is a lot safer.

  2. Thanks for the post! We’re flying from Australia to Europe with our 4 month old in 2 weeks. Great timing with the article!

  3. When we went to Aruba for our wedding our toddler niece traveled with us. We put together a travel activity bag made up of Imagine Ink coloring books (no mess) & reusable sticker books. Everything was centered around her favorite movie, Tangled – right down to the glittery toddler-sized backpack. Her parents had a safety harness but didn’t use it both because of judgy people & because they felt like it was a “leash”. Fortunately, we had 9 people to keep track of her, but in the same position I would ABSOLUTELY use it. Like you said, judgers gonna judge, but at least I have peace of mind and a firm attachment to my child. Even a perfectly behaved child can get separated in a busy airport.

  4. Walk around the plane when you can… even when your baby cannot walk. He or she will be happy to look at all the faces that are there to see. And it’s much better for yourself as well… On those flights where the seat belt sign is always on, we use the iPad or iPhone. Download your kids favorite TV series or movies. It’s worth the money! Don’t count on the airline’s movie to be age appropriate.

  5. Lindsay Bruner says:

    The little suckers, Dum Dums work well for ear popping as well…..not too much because you dont want your lil one on a high :) .

    • That’s a great idea for older kids, Lindsay! My rule about suckers for the younger kids (3-6) has always been they can suck on them until a piece falls off the stick. Then the candy is “finished” and we throw it away. I have an absolute terror about choking. :-)

  6. Just got back from a transcontinental trip with our five-month old. It was rough, but not as bad as I feared. A couple things we did:
    1. We traveled with my parents, had them board first and bring our carry-ons that needed overhead space, then we boarded at last call. Nice to spend as little time on the plane as possible.
    2. If he was awake and hungry, I fed him, but he slept through one descent and just played through another. Be prepared for ear poppage, but not all babies will feel it, and there’s no need to wake them to feed if they seem comfortable.
    3. Don’t go during bedtime, if you can help it. Our baby did not sleep well on the plane at all, and by the time we got to our destination he was so cranky and exhausted. Naptime might work, but be prepared that your little one may not sleep, and you don’t want the whole night (and next day) to be ruined by an overtired baby. We flew during the day on the way back, and it went much smoother.
    4. Bring pumped milk or formula if you’re breastfeeding. He ate more than usual, I was dehydrated from flying, and I was glad I had something else to offer him. Just one extra portion will be a nice insurance policy.
    – Otherwise, we just did lots of walking, bouncing, shushing and singing, and it went basically fine. Other passengers were smiling and asking us questions, so it can’t have been too bad, and as long as you’re trying, people appreciate what you’re going through.

    • These are great suggestions, Rachel! Always good to hear from a mom that made one of those “potentially scary” transcontinental trips! Loved the first idea, to spend as LITTLE time on the plane as possible. Don’t think I would have thought of that!

  7. Warren Andrews says:

    If your child has any food allergies, you may have meal options to accommodate your little one. Nut allergies are especially common and very serious if they occur in-flight. Let the airline know and they should be able to inform you of their policy, whether it be with a special meal or if the airline has eliminated nuts from their menu (or even for that flight, if your child is especially sensitive). Ask your doctor what precautions and/or supplies you should take for your child when flying.

    Wholesale escapes

  8. What a great idea! If possible, please collapse or fold strollers and any other child-related equipment while in the queue. Please put any items in the stroller pockets or baskets, in a carry-on bag or in the bin X-ray belt for inspection. Plastic bins are provided to deposit such items.

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