Tips for flying with a baby every parent should know
By Cradlewise Staff
Tips for flying with a baby every parent should know
By Cradlewise Staff
Taking a baby on a plane is something most parents (and some passengers) dread. Babies and flying are both unpredictable and don’t always mesh well.
But, with some clever planning and packing, you can make the experience enjoyable for you, your little one and your fellow passengers.
In this article, we’re covering tips on how to travel with a baby so your flight is as smooth and safe as possible.
1. How old does a baby have to be to fly?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends consulting your pediatrician before flying with your child.
Air travel can increase the risk of catching an infectious disease, so it’s best not to fly with your newborn if you can avoid it.
The same goes for premature babies – especially those born with heart or lung problems. Not only are they at a higher risk of catching something, but the changes in cabin pressure could exacerbate their illness.
2. What documents should you carry for baby when you fly?
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, most domestic airlines do not require minors below the age of 18 to show ID and will accept the ID of the adults they are traveling with.
However, it’s good practice to call ahead and check to avoid any mishaps at the airport.
For international air travel, you’ll need to carry your baby’s passport and their birth certificate (some airlines prefer to verify age through the birth certificate).
3. How should you deal with changes in cabin pressure when flying with an infant?
Ear discomfort caused by changes in cabin pressure is a given. However, drinking from a bottle, breastfeeding or suckling a pacifier can help relieve the pain.
If your little one has recently had an ear infection or ear surgery, first check with your pediatrician to make sure it’s okay for them to fly.
If the answer is yes, ibuprofen could help relieve any pain, but make sure you get the approval and dosage from your doctor before administering anything.
4. How can you stay safe and healthy while changing baby’s diaper in public spaces?
Most, but not all, airline restrooms are equipped with baby changing tables. However, space is tight! So, it’s probably a good idea to change baby just before boarding.
With some luck, your little one won’t need another change until after you land.
If it’s a long-haul flight and the plane doesn’t have a changing table, you could check with staff to see if there is a fairly open space where changing a diaper will be easier.
If the restroom is your only option and it doesn’t have a changing table, many parents opt for changing baby directly on the toilet seat, but remember to always keep a hold on baby to make sure they don’t fall.
To keep it sanitary and safe, pack a changing mat and sanitizer.
Another useful tip is to carry extras – extra diapers, wipes and extra clothing (including a top for yourself) – in case of turbulence during a change.
Make sure to also dress your little one in clothing that facilitates an easy diaper change.
5. How do you keep your baby entertained on the flight?
Today, there are loads of ways to keep your baby entertained or soothed during a long-haul flight. Consider carrying storybooks (with illustrations), crayons and paper, teething toys and sensory toys such as:
- Shape sorters
If all else fails and baby gets restless, consider singing a lullaby or walking around the cabin with your little one. If your baby is closer to the one year mark and can eat snacks, make sure to carry plenty of those as well.
6. How should you pack to feed baby?
When traveling with a baby, you’re allowed to carry sufficient formula and breastmilk so long as you inform the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Both breastmilk and formula are exempt from the 3-1-1 rule which limits liquids to 3.4 oz.
According to the AAP, you also have the option to ask that these items not be x-rayed (even though the x-ray does not pose a health risk). You can find detailed information on the TSA website.
If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to carry a cover depending on your comfort level. For formula, if you need help heating it up, you could always ask the flight attendants to help you.
Also remember to carry a bib, sterilized bottles, a breast pump, cleaning cloths and plastic bags for an easy-to-clean feeding.
7. How to make sure baby will sleep comfortably while traveling?
Thankfully, there are a number of ways to ensure your little one gets the shuteye they need while flying. For one, most airlines keep airplane bassinets for infants.
You can call ahead and request one, but keep in mind that during turbulence, you will be required to remove baby from the bassinet as a safety precaution.
Second, even if your flight is past your baby’s bedtime, opting for a night flight is a big help. Your baby will probably have enough energy to get through security, boarding and take-off before getting some quality shuteye with the rest of the passengers.
With the dim lighting and buzz of the engine, baby should fall asleep easily.
To make baby comfortable, stick to your usual routine, even if you have to skip a couple of steps (like a bath). Your baby will respond to the cues and start to settle down for bedtime.
If your routine includes, pjs, a feed and story, there’s no reason not to do these things in-flight.
8. What medication should you carry in case of an emergency?
It depends on the specific needs of your little. It’s best to visit the pediatrician before your trip for a check-up and recommendations on what’s safe to pack and administer.
Bear in mind that Benadryl is not a sleep aid for babies and can sometimes have the opposite effect and keep them awake.
9. Should you buy a seat for your baby on flights?
It may not be an airline requirement, but buying a ticket for your little one is probably best. Your lap isn’t a safe place for your baby on a flight, especially if there’s turbulence. You’ll be able to protect them better if they have their own seat.
The AAP recommends using a child safety restraint – an FAA-approved car seat or airplane harness. These should be specific to your baby’s size and weight and installed using the airplane seatbelt. You cannot use a booster seat on a plane.
Another important note is that not all car seats are certified for use on an aircraft. Check the label to make sure your car seat is aircraft friendly beforehand.
- Baby travel essentials. Flying With A Baby. Baby Travel Essentials & Baby Travel Packing List.
- How to entertain your baby in-flight. Flying With A Baby. How to Entertain a One Year Old on a Plane.
- AAP guide to flying with your baby. American Academy of Pediatrics. Flying With Baby: Parent FAQs.
- Your baby’s health while flying. 2017. The Snazzy Mom Blog by Arushi Garg. A Pediatrician’s advice on caring for your child’s health while travelling to a new country.
- Flying with a baby. 2021. What to expect. Flying With a Baby? Here’s What to Know Before You Go.
- Flying with an infant. 2019. Healthline. Flying with an Infant? Here’s What You Need to Know.