This is one of those posts that may not necessarily be interesting to a wide group of people. But if you’re traveling by airplane with an infant anytime soon, the following tips may give you a little peace of mind. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has a page of information for those traveling with a baby internationally.
PS—Don’t forget a copy of your baby’s birth certificate. You’ll need to show that, along with your driver's license, to a check-in agent so they can print your boarding passes.
Allow Yourself Plenty of Time to Pack the Diaper Bag
Think through every possible scenario so you can be prepared when the inevitable happens.
Suggested contents for a well-packed diaper bag include:
- At least 5 diapers
- A travel container of wipes
- Disposable changing pads
- A “wet bag” for soiled cloths and clothing
- Sealable trash bag for dirty diapers
- An extra outfit
- Burp cloths
- A bottle if not breast feeding
- A bag of formula (enough to make 3 bottles) if not breast feeding
Pretend you’re going to be traveling for much longer than you really are. Then, if for some reason you get rerouted or have a delay, you’ll be more prepared.
Prepare for the Cold Shoulder From Some Passengers
Many people feel that since they spent a lot of money on their flight, they should be able to enjoy it in peace. They feel parents should not fly with babies until their children are older and more controllable. Although I can understand their attitude, they should realize that the parent of a screaming child is about 100 times less thrilled about the situation than other passengers. It might not be a leisure flight—they could be flying out of necessity to visit a sick relative or for a cross-country move. The nature of children is that they are unpredictable. On one flight, they might be fine and on the next, they might be "that screaming baby". Just keep in mind that no parent wants their kids to make someone’s flight unpleasant.
Buckle Up Your Baby
New moms need to know that both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly urge parents to use car seats on the plane. It may be somewhat inconvenient, but it is much safer. This is especially true in cases of extreme turbulence, which are more common than people think.
However, mandatory use of a car seat in flight is not yet the law. The AAP is pushing for changes to this policy, as it seems inconsistent that airlines make you stow your laptop but allow babies to fly unrestrained. There are also times when federal regulations require that you cannot “wear” your baby in a personal carrier—including ascent, descent, and whenever the seat belt light is on. During these times, your baby needs to be properly restrained in their own seat. Remember that if you’d get thrown forward for whatever reason while holding an infant, your baby would unfortunately become your airbag.
Practical Tips—Or Helping the Odds To Be “Ever In Your Favor”
About 15 minutes prior to boarding, it might be a good idea to change your baby’s diaper. Then, board during the "family boarding" time and once seated, try to get everything you’re going to need out of the diaper bag. This should include burp cloths, a blanket, a spare bib, pacifiers, a full bottle, and toys.
Just prior to takeoff, consider feeding your baby. If they have a bottle, feeding on the ascent makes a lot of sense in order to help your baby’s ears pop. A pacifier may also help with ear popping. After your baby is finished eating, burp your baby and do a temperament check. Usually, a baby will fall asleep within about 20 minutes of finishing a bottle either way. The white noise of the plane, along with a full belly, often makes for a happy, sleepy baby. Otherwise, playing with a toy for a few minutes might do the trick.
For dirty diapers mid-flight, you should use the changing table in the restroom in the rear of the plane. It’s usually a fold-down changing table that should be small enough to comfortably handle babies 6 months of age or younger. Dispose of the soiled diaper in the waste receptacle, not the toilet—and never, ever change your child on a seat or a tray table. Also, please don't hand a flight crew member a dirty diaper. Since they handle food/drink for most of the flight, handling your baby’s dirty diaper is not sanitary or part of their duties.
Finally, during the landing phase, try to get your baby to take the pacifier again to help with ear popping. However, if your baby’s still out cold, let him/her sleep.
Overall, there are some challenges to traveling with an infant. But given the proper level of preparation, it doesn’t need to be a huge deal, and most people are willing to provide help if you need it.