Last updated September 9th, 2020
I still remember the first time we flew with our little one on a plane. My daughter was almost 6 months old, and we had to fly a few states over for a family event. I had a million thoughts running through my head on how to travel with this little kiddo on a plane.
At the minimum, most pediatricians will recommend you wait until your infant is at least 4-6 weeks old before flying with them. There are multiple safety reasons why you’d want to wait this long if not longer, to take your infant on a plane. Among the reasons are your baby’s immune system, developing ears, and air quality while flying.
I’ll go over these details and lots of tips & tricks to make your little one’s flight most comfortable if you do have to travel. Let’s cover first some reasons why you wouldn’t want to take your infant on a plane.
Table of Contents
Why you shouldn’t take your infant on a plane
I mentioned that my first flight with our little one was at 6 months, if your baby is under a month old, you might really want to consider the health concerns below before booking the flight.
Your baby has a developing immune system. At this age, traveling with your infant might risk them catching a disease much quicker than if you waited a few more months. Recommended tips are to frequently wash your hands and steer clear from travelers who look sick, but being inside the closed environment of a plane for a long time can increase the risk of your little one getting sick.
Your baby has developing ears. As I took my daughter on her first flight at 6 months, this was my biggest concern. As she can’t communicate exactly what’s going on, her developing ear will be affected by the cabin pressure during the flight, and especially during takeoff and landing. The best tip I got from my pediatrician was to make sure she had her paccie with us, and maybe even time her feedings around takeoff and/or landing. If your little one has any complications with their ear before flying, you’d definitely want to check with your pediatrician to see if it’s ok to fly.
Your baby might struggle with the cabin pressure air. This is especially a concern for babies that were born prematurely or with any other complications. During the flight, we’re breathing in less oxygen than outside, from a machine that is regulating air throughout the cabin. If your little one already has trouble with everyday breathing, flying can pose an additional risk.
Your baby’s safety. While flying, you can choose to have your infant on your lap and fly free until they’re 2, or you can pay for a seat and bring your car seat to sit them in during the flight. Either option works, and for our first flight with my little one, we chose to have her on our lap. I liked the lap method better, not only because it was free, but my little one felt more comfortable being hugged by one of her parents throughout the flight, and having a little freedom to bounce and move around.
Where should I sit on a plane with my baby?
If you decide to move forward with traveling with your infant, your first question might be where to sit with them. What’s the safest place for you and your baby during the flight?
Each airline has different rules and pricing, so the following tips are meant to give you overall advice on where to sit with your baby.
- Bassinette seats are ideal if your baby is really young, and you want to place them laying down in a bassinette during flight. These bassinette seats are usually on larger planes (no short flights) and you’ll see them against a wall partition throughout the plane, mostly where seating classes change. Most airlines have this option on a first-come-first-serve basis, so request it as soon as you can. Most bassinette seats also usually have a 25lb maximum weight capacity.
- Any seat, on your lap, that’s not an emergency designated seat. There’s no particularly safer seat on the plane than others, and you’re not allowed to sit on the emergency aisle if you have an infant and can’t assist others in an emergency.
How do I protect my baby’s ears when flying?
I mentioned earlier that your baby’s immune system, ears, and air quality can be compromised during flights. This is especially true if your baby is 1-2 months old.
As your baby gets a bit more developed, the main concern for parents is their ears.
Can flying damage your baby’s ears? From my research, I found no direct cause from flying and damage to the baby’s ears. The pain your baby would have would be more so if your little one already has an ear-related problem like an ear infection.
I’ll share some tips below on how to make them most comfortable during the tip when it comes to their ears.
Traveling with an infant on plane tips
- As an infant, your little one needs either breastmilk or formula milk. The tip here is to go with breastmilk if you can for convenience. With formula milk, you’ll have to bring supplies that take up space, as well as having to use the unwarmed water you brought.
- One amazing simple tip I read a while back when I did my traveling research was to not only bring my baby’s favorite toys but also grab 1 or 2 new simple toys to keep them entertained. For our little one, we got a new book, and an affordable musical toy from Target that kept her very busy and entertained for a long time.
- You’re gonna have to go to the bathroom to change your little one, unless you have an empty flight and can sneak in a quick change at your seat.
- If you have to take your infant to the bathroom to get changed and have your partner with you on the flight, go and wipe down the bathroom with some sterilized wipes before bringing your baby for a diaper change. Have your significant other standing outside to assist when needed, to make it a quick in-and-out diaper change.
Car seat transportation
- You definitely want to bring a car seat for transportation before and after the flight. The tip here is to buy a car seat cover to protect it from getting dirty, though it might not do a whole lot for drops and damage. We did this and I would 100% recommend you do it, as car seats can be expensive and you want to make them clean and last as long as possible.
- If you have connecting flights, consider giving your car seat to baggage when you check-in, to get it at the end destination. This way you won’t have to wait at the plane to pick up the car seat and take it to your next plane. This takes up a lot of time and caused us to miss one of our flights.
- If you need advice on a good long-lasting car seat, we have a detailed review page for car seats from infant all the way up to big kids.
Timing your flight
- You always want to work around your baby’s schedule, so that your little one can ideally be napping or sleeping throughout most of the trip.
- If you’re on a longer trip, try to get a night flight, so that your little one can sleep longer. If you have a young infant, this might not matter as much as they’re up every few hours.
Sitting in the plane
- If your flight is over an hour or two long, your little one is bound to get antsy. After the plane was in the air and it was okay to walk, I would hold my little one and walk up and down the aisle to keep her entertained and busy for a bit. You’d be surprised at how much time this takes away from the flight, as other passengers chip in and try to smile and talk to your little one.
- During the flight, you can also look around for a spare row of seats if your flight isn’t full. You’ll have more space for you and your little one to move around and play.
- One of the most common discomforts for infants is ear pain during flights. The quick fix to that is using a pacifier during the trip, allowing them to equalize pressure in the inner ear.
- Another trip is to plan feedings around takeoff and landing, which tends to be the most uncomfortable part of the flight, as cabin pressure changes rapidly.
- A final tip, one that I haven’t tried, is to squirt a little saline nose spray in your baby’s nose. Make sure to use a saline spray safe for infants.
- Another tip is to create a vacuum around your baby’s ears by pressing your hands against each ear and then quickly taking your hand away.
- As adults, we have this discomfort and tend to chew gum. If your little one is able to have some baby food, it can help take away the discomfort.
- Try to keep your little one awake during takeoff and landing. As mentioned in this article, during sleep your little one won’t swallow as often and it’ll be harder to keep the air pressure in the ears equalized.
Traveling with an infant on a plane checklist
- Wet wipes (plenty of them), diapers, rash cream
- Any medication for your little one in case they don’t feel well (ideally this is for off the plane use).
- Baby sheets and blanket. Using this over the plane blanket is ideal because the smell can be comforting.
- Spare clothes for accidents.
- Baby spoons and bibs if your baby is transitioning to solids. Consider bringing those squeeze pouches instead, eliminating any need for spoons. This is what we did, and was very convenient and clean.
- Toys to keep them entertained.
- Stroller or car seat for transportation before and after the flight.
- All your pumping equipment if you’re breastfeeding
I hope this fairly extensive post helped educate you on how to best travel with your infant on a plane.
If you have a baby that you know is not most comfortable around weird surroundings, you can copy some parents who brought “thank you baggies” with candy and treats for nearby passengers. It helped lighten the mood for any future tantrums haha!
Also, some flight attendants can be very helpful in giving you some advice or any supplies needed to keep your baby happy and comfortable during the trip.
I make it a habit to get to know each flight attendant that will help us throughout the flight so that they can check in with us often and help if needed with anything.