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 thousands of feet into the air with hundreds of complete strangers .
strangers who seem ready to mark some “parental screening form” that the flight attendants must hand in when you land.
Reading: Baby headphone for plane
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 about their upbringing… who knew? )
flying with a baby rule #1: choose your method of containment
You’ll easily get distracted at the airport: checking luggage, looking for gates, going through security, avoiding bulldozer-businessmen…
so take my advice: contain that child.
holding your toddler’s hand is fun for the park. it’s an amber alert nightmare at the airport. it’s scary.
Eliminate that worry by choosing your containment method early.
contain cuteness in a car seat
If you decide to carry a long car seat to contain that sweet jumble of cuteness, buy an airport travel companion or travel straps to magically transform the car seat into a stroller-like device.
You will have three options to store your baby’s car seat during the flight:
- use it on the flight in an empty seat. ask the flight attendant before boarding if she can move next to an empty seat and use it there.
- buy an extra seat next to yours. there is no guarantee that there will be an empty seat that you can use. buying another ticket removes the bet. (By the way, the FAA requires all children over the age of 2 to have their own seat.)
- Check the free car seat as baggage. (learn how here). this, of course, means that you will be carrying your baby for the entire flight. I highly recommend getting a baby flight vest. secures your baby to her lap so she doesn’t accidentally drop him during turbulence.
contain cuteness in a stroller
Usually you can use the stroller until boarding time, roll down the gangway, and then drop it off before boarding. the flight attendants will store it and then leave it there when you leave.
Still, here are a few things to remember:
- Don’t fall in love with your stroller. not all flight attendants will be as careful with it as you are.
- bring a bungee cord from home to wrap it up nice and secure. this prevents accidental openings that can cause damage during the flight.
- get everything out of the stroller baskets!
contain cuteness in a baby carrier
The last “containment” option is to carry your baby in a comfortable (and back-friendly) carrier. (this article can help you find the right one).
It will free up your hands for necessary airport tasks and keep your baby close to you during the flight, when unexpected turbulence can cause unpleasant catcalls.
contain cuteness with a safety harness
for small children, the car seat/carrier/stroller option may not work. in this case you have to hold a slippery hand or use a safety harness.
I call a thing by its name… so let me tell you, these do, in fact, put your little baby on a leash. (we’ve all seen them, you know what I’m talking about).
Some people have strong reactions to the “toddler leash,” but I really think you should use anything you think would help keep your child close to you in a crowded area. And sometimes that means a cute monkey backpack with a line attached.
the judges are going to judge.
Let them feel moralistic and then move on knowing that your number 1 job is not to make them approve of your motherhood, but to make sure that the little houdini remains safe by your side throughout the journey.
flying with a baby rule #2: pack yesterday & arrive early
I realize this is more of a yawn than advice.
Still, I have to mention it because you’re too tired and you’ll forget it. (we’ve all been there).
pack everything the day before, so all your fuzzy brain has to remember is to grab the baby.
then plan to arrive several hours in advance. Not only will it take longer than expected to get all of your gear where it needs to go, but you’ll likely be subject to more security checks. here’s more help from tsa straight from the horse’s mouth.
Sometimes, if you ask nicely, the tsa will let you come to the front of the security line. If your TSA agent isn’t taking the hint, try whipping out some Kardashian-style false eyelashes or, in an emergency, cry and wipe the snot up your sleeve. this will get you moving faster than you can say “postpartum hormones.”
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if you are bringing any liquids onto the plane (formula, breast milk, water, juice, medicine, etc.) tell the tsa agent right away. they’ll have to triple-check your bank balances, run a criminal record on your great-grandfather’s second cousin, and get a hair sample from your pet (for nuclear waste) before you can board.
as for your elegant appearance… wear shoes that you can easily take off and skip the jewelry; you may have to take everything off and put it back on, which is a pain in the butt, especially when you’re cornering. children.
flying with a baby rule #3: when in doubt, fill with food
Few things will calm your baby down during a flight like nursing, sucking on a bottle, or eating a few cheerios.
When it comes to flying with a baby, all feeding times should be thrown down the air tube without a parachute.
so make sure you’ve packed a raid bag of snacks. (try saying that 3 times faster…)
- cheerios or instant-dissolving puffs stored in organized stacks.
- baby food inside this brilliant mess-free spoon.
- and don’t forget to pack some bibs that can be wiped clean with sleeves to protect that cute holiday outfit!
rule #4 for flying with a baby: prepare for the age of the ears
As the aircraft lands and takes off, the air pressure in the cabin will change dramatically.
As adults, we can yawn and chew gum to cover our ears. babies can’t. they need our help. Give him a pacifier during the takeoff/landing portion of the flight. Don’t feed your baby so well before the flight takes off that she doesn’t want to suckle during takeoff!
If he’s not a fan of binkys, let him drink from a bottle or sippy cup. the sucking motion of moving your lower jaw down will stretch your ear canal and help your ears pop.
fly with baby rule #5: be ready for diaper age
In the last minutes before boarding, change your baby in…
- an overnight diaper that is more absorbent
- a diaper that is one size larger than you usually wear (again, more absorbent)
- two diapers, with the first diaper cut slightly so it can drain into the second diaper
Either of these options should help him last a little longer than usual (hopefully until you land!) without having to change his diaper.
That said, there’s always the cranky kid who seems to wait until you’re 30,000 feet in the air to drop a diaper bomb reminding everyone in the cabin that you’re traveling with a baby.
Keeping in mind that the airplane toilet only gives you 4 cubic feet of movement, I recommend having a mini diaper changing kit prepped and ready to go. inside, you should have…
- changing pad to try and create a surface somewhere.
- diaper (preferably the super absorbent one mentioned above)
- wipes (5-10)</li
- hand sanitizer
- a great diaper rash cream in a snack-sized ziploc. (my favorite is nether balm)
- a bag to take the stink bomb with you – arm and hammer to the rescue!
The mini-kit is an absolute lifesaver, because it avoids having to carry the entire diaper bag to the bathroom closet of the plane.
flying with baby rule #6: Heaven is a well-stocked bag of toys
Since you can’t let your baby walk up and down the aisle (yes, please don’t), it’s vital that you have a plethora (wink at all 3 friends) of toys and activities to keep him busy. These are some of my favorites:
the wonderful quiet book
The quiet book is any book that already has built-in activities that the baby can play with. The idea is that since they’re so intrigued by the book’s zippers, buttons, shapes, and flaps, they end up being… get ready… chill.
here are some I found on the web:
- fabric quiet book at home
- hidden forest
- wild animals to touch and feel
- a personalized quiet book (warning: expensive, but amazingly well done).
for those readers who are geniuses with a needle and thread (I envy you, really), check out the quiet book blog to download a free template from mr. & Mrs. potato head and make your own!
mom’s magic bag of distractions
here are some other things you might want to keep in your “magic bag of distractions”.
- sticky tape ~ make a loop with the sticky side out. trust me. he will be fascinated, trying to take it away. (make sure she doesn’t eat it!)
- teething toys ~ tired of sophie the giraffe? try these innovative new favorites to chew on.
- fun baby apps for your phone or tablet ~ here’s a great list of gizmodo sanity-saving apps.
- sticky notes ~ again, the throw-and-stick adventure is addictive.
- egg crayons ~ don’t need to be sharpened, fit perfectly in the palm of baby’s hand, and are the perfect distraction for a long flight.</li
- Buttons on a calculator that she can actually press!
round and amp; round & turn around
this is a simple hide & scavenger hunt that you can play with a palm-sized ball, a crayon stone, or a rattle.
it goes round and round and round…where mom/dad/baby hides it…(slip it into the baby’s sleeve or under the pant leg, etc.)…no one 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 the blanket and it’s still there!
additional sit and stay developmental toys
For more non-moving baby toys that can boost those brainwaves in mid-flight, check out my “best baby toys” post. nothing distracts a baby more than a new toy!
flying with a baby rule #7: carry bribe bags
Your baby is not going to be perfect.
It’s a baby.
Which means that despite your snacks, hugs, toys, and smiles, it’s very possible that he will give everyone on the plane the middle finger and cry all the way anyway.
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Such is life.
That is why it is so important to venture into the politics of small planes. *hehehe*
What is the first thing people think when they see a small child on a plane?
that’s right: “uh oh”.
My husband has a favorite saying: “whoever gets there first, wins.” In other words, whoever is able to recognize the problem first has the opportunity to change the way people think about that problem.
then approach the “elephant in room plan” head on. Give people around you bribe bags full of candy, ear plugs and a cute apology note from your baby. (like this one on team eddy or this one on how does she.)
This will immediately put their fears to rest by letting them know that you know 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 are doing the best you can. most people will reward her kindness with extra grace votes.
fly with baby rule #8: divide & conquer when possible
If you only have one child, split the chores between the parents. have one parent handle logistics and lead the way through the airport, and the other be on “child duty.” if you’re traveling alone with several small children, see if a grandparent or friend could join you.
flying with baby rule #9: listen to other moms who have “been there and survived it”
We asked experienced flying moms to share their favorite tips. this is what they suggested:
I have flown with my two babies several times. I never really had too many problems. I’d say try to get someone to come with you. I’ve done it both ways, but it’s much appreciated to have someone to help you. especially since you have to hold them. ~robyn lennie
If it’s an airline that doesn’t assign seats like Southwest, ask if the flight is full. if not, you can bring the car seat on board. I was able to tape the seat to my side and store items in it to make it easier to grab like the paci, toys, and a blanket. this way I didn’t have to reach for them by the feet. ~courtney reilly
I’ve tried: flying at nap time and nursing/feeding while waiting to take off if it’s a baby. nurse or paci or bottle/cup with sip on descent (ear pressure tricks). pretoddlers/toddlers – read a book about air travel, watched bubble guppies “gup, gup & away” which teaches all about airplanes & flying, and had a travel kit with new toys (a set of magnets, a color wonder travel kit, and a stove with headphones). ~ megan kaiser piercer
I flew when he was 2 months old and purposely selected a flight time that was after his lunch and during his best nap time. ~ amanda ashour
rule #10 for flying with a baby: know the value of your mom
This is the last thing I want to leave you with today.
her value as a mother is not decided by strangers on a plane flight.
following these unwritten rules is more for your confidence and sense of peace during the trip than for anyone else.
Before you walk through the door and let the “fun” begin, remind yourself that you are a good mother.
what happens at 30,000 feet, stays at 30,000 feet.
if your baby goes crazy and people get upset, well. you’ve done the best you could, you’re hugging, rocking, singing, hushing, doing everything your baby needs from you. you are a good father.
Life is full of awkward moments. in the span of eternity, your little “disaster flight” is a tiny dot on the timeline.
Right or wrong, determine not to feel ashamed or guilty, but do your best and then learn what you can from the experience. even if that is “don’t fly until they’re 20”. 😉
Share what you’ve learned below so other parents afraid of flying can benefit from your experience!
Have you read them yet?
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