Preparing for Take-Off with an Infant
Anyone who is planning on flying with an infant has concerns about what will happen on the flight:
"What if the baby cries the entire time?"
"What about diaper blowouts?"
"How do I nurse my baby when I'm sitting next to strangers?"
The worries are limitless. Luckily, flying with an infant doesn't need to be so stressful.
The following information will help you be prepared, know what to expect, and help you avoid unnecessary stress.
Before the Flight:
When you are flying with an infant, knowing what to carry on the plane with you is important. The items you bring will depend somewhat on the age of the infant (newborn, 3 months, 11 months, etc.)
Decide before booking your flight if you want your baby to be in a carseat. Some parents prefer this, because they feel it is safer. If you want to bring a carseat, you have two options:
1. Book an extra seat for the infant (children under 2 are automatically considered "lap children" and aren't given seats unles requested.)
2. If you booked your infant as a lap child, get a gate check tag before boarding, and bring the car seat on board anyway. Notify the flight attendent directly about your situation. Explain that you would like to be seated in a row that may have an empty seat. They will try to accomodate you. If the plane fills up, they will simply take your carseat and gate check it, and you will hold your infant.
What You'll Need On-Board:
When packing your diaper bag, make sure you bring lots of diapers and wipes. Let me repeat that: LOTS of diapers and wipes. You do not want to run out of diapers or wipes when your sweet little one decides to have a blowout.
On that note, you'll also want to pack some plastic bags to put any soiled diapers in before disposing of them. This prevents unpleasant smells from emminating through the airplane.
Infants are messy. Plan on bringing an extra outfit or two. Light-weight cotton footed pajamas are best.
If your infant likes a pacifier, bring several. Pacifiers are easily lost or dropped, and you will want a back-up.
If you are a nursing mother, be ready to use a nursing cover or blanket for privacy to feed your hungry baby. It will save you from self-consciousness and your neighbors from getting too uncomfortable. If you are not comortable nursing your infant around strangers, use the lavatory as a feeding room when it is not being used.
Babies who are little older may have snacks. Choose non-messy snacks, like cheerios, or diced freeze-dried fruit. If your infant is not quite ready for those things, make sure the baby food you bring is in a sealed container. Pack feeding utensils in plastic zip-lock bags, so that after they've been used, they can go right back in the bag without making a mess. Bring bibs. There are plastic ones available, for easy clean-up.
If your child is old enough to enjoy toys, make sure the ones you bring are not noisy. No rattles, no beeps, no nothing. Some good options include:
a textured multi-colored stuffed animal
a pretend phone (silent of course)
What to Expect:
Infants are fussy. There's no way around it. If you make it through the entire flight without a peep from your little one, consider yourself lucky.
Crying is most likely to occur during boarding, take off, and landing. Babies can sense the stress-levels in those around them, and it makes them anxious too. Once the plane is in the air, the hum of the engine should help to calm them.
Before the flight, think of a few games you can use to distract your infant if they get fussy: play peek-a-boo, "this little piggy," hide an object in one hand, and have them guess which hand it's hiding in. (This one occupied my 10 month old for 30 solid minutes.)
When your infant is fussy, (just plan on it unless it's a newborn) walk the asiles with him or her, let them look out the window, take them down to the galley where you can stand and soothe them.
If your baby simply won't be calmed, take them into the lavatory, where their crying will not be as disruptive to the people around you, and where you can be more calm, and in turn, better soothe your baby.
Ear Pressure Myth:
Nearly everyone believes that the pressure build-up from take-off and landing can be painful or harmful to an infants ears. Parents wake their sleeping baby to frantically shove a pacifier or sippy cup into their now cranky baby's mouth, or to try to nurse their baby believing the sucking motion will prevent their little one's ears from bursting.
Calm down. Your baby's ears will not explode. The primary reason babies cry during take off and landing is due to the tension they sense from the people around them. It can be a stressful time for some babies.
If you are still concerned, just know that crying is the best way for infants to relieve any ear pressure they may experience.
It's also important to note that they'll experience the most ear pressure during initial descent, which occurs about 45 minutes before the plane actually lands.
Flying with an infant does not have to be overwhelming. Plan ahead, be prepared, and you will enjoy a smoother flight.
*Be sure to check the TSA guidelines for traveling with children.