How to Successfully Fly with a Baby

How to Successfully Fly with a Baby and tips for flying with a baby

Successfully flying with baby

A great fear of mine is the unknown. If I have something big coming up, I like to do a lot of practice and preparation. When it comes to air-travel, you can try to prepare the best you can, but there isn’t “practice” you can do ahead of time. You learn on the fly (pun intended). The only thing you can do is talk to others who have been there and do your best to implement their wisdom without having lived through it. Here are some tips for flying with a baby:

Tips For Flying with a Baby

  • Bring something to suck on for take off and landing–and preferably something that requires swallowing. If you breastfeed, you can nurse during those times or if you bottle feed, give some formula to drink during those times. You can also bring a sippy cup and request water (or bring it if they will allow). A pacifier isn’t as good as actually sucking and swallowing. If your child is older, you can have hard candy to suck on in addition to water.
  • If you nurse, I would bring something to easily cover yourself with. I would even bring a nursing pillow (Boppy) or something to rest your arm on. Our flight home was delayed and we were flying late into the night, landed at midnight. Brayden “nursed” basically the whole flight so that he would stay asleep. Remember that you want to be courteous to your fellow travelers before you worry about your schedule. We had no detrimental effects to our routine after that flight.
  • Bring toys and books to entertain her. I remember one time when I was a little girl we flew a long distance. My mom bought new toys that she pulled out strategically throughout the flight. If you can’t or don’t want to buy new toys or books, you can just set some aside for a couple of weeks so they will be more new on the flight.
  • If your child likes to watch movies, you could bring a portable DVD player or a laptop and let her watch movies the whole way (or as long as she will).
  • If you purchase a seat for your baby, bring the car seat along so she can sleep in it.
  • If you don’t purchase a seat for your baby, you can bring the car seat right up to the gate on the plane with most airlines. They will then put it somewhere on the plane and have it waiting for you as you get off. Many also will do the same with a stroller.
  • Also, if you don’t purchase a seat for your baby, most airlines will allow you to bring your car seat on the plane if they have empty seats. You just need to ask the desk if they have empty seats and they will help you figure things out.

Again, please add your thoughts if you have any good strategies for flying with baby.

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18 thoughts on “How to Successfully Fly with a Baby”

  1. I flew from California to Missouri when my son was 2 months old. It was a day flight and he did fabulous. Everything except the pooping up the back, which happen 3 times! By two months old he had only done the pooping up the back thing maybe two times ever. So obviously I wasn’t prepared with that many back up outfits. I had one extra (thank goodness) and the dirty one I just threw away. He was in nothing but a diaper and blanket by the end of the flight. ha ha ha. So word to the wise, Bring extra cloths for accidents.

  2. I have done a good bit of flying with Caden. When he was 3 months old I flew (alone) with him in my lap to visit his grandparents. When he was 4 months old I flew with my husband (and our dog) to Korea (about 30 hours total travel time with bus rides/taxi rides/etc included). I strongly recommend a boppy type pillow (I brought the Ozark Mountain Kids nursing pillow which is like a boppy, but a little bigger and softer/fluffier). If nursing, I also recommend a nursing smock and a small handpump (IF you are traveling ALL day, otherwise you should be fine without it). Here are some more details about my travel experiences:The airline I flew (Delta or United I think…can’t remember) for the trip I made alone at 3 months, allowed me to “Gate Check” my stroller AND car seat (the kind that snaps in to the stroller for newborns) so that I could use them to get around the airport. Because he flew in my lap, I couldn’t’ take the car seat on the plane (no extra room) so they had me check it at the gate when boarding the plane and it was waiting for me when I got back out. On the long journey to Korea (with multiple layovers) we had purchased a seat for Caden and brought our car seat on the plane.If you are breastfeeding, I would recommend you bring at least one bottle of pumped breastmilk. That way if your baby is fussing about nursing or you are stressed and aren’t “letting down” then you have an option B (the bottle). For some little ones sucking is essential for landing and takeoff so you don’t want to be in a bind with nothing for the little one to suck. For me, I nursed exclusively at 4 months, but I even had a packet of formula for DRASTIC measures if needed. I ended up breastfeeding for part of the trip and pumping and giving a bottle on the other parts… BUT my situation was a little extreme as most of you won’t be moving half way around the world with a baby! 🙂 Also, if you are worried about carrying formula/breastmilk through security it is not an issue for travelers with babies. However, you might have to buy bottled water to use to MIX powdered formula on the other side of security (or ask the flight attendant for water). If you are nursing, make sure to have a nursing smock or something to cover yourself with. On the smaller trip when I flew alone, I personally used pumped bottles because I flew alone and had total strangers on both sides of me… I felt a little uncomfortable nursing in that environment. But at each layover I would pump or nurse in a discreet corner with my nursing smock. I bought a small, medela hand pump so that if needed I would have it (and I DID end up using it on the trip to Korea). I also purchased a nursing smock to travel. We had a seat for Caden on the flight to Korea, but we mainly let him sleep in our arms (at that age he still would) and tried very hard to keep him on a 3 hour(ish) schedule for the flight. The hardest part was when he normally would have been sleeping through the night, he was on a noisy plane with lights and dings and people coughing, etc. He kept waking up. What we basically did for that was when he woke up from sleeping we would feed him and start another 2-3 hour “cycle” and he “cycled” right through what would have been the night in Alabama… it took a few weeks but he did get back on his routine. Valerie, sorry for all the rambling!!! I couldn’t find any helpful info on flying with a newborn when I was traveling so I wanted to be thorough! 

  3. Valerie-What advice do you have on travelling with baby via car? We’re planning a 9 hour car drive when our soon will be 11 weeks old. Should we stop every 3 hours to stay on his schedule or let him sleep and wake up on his own? Thanks!!

  4. Hi Valerie,Don’t worry, our trip isn’t till mid- April so you can take your time on writing about it! Of course, while away, I would certainly keep my son on schedule as much as possible but I wondered about the trip to and from. Thanks so much for all your help!!

  5. This airplane travel blog is right on! I have a few things to add though – My son is 22 months old now, and each time we fly (6+ months apart) it seems like he is in a different developmental stage than before, so each experience has been different! 1. Moms be aware that your pre-toddler or toddler will probably not sleep through most of the flight like he/she did when only a few months old and-or nursing. The older they get, the more aware they are of surroundings and more likely to be kept awake by noises, lights, etc. Also, I feel like his ears were more susceptible to pain from the pressure than ever before. When he was nursing on the plane 9 mos it was no big deal. Now he cries and pulls on his ears. We need to keep offering him a bottle or sippy (which he pushes away because he is in pain and doesnt understand it will help). A friend of mine also recommends lollipops.2. I used to think that traveling at night was perfect, but when we went to Florida last month, the short (2.5 hour) flight seemed incredibly long because my son could not fall asleep during the flight and it was past his 8 PM bedtime. We purchased his own seat and used a CARES harness (more about that at the bottom) but he couldnt get comfortable and was kept awake by the lights and noise. On the flight home we took my parent’s car seat instead and this made him more comfortable and he was able to sleep at least 45 min which helped a lot. At this point I would recommend starting to fly with toddlers in the AM while they are fresh, relaxed and calm. 3. I also think the CARES restraint is better for an older/larger toddler (2.5+ yrs) and we were a little too early on that idea. CARES is a newly approved (by the FAA) harness that attaches to the airline seat belt to form a 5-point harness. Just like a car seat only they are sitting in the airplane seat. See it at We bought this because the last time we flew and brought our Britax Marathon on the plane, the car seat was so large that his feet touched the seat-back in front of him and he couldnt help but push on it (which annoyed those passengers in the row ahead). We were so embarrassed that we vowed not to bring that car seat on the plane again. So this time we bought the CARES, but he is still kind of small for it, and the shoulder straps rubbed his neck and he was just too uncomfortable without the support of the car seat. When we flew home we took my parents Alpha Omega, which has a different angle in constrcution than the Britax, and it didnt cause his feet to touch the seat in front of him (thank GOD!) so that was a blessing.4. For fun, cheap toys to bring on the plane as a “treat” – check out the DOLLAR STORE. I found great Christian books and small inexpensive toys that were new and different for my little guy. And easy on the wallet, so if they get tossed or lost in the airport, its not a disaster.Anyway, hope this helps someone else!

  6. Oops one more comment I forgot to add – perhaps we can have a post on “vacation detox”. In talking with my GFI mentors, this seems to be a normal thing: No matter how you try to stay on the schedule, keep bedtime consistent, and stick with normal disciplinary measures (along with the right balance of free vs. solo vs. structured play) you will always have deviation during vacations. The most fallout I have experienced was with the most recent trip (which I assume is because it gets more difficult as kids get older? Caden is now 22 mos). We did well with our routine and consistent discipline the first few days, but the last few days (especially the theme park or daytrip days) were difficult. The very last day of our trip in particluar, I thought my child had been replaced with someone else’s – and NOT a “growing kids god’s way” child. The screaming, lack of response to commands, and general departure from all things we taught him was discouraging. Sleep and naps were not a problem, however, until AFTER we returned from vacation. Then all of a sudden, for the first time since he was an infant, my son was whining at bedtime when we’d walk out of his room. Whining in the morning when daddy leaves for work. Whining at naptime when I put him down. This was not my child! According to my GFI mentors, this was part of “vacation detox”. Its taken 2+ weeks and a return to the healthy home routine (along with consistent couchtime) and daily discipline measures to get rid of the screaming/behavioral issues and back to normal sleep attitude. The behavior actually returned quickly, and the sleep attitude took a little longer.So for those of you getting ready to travel, do your best on the trip and be encouraged that if routines fall off the wagon, just get right back on when you return home – and dont be suprised if it manifests into weird sleep behaviors as well. It takes 1-2 weeks for your little one to get back to normal.

  7. hi Plowmanators, Im on vacation right now and had quite a time getting my 2.5 yr old sanguine to relax on the plane on the way down here to Florida to visit grandma and grandpa. We are flying home in 5 days and this time the plane takes off at bedtime (8 PM). Im VERY concerned about repeating the frustrating moments only worse because he will be very tired and not able to relax, and Im considering medicating him for the first time. do you have any experience with this or recommendations? Im at the end of my rope with his behavior on the plane. I run out of tricks to keep him entertained (which last each about 5 min) and he just wants to get out, and then starts whinng and hitting me. This isnt typical behavior for him, but 1 hour into the flight he is just fit to be tied (and that was in the afternoon on the way here, not to mention 8 PM on the way home). HELP! I want to medicate him but I hear mixed reviews on that idea.Thanks

  8. Kristin, I have never done that, but up to you to decide. I have heard some kids actually get more hyped up with medication that is supposed to make you drowsy–by 2.5 you probably know how it affects your child. You could always bring it and turn to it if needed.I don’t know if this is possible for you, but if you have or can get a portable DVD player, that might help him to last longer. I have a friend who flies often, and she always brings her laptop and puts a show in for her two young kids (2.5 and 1).

  9. I flew with my daughter 5 times before she was 5 months old – one trip at 7 weeks old, one at 12 weeks old, 16 weeks old, 4 months old, and then again right before she turned 5 months. I definitely felt like a seasoned traveller, as all of these flights were just the two of us, not with my husband! I was so nervous the first time because I was still getting used to nursing and wasn't comfortable doing it in public, so I would usually go into the family restrooms in the airports, and would nurse then pump so I would have a bottle to feed her on the plane! It was a little crazy looking back at it. Somehow I managed.I was able to bring her car seat on the plane for most of the flights like you mention, even though I didn't buy a seat, but there were some available. The struggle for me was trying to get through security. I would put Adelaide in the Baby Bjorn, then put her car seat and our bags on the security belt, but the stroller was too big to go through, so I would fold it in two then have a TSA member come and get it to manually scan it. Then have to get it all back together on the other end, and do it again at the gate! It got pretty tiring. We have the Eddie Bauer two piece carseat/stroller combo. I am going to be flying again this next week for the first time since she was 5 months old, and she is now 10 months old. I know that she won't sleep on the plane anymore so I'm not bothering with bringing the carseat, I will just check it with my bag. Then I will just have the stroller and our bags to carry which should be simpler I think. The stroller is a bit of a pain because it is so big, but I don't want to use an umbrella stroller because then I will have to carry the diaper bag as well, whereas with the big one I just throw it underneath in the little basket. That is the trouble with non-direct flights – lots of travel time! Other tips – passengers and flight attendants are very good at helping you out. A lot of airlines no longer pre-board families, but if you ask nicely, some of them will let you pre-board. Southwest would always let me board right after business class (A1-15) which was nice because with them you can pick your own seat and you pretty much have first pick. If you have a rear-facing car seat you have to put it in the window seat and you sit in the middle. Also, when Adelaide was so young (up to 5 months old) her ears never bothered her, so it will be interesting to see if they do now.Hope this helps someone! It can be a little daunting flying alone with a newborn, but just be confident that you can handle it and it will turn out fine! 🙂

  10. Now my son is 3.5 yrs old with baby sister 5 mos and we just flew to Florida again. Older child does very well on plane now because he's old enough to follow directions, doesnt need a car seat anymore, etc. We use Starburst as special "take off candy" since its so chewy and helps with ear pain. My daughter Kinsey did really well as an infant sleeping on a pillow in my lap (not a boppy, too bulky). I agree you must bring formula as a back-up even with a nursing child. You never know when they might get distracted or uncomfortable and you cant get them to latch, so have a bottle ready just in case! One more quick tip I just learned for flying with infants: is a portable infant seat! Its hard to hold an infant for several hours on a plane. In the past I would purchase an extra seat and place the infant car seat in there, but with 2 kids now that is too expensive so I needed to carry Kinsey in my lap. This special seat attaches to the tray table area of the seat in front of you, and is a good investment – helps your baby stay comfy and leaves your hands free on the plane!

  11. Would you recommend taking a car seat for a toddler who is about 19 months? The flight is at approx 1 pm, which is when his nap time usually is. I thought he would be more comfortable sleeping in the car seat. However, if he does not sleep, it would probly be easier to entertain him without the seat. Any thoughts? Flight is about 2-3 hours, but we will be traveling in the car about 2.5 hours to get to airport prior to flight? Also have to travel about 1 hour in car once we get to destination.Jen

  12. My kids all don't sleep in the carseat, so I wouldn't do it, but if he sleeps in the carseat, I would bring it. You could at least take it to the gate with you and gate-check it if you feel like it is a bad idea once you get there.


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