15 Tips for Flying with an Infant
Before the flight: “Oh great, she’s got a baby on board.”
After the flight: “Oh wow, I didn’t even know you had him on board!”
Our little guy was on 18 flights in his first year of life and believe it or not, he didn’t have a single bad flight *knock-on-all-the-wood*. I think, like with most things and children, it really just comes down to plain luck of the draw, but here are 10 things that I did as I traveled with him that I felt like helped make things go a little more smoothly.
1. Take care of those ears.
Before flying, Edison had never used a pacifier… he always seemed disinterested. But after reading about ear health when flying with a baby, I decided to try it with him when we flew. When he was younger (4 months) he still wasn’t really taking it well… So I tried to feed him a little bit of a bottle throughout the flight, but that wasn’t always possible, since he would be asleep or full from eating. But as he grew, he learned to love his pacifier on flights and it helped him a lot. It also helped with fussiness – so Momma liked it too! 😉
This will be so easy if you are breastfeeding and you feel comfortable feeding baby in your seat. That sucking action will help with their ears and you wouldn’t be introducing a pacifier if you didn’t want to.
The main thing is, just ensure your little one has something to help them pop their ears and keep the pressure off. If it’s a pacifier, great! If it’s nursing, AWESOME. A thumb, a bottle, whatever it may be, go for it. Just keep that baby’s ears healthy.
2. Sit by the engines.
When I first read this, I was like – what? I was thinking it would be the opposite, wouldn’t the engines scare him? But after realizing just how much Edison loved white noise, it made sense. The loud hum of the engines always calms him down and he goes out like a light every time.
3. Grab the window seat.
After a recent poll on a friends Facebook status (hey Liz!) it seems as though this issue is pretty split right down the middle. But for me, I’ve done both the aisle seat and a window seat with an infant. (and my opinion may change now that Edison is up and much more active these days). But I always will beg for a window seat.
It provides entertainment for Edison. Playing with the shade, looking outside, knocking on the glass… it’s like a little game to him.
You get a little more room with the “bubble” of the side of the airplane. Extra wiggle room never hurt.
But the main thing is that with the aisle seat, you have the stewardesses and passengers walking up and down the aisle constantly and you have less room than if you were in the window seat. I’ve had Edison grab onto the cart and nearly jerk him out of my hands. I’ve had him get fussy and try to get down into the aisle to run. But worst of all, I’ve had him woken up and kept awake by loud stewardesses yelling for beverage choices to the passengers around me and next to me. In the middle of him being sick and he finally, after 3 days of restless nights, was asleep… this momma wasn’t happy. But hey, they have to do their jobs. Not their fault!
4. Traveling with family? Grab the window and aisle seat.
Eric and I always buy the window and aisle seats on flights. That way, as the flight fills up, people are less likely to choose to sit in the middle seat if there is a window or aisle seat available elsewhere. The hope is that maybe we’ll luck out and get a whole row to ourselves. If not, we kindly ask if we can sit next to one another. Most people are happy to switch, since then they don’t have to sit in the middle seat.
5. Wear comfy clothes.
This goes for you and the baby. You need to be comfortable sleeping however you can and bending and twisting throughout the day. I don’t suggest wearing your skinny jeans that day. 😉
Some comfy but fashionable options are maxi dresses or long skirts.
6. Dress them in light layers.
Have you ever been in an airport? Some airports can rival the Arctic and others feel like a sauna. Be sure to dress your baby in light layers so they can be comfortable – which makes you comfortable. 🙂
7. Don’t over-pack the toys.
Like they always say: “One man’s trash is your baby’s favorite toy.” Okay, maybe I always say that.. but it’s true! Struggling to find something to occupy your baby’s attention? Hit the condiment stand at a food place in the terminal. Plastic spoons and straws are easily Edison’s favorite toys to play with. Plus, you can simply throw them away after your little one is done chewing on them for 3 hours. Save that space in your carry-on for some expensive-in-the-airport snacks, OR see #8.
8. Pack extras.
The things I would encourage you to have extra of is: clothing, diapers, snacks and soothing toys or pacifiers. You never know when your baby may have a blowout in your seat during takeoff and you need to change them on your lap before everyone on the plane gets real mad. 😉
9. Treat the tummy. (‘Tude Toots)
Gas drops, gripe water, essential oils, what’s your cup of tea for helping your baby with gas? Whatever it may be, pack it with you. My personal favorite is gripe water. It is the cure-all for stomach issues in our house. For Edison, I would give him some before his first flight of the day to help his stomach feel good. During the second flight, I would give him some gas drops and it was incredible the things that would happen on that third flight. Is that gross? Sorry, I’m a mom, it’s what we do.
10. Antibacterial Wipes (and Gel).
I’m not a germaphobe. In fact, I’m probably pretty gross to most people, since I don’t get too upset when Edison eats off the floor. But these things are a life-saver. Airports are full of people! People with shoes that have traveled all over the globe, hands that have touched surfaces time-zones away and germs that would make a micro-biologist cringe… you just have to sanitize things. These wipes are great for disinfecting high-chairs, table-tops and even hands in a pinch.
11. Pack a blanket.
If you have room, pack a blanket with you. That way, if your little one wants to sleep or play while you are waiting at the terminal, you can have a clean surface to lay them on.
Instead of lugging around a stroller, we chose to baby-wear. There are so many options, but just make sure if you are going to baby wear, that you are feeling good about the position your baby is in. I’m always making sure that Edison’s legs are in proper M alignment and trying to keep his hips healthy. Since I’m a bigger girl, I try to watch that he gets rest from being in a splayed-hip position during the day. Here’s a great article that outlines the best practices for baby-wearing. A simple trick is to feel your baby’s bottom, draw an imaginary line straight towards you with your hands and ensure his knees are level with or above that line.
If you are traveling with your spouse, try to bring a carrier for him or her as well. Eric and I got a carrier that we both can use, so we can switch off through the day.
One note: some airlines are getting stricter with wearing a baby during takeoff and landing. I’ve had two flights that made me take my sleeping 4 month old out of the wrap I was wearing and hold him in my arms, before we could depart from the gate. Now I always ensure I’m holding onto Edison’s body outside of the carrier as to re-affirm that I’m “holding onto” him. (as if he isn’t held in the wrap, but hey, again, they’re just doing their job.)
13. Saline drops can help.
We’ve all been there, you’ve been on 3 flights in a row and your skin feels parched and your feeling like you need to take a steam bath. Due to the recycled air on a flight, there is a very low humidity level on board which can leave your baby uncomfortable. During the winter months, when the humidity is already low, I like to carry saline drops with me and pop a few in Edison’s nose during the day. I also like to keep his skin feeling moist and soft with lotion or a great re-hydration mist.
14. Take care of yourself.
Traveling with an infant can be a little stressful. To make things as smooth as possible, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Buy yourself a coffee, hot tea, take 5 minutes and stretch out your muscles, eat your favorite snack, anything that works for you to boost your energy and can help promote a calm and happy mental state. A happy and calm you creates a happy and calm atmosphere for your baby in a situation that can be chaotic and stressful.
15. Take pictures!
Don’t forget to document baby’s first flight with pictures! Someday, when our kids are teleporting to their desired location at the touch of a button, you can show them just how outdated our technology was – “You mean you sat in a chair in the air for HOURS? How did you survive??” I know son, I lived a tough life.
Well that’s it I guess. 15 little ways to make flying with your infant a little less stressful hopefully. And remember, not everything works for everyone – so take some and leave some, find out what works for you and your baby and go with it!
I think one of my biggest fears about traveling with Edison was inconveniencing other people. Oh gosh, I don’t think anyone wants to be that woman with the screaming kid that can’t get them to stop. You’ve probably read about the parents who made up the goody-bags for people on the plane with ear plugs and then the response to that about why they shouldn’t have felt like they needed to do that. And I think as with most truth, it’s not found in the extremes of the argument. It’s found in the middle.
Because it’s true, you are carrying with you another human. A 100% fully-human being that is entitled to talk, laugh, get frustrated, cry and try to communicate their feelings. A little human who has the right to be living in this world. A living, breathing, person – a living breathing child at that, who deserves respect and grace and understanding as they learn how to give respect and grace and understanding. And they are learning to behave and communicate and rationalize and calm themselves and everything else that comes with growing up. So when your baby cries or laughs or howls like a wolf at the top of their lungs out of the blue, remember that you are teaching them even in these moments. So do just that, teach them. Maybe that means reprimanding them, maybe that means asking them to say they’re sorry, maybe that means helping them navigate and identify their emotions. And of course, apologize for their outburst if you desire or if it warrants it, but never apologize for having them on a plane.
When it comes down to it, most people on that plane have or have had children in their life in one way or another and despite what internet trolls and media say – they are most-likely on your side. And if they aren’t, well, they’re a jerk.
So good luck! Take time to enjoy the traveling moments with your infant. Because next up is the toddler years and it’s a whole new ballgame!
Check Out The Other Posts In Our Packing and Style Series:
“The Ultimate Mission Trip Packing Guide.” – tips and tricks from Praying Pelican Missions missionaries on how to be best prepared for your mission trip and how to take the pressure off of packing your suitcase for a new culture, climate and lifestyle. Our heart is to remove the anxiety and focus from timeless questions like: “How much is too much?” and give you a few tips that we’ve learned throughout the years. Ultimately, we pray that these posts would be a resource for you as you prepare for your trip. We want to provide you with a few tools that can help you as you prepare for your trip of a lifetime.