A Guide on Flying with a Baby by Age
My family lives on the other side of the ocean in France, which means I have to deal with
- Long as hell flights
- Jet lag
Now let’s try it out with a baby. Oh and a baby that obviously GROWS so their needs are always different from one trip to another. Yep… that’s intense. But the good news is that I’ve learned a great deal about flying with babies and if you are here, it’s probably because you are about to travel and need some help.
So here it is! A guide by age to survive a long flight with young babies!
Newborn (about 1 month old to 5 months old)
You’ve received the green light from your child’s pediatrician to travel, congratulations! Surprisingly (or not, for the ones who already know) this is not the most complicated age to travel with a baby! It’s actually quite manageable, as long as you are well equipped and flight-ready.
- Bassinet: Most airlines are equipped with a baby bassinet. Make sure to call the airline ahead of your flight (the earlier the better) to secure a seat where they can place a bassinet. This is life changing for both you and baby as you’ll both be able to sleep, one maybe more comfortably than the other.
- Feeding: At this age babies don’t need solid foods yet so you really just need breastmilk or formula. If you breastfeed well then no need to worry about anything besides making sure that you are dressed comfortably to breastfeed on board or while you wait at the airport. If your baby is formula-fed then make sure to travel with at least two baby bottles. Anything for the baby is usually allowed as a carry on so you can fill the bottles with the right quantity of water you need to feed your baby. If you like to use warm water in the formula for your baby you can put boiling water in the bottles and the temperature will be just right by the time you board. Make sure to grab enough formula for the whole duration of the trip, plus a little extra in case of delays. On board, most airlines will warm up your bottles or provide mineral water when needed. Just ensure that you ask a little ahead of time and not exactly when your baby is very hungry because the bottle might be too warm for immediate consumption.
- Earaches: Because babies’ ears can be sensitive to pressure as you take off, plan if possible to offer a bottle right when you take off and if not possible, a pacifier so that baby’s ears can pop.
- Flight timing: Because you’ll have to hold your baby during take off and this can take time, try to plan your trip to take place a little before bedtime so that you can use the bassinet, and your baby won’t be off schedule too much. Even though at this age they fall asleep pretty much everywhere so it’s usually easier to manage.
- Diapers and supplies: Take enough supplies so you don’t have to worry about anything: diapers (at least 5), wipes, and a change of outfit because accidents can happen and in particular if you are waiting for a plane to take off, or meet with turbulence en route and you can’t get up… and your baby’s diaper is saying otherwise 😳
From 6 months old to any time before they learn to walk
Still manageable because bébé doesn’t know how to walk. Trust me, because walking your baby down the aisle 57 times in one flight is WORK. But we will get to that in a minute. You might have already started baby on solid foods. Which means you need a little planning and food to bring with you on the flight.
- Flight timing is key. For instance, you might want to time your departure right before bedtime or naptime so you can offer lunch or dinner at the airport and they start bedtime/naptime in the plane, how amazing does that sound?
- Pack food: Make sure you pack all the food you’ll need for before, during and after the flight. At 6 months, babies don’t snack but later on they do so you want to plan for that. Get pouches, an avocado, bananas… anything easy to pull out and smash with a spoon if needed.
- Breastfeeding/formula and supplies: Check out the previous section for newborns (about 1 month old to 5 months old). Bébé might still primarily rely on breastmilk or formula so the recommendations on feeding and supplies in the previous section still apply.
- Entertainment and toys: You might want to carry a book or two, some toys and your baby’s favorite stuffed animal in case they need to play, to be entertained or comforted.
The toddler years (until about 3)
Alright, we’re getting into the hard stuff. Baby is walking now, probably has a strong opinion, an attraction to snacks and loves attention. This is the time when traveling can seem a little harrowing but nothing that preparation can’t fix.
- Timing: All the advice on flight timing still holds
- Snacks, snacks, snacks. New ones that your toddler has never seen before if possible. You can choose healthy options. You could try pulling out these crunchy pizza bites out of your magic hat to win 20 minutes of peace.
- Little toys: Nothing crazy, it could be a new book, stickers, a distress ball, anything to engage the little munchkin.
- Plan to walk down the alley. Don’t be surprised if passengers smile at you the first time but don’t look too thrilled when it’s been 27 times. Don’t take it personally. It’s really ok.
- Meltdowns: This brings me to my next point which is: if your baby starts a tantrum or feels overwhelmed during the flight. Keep calm, breathe deeply to center, toddlers pick up on your anxiety, then focus on your child. And don’t worry about any grumpy faces. You’re doing your best! Most folks understand.
- No guilt please! It’s hard to not care if you feel fellow passengers are judging you and your kid. Just remember not to give in to the guilt. You deserve this family getaway and so does your child. The best thing you can do is to stay settled, prepared and confident for your kid.
A little preparation is key, but then remember to relax – you might have a yelling baby on your hands in an airplane, but that’s ok too. Give yourself permission to take three deep breaths. Then return to the mayhem. There’s a reason airline crew remind us to put on our oxygen masks first, then on the kids. As parents, we can’t take care of our babies unless we look after ourselves.
Fear not — with a little planning and patience, we all make it through.