Taking a baby on a flight is pretty terrifying. In fact, it may be one of the most universally dreaded instances. Being trapped in a sealed vessel is hard enough, but add a loud baby with no filter and no way of communicating outside of screams, and things get even harder. For many parents, however, baby’s first flight is a total breeze—he or she may sleep the entire time, or be wide awake and adorable. Just in case, here are some tips for flying with a baby to help ensure you’re extra prepared.
Packing Checklist: 9 Things You’ll Need
As you will likely be spending plenty of time in the airport and plane combined, one of the most important tips for flying with a baby is to make sure you have a fully stocked diaper bag. Here’s what to bring with you on the flight:
1) Sanitizing wipes. In case you didn’t know, airports and planes are both filled with germs. And your baby will likely want to touch everything! Make life a bit easier on yourself and grab some wipes. It’s best to have non-scented sanitizing wipes for the plane as fragrance can cause an allergic reaction to people in close quarters.
2) Burp cloths. It’s basically a law that your little one has to spit up all over you in the most inconvenient places and at the worst times. Be prepared for everything with several large burp cloths in your diaper bag.
3) Nursing cover. If you are breastfeeding and if you want to have a cover, be sure to bring one. Truthfully, outside of those seated in your row, a plane is a pretty private spot to feed your baby.
4) Pacifier. This is one of my favorite tips for flying with a baby! If your child will take a pacifier or is remotely interested in one, make sure you bring it with you! Not only will it help them sleep but it can be used to relieve ear pain.
5) Breastmilk or formula. Thankfully, breastmilk, pre-mixed formula or water in a bottle to use with formula is not subject to TSA’s 3 oz limit. Just make sure it is a reasonable quantity and be prepared to have it separately examined.
6) Diapering supplies. Makes sure to bring plenty of diapers and wipes along with a changing pad and disposable diaper trash bags. Bonus tip for flying with a baby: these bags also come in handy when clothing gets soiled and needs to be stowed away.
7) Snacks. Apple sauce pouches, teething biscuits and puffs are all great options—as long as your baby is old enough to eat them and has had practice doing so.
8) Toys. Bring some fun items that can serve as a welcome distraction during the flight.
9) Blanket. While you are in the airport, you can consider finding a spot near your gate and spreading out a blanket on the floor for your child to do tummy time and roll on. Just make sure the blanket is not used again before it is washed.
7 Tips for Traveling with a Baby on Your Lap
In theory, taking your child on a flight as a lap child makes sense, as most airlines allow children under the age of 2 to travel on your lap. However, the logistics can be a bit complicated. Here are some tips for flying with a baby while on your lap that can help make the experience smoother.
1) Use an overnight diaper. I won’t lie to you…changing a baby in the tiny airplane bathroom is not fun. At all. One of my most utilized tips for flying with a baby is to wait until just before boarding to do a diaper change in the airport and change them into an overnight diaper. If you are taking a short flight that’s 2-3 hours, you may not need to change them again until you land—unless, of course, you are unlucky and get a poopy diaper.
2) Pack a spare change of clothes. For both of you! Trust me, the last thing you want is to be stuck in a plane with wet (or even worse, gross) clothes. Stick an extra outfit for you each in your carryon, just in case.
3) Book direct flights. Another one of the best tips for flying with a baby is to book direct flights whenever possible, especially if you are flying domestic or taking a flight that is short.
4) Pre-board is a must. Many airlines will give you the opportunity to pre-board if you have young children. This will give you extra time to get in the plane and get settled before others board.
5) Buy an extra seat. If you are able to, splurge on an extra seat for your baby. Not only is this the safest way to fly, but it will help give your arms a break. If you can’t afford to do this, talk to the airline staff at the gate and see if they happen to have an extra seat available you can switch to.
6) Work with your baby’s nap times. Pick flight times that work best with your baby’s sleep schedule. If you are lucky, he or she may spend the entire flight sleeping.
7) Use a baby sling. Bring a carrier, even for older children. Babies will enjoy being contained and snuggled up to you while you can enjoy having your hands free.
5 Tips for Preventing Ear Pain
Let’s talk about ear popping. Your poor little one has no idea how to relieve the pressure in her ears, and it can be quite painful. One of the most frequently searched tips for flying with babies is how to prevent ear pain. Here are a few ideas:
1) Try EarPlanes. This product is supposed to help prevent and relieve ear pain in children—and from the reviews, it seems like it works! One helpful person suggested using medical tape to secure these in your child’s ears so they don’t yank them out.
2) Use pain-relief medication. If you know your child has ear pain when flying, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen half an hour before departure—just check with your pediatrician to make sure it’s allowed first.
3) Encourage your little one to eat and drink. Having a child who is chewing or sucking will help prevent air pressure build-up in their ears. You can offer them a special treat to get them eager to chew—small bites of a soft muffin or spoonfuls of yogurt purchased from an airport store can do the trick!
4) Keep them awake. Keep the child awake during takeoff and landing to maximize the amount of swallowing, chewing and sucking they do to relieve pressure. Having the baby drink milk or formula and performing a sucking action will help relieve pressure and pain
5) Soothe your child. Rub the ears and sing a soothing song and snuggle them close if nothing else is helping.
6 Travel Activities for Babies 6 – 12 Months
When all else fails, you can solve a lot for your child by keeping him or her occupied and distracted. Here are some of the best activities to do with your little one.
1) Play with a fidget cube. This brilliant toy has minimal noise (a must for a plane ride!) and has plenty of fun textures and buttons to keep your baby busy. Plus, it is small enough to fit perfectly in their hands.
2) Use a mirror. One of the best tips for flying with a baby is to utilize their love for other babies! You can swipe through photos of them on your phone, or better yet grab a baby-safe mirror and let them admire their cute face.
3) Read books. If your child has a favorite book or if you find a new book you think will keep them occupied, make sure to have it with you. Little ones love to hear you read and often enjoy hearing the same stories over and over (and over) again!
4) Play peek-a-boo. This basic game can be done at any time and your child will be entertained every single time.
5) Let them explore. Visually that is. Point out different features of the plane—the everyday things we find boring will endlessly entertain and delight a child. The lights and air vent above you, the folding down tray and a window view can all do the trick.
6) Let other people entertain for you. If the person in the seat next to you or across the aisle wants to coo and talk to your child, don’t feel embarrassed. Let your child talk and play with whoever will entertain while they are seated safely on your lap—most people love babies and want to interact with them.
I hope these tips for flying with a baby help and your flight is completely unexciting. Make sure to take lots of photos and videos to document your little one’s first flight!