I will never forget the first flight I took with a baby- I was a new, first-time mom flying with a 10-week old. I was also alone, terrified, and sweating. Profusely.
He slept the whole flight.
I quickly realized that flying with young babies is easier than you would anticipate, people are generally nicer than you expect, and if all else fails, the airlines offer beer and wine for sale. That baby is now three and I’ve since welcomed another baby into our flying-family and I’ve learned a good tip or two for flying with your children.
We’ve covered how to fly with your toddler here on DMMB, so now let’s cover our littlest loves, by month:
Age 0-5 Months
This is the hands down easiest time to fly. The white noise of the plane calms the baby and it’s easy for them to fall asleep as long as they have a full stomach.
- I recommend you have a “hooter-hider” or light blanket (unless you are comfortable otherwise). I liked to wear this when nursing for privacy, but also because it shielded them from light and activity when they (inevitably) fall asleep after eating.
- If you are formula feeding be VERY prepared with extra formula, as well as plenty of bottled or filtered water. If your baby is picky and only takes warm water, ask the flight attendant to fill your bottle with a small amount of hot water and then add water you have on hand. As with any hot water, be careful of the heat.
- Have a pacifier handy, even if your little one doesn’t take one.
- Try to have your baby sucking on the way up and the way down. Equally important is to not stress if it doesn’t happen. My first son refused the pacifier and fell asleep before take off and on landing with no pacifier or sucking – he was just fine. If you notice your child start to cry on the way down, don’t panic. It’s common for kids to cry if their ears hurt and the crying helps release the pressure.
* NOTE: airlines typically will not allow you to fly while wearing a baby. I learned this the hard way on my first flight, when I successfully got my son to sleep in the Moby Wrap before taking off. They made me wake him up and take him out of the wrap.
Age 6-9 Months
For me, it was around this age that it started to get tricky.
- During this age, we did a lot of interactive singing games. You know, “Wheels on the Bus,” “Pat-a-Cake,” “This Little Piggy,” etc.
- They are really into things they can grip and touch. Bring any good “gripper” toys you have and I also suggest buying a few new toys (hit up that Dollar Store), because the novelty of the toy helps keep their attention.
- Keep a bottle (or breast) ready and available (with backup formula to boot).
- I walked the plane a lot or would hold him in the back of the plane, shushing and swaying (we all have our own little beat) until he fell asleep and I then headed back to my seat.
- While likely not quite into electronics by this age, one app that did save us was called Kidzongs, which plays tunes like ‘3 Little Monkeys’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
Ages 12-16 Months
I don’t want to scare you, but for me, this is by far the hardest age to fly with a baby. Unless a long flight or easy sleeper, they stop sleeping on the plane around this age. They are BUSY, want to crawl or walk, and understand more, but can’t communicate their needs yet, nor are they at the age where you can give them a movie and call it a day. And, oh, the tantrums.
- Keep baby out of the seat (e.g. your lap) as much as possible before take-off. I like to be the last on the plane with a baby in this age group.
- The key for flying during this age is to have a variety of attention-suckers. We pack books, toys that are transportable (but don’t have a ton of little parts), and an iPad with fun toddler-friendly apps.
- Apps. Let’s talk about those; again your baby-almost-toddler may not be into those quite yet; however, two I’d recommend are Phone for Kids and Bubbles.
- Have TONS of snacks. We pack Little Tots pouches, goldfish and/or any snack that takes the most time to eat. If your babe is big on milk, then pack extra, as they don’t sell whole milk on the plane.
And there you have it. You’re baby is now entering the toddler age. This is when iPads are like gold and DVD players with favorite movies save your life, I mean flight. Be sure to grab a fun pair of headphones too and have them practice wearing them at home.
Other little tips:
We love flying airlines that have good cancellation policies and allow you to pick your seat upon arrival. People are always nice, but they’ll pass up a lady with a baby every time until they absolutely have to sit down. This often results in an empty seat next to you, which is nice for a busy baby. During the younger months, I would try to book flights during nap time – up until around 5 months. As they get older, I try to book during times where there are likely to be less people flying and the flights are typically not full.
Good luck and happy flying!