I’m no expert but with 10 flights with my daughter, most of which I’ve done solo (and several more coming up in the next few weeks!) I’ve picked up a few tips about how to best fly with a baby. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Don’t be afraid
First of all, don’t be scared!! I have family all over the country so flying with a baby was an absolute must. There was no way I could wait years and years till my daughter was “old enough” to fly. You won’t know how your child will handle a flight until you take one, so book a trip and get going! Yes, your trip could end up being a total disaster and your baby might have an epic meltdown, but on the flip side, your trip could go totally smoothly, your baby will be happy as a clam and you’ll have a great time. You’ll never know until you try, so my advice is to not let fear hold you back.
2. Fly when your baby is young
My daughter’s first flight was when she was 4 months old. Everyone told me that flying with a small baby is true and boy were they right. At 4 months my daughter wasn’t mobile so the flight was a breeze! I took a few toys, lots of extra clothes (more on that later) and made sure to breastfeed her during takeoff and landing. I know some children are very sensitive to the pressure changes, but Amelia luckily didn’t seem to have any issues. So don’t hesitate to book trips with young babes in tow. They’re usually not on set schedules yet so time differences might not make a huge difference anyway. As babies grow older and more mobile, they require much more work to entertain. I’m about to fly cross country again with a very mobile one-year-old so I’m sure I’ll miss the days of contently holding her on my lap the entire flight.
3. Wear your baby in a carrier
I put my daughter in the carrier the moment we get to the airport and have always walked through security with her strapped to me. Putting your baby in a carrier not only saves you from additional back pain but it allows you to have the ability to move and carry items with your hands as needed, without balancing a baby on your hip.
During the flight, my daughter naps in the carrier and I can also get some shuteye knowing she’s safely strapped to me. Also, if you’re traveling solo this is pretty much the only way to use the restroom unless you’re lucky enough to have a friendly stranger who will hold your baby for you while you go. Ahh peeing while babywearing, parenting is so glamorous!! haha
4. Bring a backpack style diaper bag
I mentioned above how important it is to remain hands free, the best way to juggle a baby and a diaper bag is to select the backpack style one that leaves your hands free to take off shoes for security, push your stroller, etc., etc. Especially when flying solo with a child, having a backpack style diaper bag makes things so much easier. I’ve flown with a standard shoulder strap and let me tell you, a heavy diaper bag plus a baby attached to me was not a fun combo. Since then, I stick to the backpack!
5. Pack extra clothes for baby
The extra clothes are a necessity because you never know how a baby’s little system will react to the pressure changes. Though my daughter was fine on her first flight, on the flight home she ended up pooping 4 times and yes somehow all of her outfits got dirty also. Luckily, I’d planned ahead and packed several outfits (and Ziploc bags for the dirty ones.) You also have to be prepared for things like spit up, spilled milk/food, etc.
6. Give yourself more time than you think you need
So this one is all about balance. You don’t want to get to the airport too early and then have to lounge around with a tired baby, but on the flip side you don’t want to be running down the tarmac to catch the plane either. Depending on what time you’re flying out and factoring in time to get to the airport/traffic, you want to give yourself at least a solid hour after going through security before having to board. This is just enough time to grab a quick snack, feed baby, change a diaper and be ready to go. So plan ahead and determine the best time to leave to allow for extra time
7. Think about your baby’s preferences and what might help them during the flight
Does your child have a specific toy or lovey they can’t live without? Make sure to bring along their favorite items (along with one or two new toys) to entertain them during the flight. Does your child instantly fall asleep in her car seat? You might want to consider buying an extra seat and bringing the car seat long, or you can bring along your car seat/stroller (since you would gate check this anyway) and ask if there are any free seats. I’ve been lucky enough to bring my car seat once for no extra charge since no one was sitting next to me. However, for me holding my daughter on my lap is more comfortable since she doesn’t particularly like the car seat. What works for us is a pacifier, her lovey and at her current mobile stage lots of moving around whenever we can. You know your child best, think about the things that can help make the flight that much more manageable (and maybe even enjoyable!)
8. For babies 6 months and above bring snacks
My daughter loves baby puffs and they were a godsend during one of our flights. I brought along two tubs and made a game of giving them to her, one by one, haha. It was a great way to keep her entertained and fed so I was a fan! For babies that are already eating solids, I’d recommend bringing your own food/snacks. Pouches and puffs are great because they’re great for eating on the go. I also take bananas since my daughter loves them, they’re a bit messy but worth it for me since I know she’ll eat them without complaint.
9. Bring lots of hand sanitizer
We all know just how germ-y airplanes can be so having a large supply of hand sanitizer is a must. All the water on a plane is also not very sanitary, I’ve read that even after washing your hands with soap and water in the bathroom it’s actually better to simply sanitize them with hand sanitizer. So suffice it to say, bring a lot of this stuff! Especially with a very mobile baby, sanitizing their little hands after they’ve touched just about every surface is a must!
10. Sit in the aisle seat
In my pre-baby days, the window seat was my jam. I’d rest my head semi comfortably and snooze. Ahh the good ol’ days. Nowadays, the aisle seat is where it’s at. When you have a baby, you have to have access to get up and out of your seat freely, without climbing over fellow passengers. Sitting in the aisle seat means you can get up to rock your baby or of course change their diaper, reach for your diaper bag, etc. A bonus is that sometimes you might get lucky and get the middle seat to yourself as well. Nobody likes the middle seat so if your flight isn’t full, you might unexpectedly get some more space. You can also request to sit in an aisle with an unbooked middle seat at the gate and in my experience, the gate attendants have been happy to oblige.
If you’re flying with your partner, then you can sit one middle, one aisle so you only have to climb over one another if needed. I’ve also read that people will sit in aisle seats far away from one another so they can tag in and out with the baby while the other partner gets some rest. I haven’t personally tried this yet, but with a long international flight coming up I might test it out!
11. Have low expectations and enjoy!
Ha! Does that make sense? Basically, you should go into flying with a baby with very low expectations of how it’ll go. Could go great, could go terrible. Either way, just board that plane and enjoy the flight as best you can. I’ve always been understanding of babies on flights, even before I had kids and now more than ever I’m so grateful for fellow passengers who are kind and compassionate about parents flying with their kids.
I’ve found that the only thing you have to fear is fear itself as the saying goes. Every flight I’ve been on, I’ve met some wonderful people who were not at all fazed by my daughter’s presence on our flight. I think that positive energy rubs off and in turn, her behavior on flights has luckily been fantastic. Now, I realize as babies get older and more mobile, flying becomes much trickier and I’ll have to tackle that challenge as it comes. But I believe that going into it with a positive mindset can hopefully help alleviate some of those fears and result in some happy flying!