How to Fly with a Baby (and Not Sweat It)

I’ve already written a number of posts about how to make flying with a baby easier. I’ve shared what to do with your carseat and stroller, what to pack in your carry on when flying with a baby, and what to pack in general when traveling with a baby. I’ve done my best to infuse tips and tricks in each post, making note of things we thought through, decisions we made, and lessons we’ve learned. But I thought it’d be fun to round up some of the not-so-common tips for traveling with a baby and some pieces of advice I received from friends before flying with a baby that helped put me at ease.

For example, I’m a pretty anxious person, and I usually sweat all of the details. It wasn’t until I found a blog post that actually walked me through every step of getting through security and the exact order of what goes on the security belt when that I felt even remotely at ease. So in case you’re like me, I thought rounding up some helpful (and some random) ideas for making flying with a baby easier would be a good idea.

If you’re looking for a more thorough or organized or on topic post about flying with a baby, check out one of these bad boys:

  1. What to pack when traveling with a baby
  2. What to pack in your carry on when flying with a baby
  3. What to do with your carseat and stroller when flying with a baby
  4. How to easily get through security with a baby, carseat and stroller

7 Random suggestions for making your first flight with a baby less stressful

 

  1. Get a backpack style diaper bag, and a lightweight, easy to fold, frame style stroller. I’m aware that I probably sound like a broken record over here with this whole backpack style diaper bag thing. But you must. Two hands. Nothing hanging off your shoulder. Out of the way diaper bag. Seriously. It’s a must. Also, I love, love, love traveling with our super lightweight, easy to fold frame style stroller. We have the Chicco Keyfit Caddy Stroller Frame, and it’s been a godsend. It has far less fabric than our jogging stroller, it doesn’t require any additional pieces to attach the infant car seat, and did I mention it’s easy to fold? Like: standing at the end of the jet bridge holding a baby in one arm and can still fold it with one hand and a flip of the wrist kind of easy…

  2. Wear black legging when flying with a baby. Always. I actually recommend throwing an extra pair of leggings in your own carry on purse just in case… but I realize that not every new mama will take that advice or have the space to do so. In that case, wear black leggings! Don’t wear jeans. Accidents happen. Babies spit up and puke and yes sometimes they pee through their diaper, onesie, and outfit while sitting on your lap and guess what folks? A big wet spot right on your thigh looks a lot worse when you’re wearing jeans than when you’re in black leggings. Black leggings hide everything, and often dry faster than jeans. And yes… I learned this the hard way and on one day back in October half of the Philadelphia airport probably thought I peed my pants.
  3. Include at least 1 overnight diaper for each leg of your flight, and put on an overnight diaper right before you board your plane. Ideally you’ll have the time, space, and stamina to change your baby as needed on the plane, but in case you wind up trying to stretch your baby’s diaper until you land, having an overnight diaper that is meant to last 12 hours (overnight) will put your mind at ease and hopefully avoid leaks.
  4. Ask the flight attendant when you first board which bathroom (if any) have an infant changing table. Guess what? Not every commercial plane has an infant changing table. I was shocked to learn this, and wound up a bit panicked mid flight when I knew Gemma was in a wet diaper, and I knew she was uncomfortable. I contemplated changing her on the toilet. “It’s what they did in the old days!” – says the flight attendant… Knowing ahead of time if the table is in the front, back, or non-existent is simply for your peace of mind. Save yourself some time, and allow yourself to be well informed and well prepared for what you’ll do mid flight if nature calls!
  5. Think through what will go where on the flight, before you board. Close your eyes, imagine yourself getting on the plane, and know exactly what will go where when you get to your seat. Planning ahead, feeling confident, and being well prepared for your flight will make the boarding process easier. Remember, you’re likely going to have a diaper bag, a purse, and a baby in your arms when you walk onto the plane. Have the few items you plan to keep in the seat back pocket close to the top of your bags. Don’t have your baby’s must needed binky at the bottom of the diaper bag. Have everything you need from your purse in your sweater pocket, or handy so you can quickly toss your bag in the overhead compartment and not need to get up 5x before take off because “oh shoot! My phone is up there!” or “oh no hunny, can you ask the man in the aisle to get up so we can grab my granola bar?”. Only you will know which items are going to need to be handy for your flight. My suggestion is to just really think through this before you board! #overkill but it helps. I can’t tell you how many times my poor incredibly patient husband has listened to me say “okay, now when we get to our seats, you’re responsible for X,Y,Z, and I’ll do A,B,C and you’ll hold Gemma while I get these 3 items out and into the seat back pocket, and then I’ll make this many oz. of formula and then we’ll sit and be done.” Bless his heart (and tolerance for an anxious, Type A wife).
  6. Feed your baby during take off and landing. Yes, this is a very well known trick to easing discomfort caused by pressure changes. So what are some of the other details you should keep in mind? (I’ve always bottle fed, so this may be of no help to BF mamas.)
    • Make your first bottle ahead of time. Try mixing it right before you board, or immediately when you sit down before your bags are stowed underneath your seat and even before your seat mates join you. I’ve mixed bottles at the gate, when Gemma was happily sitting in her carseat/stroller. And I’ve mixed bottles as soon as we made it to our seat. I was able to plop Gemma into the empty seat next to me (thank you early boarding for people traveling with infants and babies) and mix a bottle before the plane was full. The one time things didn’t go well? When I was traveling solo with Gemma and the plane was moving and my seatbelt was fastened and Gemma was in my lap and I was trying to reach for things underneath my seat and I had to pour formula from a formula dispenser into a bottle without letting Gemma fall over or grab the bottle… yea. That time resulted in my poor seat mate getting a bit of formula all over his lap. Fortunately he also had children so he promised me that he didn’t mind. And fortunately he was wearing jeans and not some super fancy looking suit. But nonetheless I felt awful and swore to always bake a bottle ahead of time. Speaking of planning ahead…
    • Plan ahead. Duh. Is your take off perfectly timed to a normal feeding? Great, go ahead and make a full bottle. Is your take off scheduled for an hour after she usually eats and you’re worried she won’t be hungry? Try feeding a smaller than normal bottle at your last feeding, so she’ll be more likely to take a snack timed for take off. Is your take off scheduled before she usually eats and you’re worried about wasting formula, or messing up your schedule? Pack a few on-the-go powder packs. These usually come in 2 or 4oz packets, which make for a perfect snack.
    • Wait until you are literally zooming down the runway before you start feeding your baby. When people say “feed your baby during take off and landing” to help ease discomfort (and avoid a screaming baby), you need to think about the part of a plane right that usually causes your own ears to pop and struggle. It’s the first few minutes of a flight, until you start to ascend more slowly and eventually level out. Unless your baby is absolutely screaming and freaking out for food (which I’ve been there), try to avoid starting your feeding until you are 100% sure you’re taking off. Like… zooming down the runway sure. I started feeding Gemma once when we started pulling back from the gate, only to be delayed on the tarmac. Bottle, done. Had to make more. Lesson learned. On our last flight, I tried to time her feeding with take off, but she was starving so I gave her the bottle while we were still at the gate. However that time, I really really tried to make it last. Gave her an ounce or two then tried to distract her as long as humanly possible to make sure we had a sufficient amount of milk left for the first 10 minutes of the actual flight!
    • Relax. I can’t tell you how much time I spent trying to think through how the heck I was supposed to feed Gemma 4 times (up, down, up, down) on a 2 leg flight plus stick to her normal daily feeding schedule. The truth? It won’t work out perfectly. Your baby may have an extra 2, 4, 8 oz. on a travel day. Maybe you usually feed 5 times a day. Well, on a travel day, your app may look a little bit more like your baby ate 10 times. Do what works to keep your baby happy and comfortable. Even if that means throwing your schedule or perfect looking logging app to the wind for a day.
  7. Beware of loud noises and sudden announcements in flight. Maybe your baby is a deep sleeper. And yes, the noises of the plane do naturally provide you with one heck of a white noise machine. But just beware that every once in a while there may be a very loud noise. Think… some compartment’s metal door near the flight attendant’s station suddenly slamming shut. Or the man across the aisle from you opening and closing the overhead compartment. Or the pilot coming on the loud speaker welcoming those special fliers who flew with blah blah blah points (FYI, this seems to always happen a few minutes after the safety review). Now, why am I warning you of these noises? Because there’s nothing like a sleeping baby being suddenly jolted from a perfectly timed nap to really throw off your stress free flight… I’ve learned Gemma sleeps great on planes. But she also startles easily. So now when she falls asleep, I keep one hand lightly on the side of her head so I can cover her ear and try to stretch naps as long as possible!

What do you think? In case you haven’t noticed yet, I tend to err on the side of overthinking, over planning, over packing, over…everything if it means being well prepared and more at ease. I’d rather carry a heavy backpack but have the extra set of pajamas when my daughter has not one, but two blowouts on a plane. I’d rather have extra formula as opposed to not enough. And truthfully, I’d rather spend a night or two thinking through every detail of an upcoming trip, if it means I’m not nearly as anxious walking through security as I thought I’d be.

Tell me more, friends. What are some of your favorite tips for traveling and flying with a baby? If you have any sage advice to add to the mix, please share in the comments below!

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