Parents who fly with infants can avoid a lot of stress if they have strategies in place to make the trip safe for baby and pleasant for other passengers. Here are some tips to keep the skies friendly.
Fly with child-friendly airlines.
Child-friendly airlines generally are the ones with overall good reputations. Look for smaller companies such as JetBlue (my personal favorite) that are working to win over customers.
Buy a ticket for your baby.
Although a child under two years of age often flies for free, buy a ticket for baby and bring a child safety restraint. (That’s a car seat approved for aircraft.) You are not required to restrain children if they are under two, but airlines do recommend it. Flights are often full, and you can’t count on an empty seat next to you.
Plan your seat ahead of time.
Try to reserve seats as close to the front as you can. Farther back in the plane is less convenient, nosier and prone to vibrations. The FAA requires car seats for children to go in a window seat, so make sure to book the window seat and the middle seat.
Make your own airport playground.
Create a play facility by heading for an empty gate at the airport so your child has plenty of space to crawl around. Make sure the gate is near a bathroom for fast diaper changes.
Bring Your Stroller
A stroller makes a dandy baggage cart. Check it at the gate just before you board. Our favorite travel stroller for babies from newborns up to the age 18 months is the Doona Stroller because you don’t have to gate check the stroller!! The wheels fold up into the base and you directly put the whole stroller into the chair on the plane. The Doona Stroller meets FAA regulations.
Rely on a Baby Carrier.
Strapping baby to your body will save your aching arms on short flights and long. Using a carrier allows you time to eat and drink with free hands!! Tip: Babies are more likely to fall asleep in carriers when facing toward your chest.
Minimize boarding stress.
Have one adult hang back with baby during the boarding free-for-all. Let the other adult board as early as possible with the safety seat and take the bin directly over your seat. The adult with the infant boards when the coast is clear and calm.
Install the safety seat correctly.
The FAA recommends that children who weigh less than 20 pounds should have car seats less than 16 inches wide and installed to face the rear.
Keep your baby strapped in.
Use your own best judgement on this one. Studies show children sitting in their parents’ laps are more likely to suffer injury in case of accidents or severe turbulence. Airlines will not require you to restrain your child, and some infants get upset if they are forced into a car seat during takeoff and landing. Listening to a baby screaming unnecessarily for 30 minutes is disturbing not only for child and parents but other passengers as well.
Protect baby’s ears.
Changes in cabin pressure during descent and takeoff are no fun for babies. Bring something for your infant to suck on such as a bottle or a pacifier. Another tip is to insert small cotton balls in their ears to keep the canals open when the plane takes off and lands. Take care to insert them gently and don’t push.
Prepare to Distract Your Baby.
A distracted infant is a happy infant. Bring much-loved pop-up books so your child can entertain herself pulling at favorite popups. I especially like “Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell. Teething necklaces’ also give
babies something to pull on and chew. Avoid toys that make noise but embrace the ones that light up! Bringing baby cereal for infants who are at least six months old. Chewing will help with their ears and take up time.
Consider other passengers.
Be ready and willing to apologize for any discomfort your baby may cause other passengers. Indifferent parents are disliked more than their crying infants.
Diaper with care.
Diaper changes gross out some people. Avoid offending other passengers by making changes in the terminal if the flight is short or in the plane lavatory if the flight is longer. If you’ve planned ahead for three seats across in an aisle-window row, no one will see an emergency diaper change.