Mother Flying with a Baby

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Are you thinking of taking the leap and travelling by air with your little one? If so, you may have a number of questions and concerns about baby travel. For some babies, flying is no big deal, and it’s easy for them to sleep through the entire trip. For other babies, travel is more difficult. Either way, flying with your baby is a smoother process if you plan well, make strategic choices along the way, and try your best to remain calm. Check out our best tips for flying with your infant or baby, including what to bring, the best time to fly, and the which seats to book.

25 Tips for Flying With Your Baby

Although flying with your baby can be challenging, it can also be manageable (and even pleasant) if you prepare ahead of time and approach it with a positive attitude.

Many babies are able to adapt to changes in eating and sleeping schedules quite well, and with any luck, may even be quite content during the trip! Of course, it helps to plan ahead, so read on for 25 tips to make flying with your baby as stress-free as possible.

How Do You Make Flight Reservations and Other Preparations?

1. Choose an evening flight. Flying is much easier with a sleeping baby, so consider flying in the evening to increase the chance of your little one nodding off. If a daytime flight is your only option, you might consider delaying your baby’s usual nap until after takeoff.

2. Allow plenty of time between connecting flights. When you’re travelling with your baby, whether abroad or domestically, try to give yourself as much extra time as you can. A little wiggle room can be a life saver when walking from one terminal or concourse to the next to catch your connecting flight!

3. Select seats in advance. For airline travel with your infant, it helps to choose your seats early so you have the most options. The bulkhead area (the seats behind the wall that typically separates the cabins) has the most room. For safety reasons you won’t be able to choose an exit row, but if available, pick a seat close to the window, as an aisle seat won’t be as safe for your baby, especially during meal service.

4. If you can, purchase a seat for your baby. Transport Canada (TC) doesn’t require you to purchase a seat for your child if he’s younger than 2 years old and you plan to keep him on your lap. This may be easier on your wallet, but purchasing a separate seat is recommended, as having your baby with you on your lap while flying in turbulence can be dangerous. Many babies may even be more content and relaxed if they’re in their own seats. (If you do purchase a seat for your child, add your own TC-approved infant car seat to your list of what to take when travelling with your baby.)

5. Have your baby’s passport ready for international travel. If travelling abroad with your baby, he’ll need a valid passport. You’ll need to apply for your baby’s passport online or in person, so check with the Service Canada website to find out what types of documentation you’ll need, such as a birth certificate. You'll also need a photo of your baby (alone and with a white background) from the past six months. You can take the photo on your own by laying your baby on a white blanket or sitting her in a car seat covered by a white sheet, or you can hire a professional photographer who specializes in passport photos.

6. Get any prescriptions filled beforehand. If your baby needs certain medications, it’s a good idea to get them filled in advance just in case they’re not available at your destination. Medications and a first-aid kit are essentials for flying with your baby.

How Do You Travel on a Plane With Your Baby?

7. Bring your TC-approved infant car seat. If you’ve purchased an airplane seat for your baby, the TC requires that you use an approved child restraint system (CRS). Luckily, many infant car seats are approved for use in aircrafts, which means you may be able to use what you already have in your vehicle. Make sure the infant car seat you bring has a clearly visible statement of compliance label. This label should have the date the CRS was manufactured and confirmation that it meets the design standard. Here are some tips when using a CRS on an aircraft:

  • Read the manufacturer’s installation instructions to know exactly how to position the CRS on the airplane seat. Remember that your baby’s weight may require a specific positioning.

  • Tighten the airline seatbelt through the correct path on the CRS

  • Secure straps (tether straps can’t be used on an airline)

  • Opt to use an AmSafe CARES (an approved child harness device) if the airline allows. This device caters to children between 10 and 20 kilograms and under 100 centimeters tall. For more information on this, visit the TC’s page on flying with children.

8. Pack thoughtfully. Consider what you might need at all stages of flying with your baby: at the airport, during the flight, and once you land. You’ll need enough of everything, but try not to pack too much, as it can get heavy! Make sure you have all the diapering supplies you’ll need, including extra diapers. Take our diaper bag essentials quiz to test your knowledge! Other essentials for flying with an infant or baby can include baby wipes, a changing pad, a blanket, a favourite soft toy, baby food, pacifiers, a change of clothes, and plastic bags for dirty diapers or soiled clothing. You may decide to pack all of this in your own carry-on bag or take it in a separate diaper bag. Keep in mind that some airlines charge a fee to go over the carry-on limit.

9. Bring expressed breast milk (if needed) or formula. Although the CATSA’s rules generally don’t allow liquids over 100 milliliters in carry-ons, parents with babies are exempt from this. Simply pack your expressed breast milk, liquid formula, or powdered formula with the water separate for mixing later. Notify the CATSA agents at the security check that you have these items. They will most likely ask you to remove them from your bag for screening separately. Learn more about the best way to store breast milk for travel.

10. Pack books or toys for older babies and young children. A few favourite toys or books can help keep your child occupied during the flight and during waiting periods at the airport.

11. Pack earplugs for your baby. An aircraft cabin can get quite noisy, especially during takeoff. Small earplugs, cotton balls, or noise-cancelling headphones can protect your baby’s ears from the loud noise. It might also help your little one sleep more comfortably, too!

12. Dress your child in layers. When flying with your baby, remember that an airplane cabin’s temperature can vary greatly, so it’s a good idea to dress your child in layers. Go for layers that are easy to put on and remove, such as elastic-waist pants, zippered sweaters, and snap-crotch jumpsuits.

13. Check in online. Checking in is so much easier these days with self-check-in kiosks at the airport, as well as the option to check-in online through the airline’s website or smartphone app. Since you’re travelling with your baby, why not check in ahead of time, before you even leave for the airport? This is also a great way to confirm that the flight is still running and hasn’t been rescheduled or cancelled.

How Do You Navigate the Airport With Your Baby?

14. Use a child carrier. Strapping your baby into a baby carrier or sling provides hands-free movement as you navigate the airport. Keep in mind that you may need to remove your child from the carrier before going through airport security and carry her through the metal detector.

15. Use a stroller. If you plan to take your stroller with you on the trip, you may want to use it when navigating the airport. If so, it helps to keep it with you rather than checking the stroller in at the luggage drop-off. Then, you can use it until you board at the gate, where a member of the crew can check it. Once you land, you’ll get the stroller back!

16. Take advantage of pre-boarding perks for families. Baby travel is a lot easier with the help of friendly gate agents! Airlines usually offer families with small children the opportunity to board the airplane first. This way, you don't have to fight through the crowds to get to your seats, making it easier to settle in. It also helps to exit last for the same reason, unless you have to make a connection.

17. Ask for help if you need to make a connection. It can take a village when flying with your baby, and airlines know this! Let a flight attendant know if you need to make a connecting flight, as a member of the crew may be able to order a transportation cart to take you to your next gate.

18. Change your baby’s diaper before boarding. How do you travel on a plane with your baby? The most important first step may very well be a diaper change! If there’s time, change your baby’s diaper before boarding the aircraft. Many airports have specifically designed family restrooms that you can utilize for this purpose.

What Are The Best Tips When Flying With an Infant?

19. Watch the in-flight safety video. When the plane starts taxiing, you may be preoccupied with getting your little one comfy, as well as yourself. However, it’s important to pay attention to the in-flight safety video, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. Reminders never hurt when travelling with your precious baby! For example, when it comes to using the oxygen masks if the cabin loses air pressure, airlines typically instruct you to position the mask on yourself before placing one on your child.

20. Wash and sanitize your hands. Airline travel with your infant can attract a lot of germs, so be sure to wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer to reduce your baby’s exposure to bacteria.

21. Locate the best spot to change your baby’s diaper. Let’s be honest, airplane restrooms are tiny. Even with a fold-down changing table, you may find it uncomfortable to change your baby in such cramped quarters! If the restroom doesn’t have a changing table, you could use a disposable changing pad (if you brought one) or change your baby on the toilet with the cover down, taking care to keep a hand on your baby at all times. Another option is asking a flight attendant for help. You may be able to change your baby on the cabin floor or in one of the galley areas.

22. Be prepared for your baby’s ears to hurt. Many parents wonder how to help their baby’s ears when flying, and that’s because pressure changes in the airplane’s cabin can make your baby’s ears uncomfortable. Nursing your baby, giving her a bottle, or letting her suck on a pacifier can help equalize the pressure in her middle ear.

23. Plan your baby’s sleeping options. Buckling your baby into her CRS is the safest option for napping and sleeping, but some airlines may provide a more comfortable way for your infant or baby to get some shut eye:

  • Bassinet. If you’ve chosen seats behind the bulkhead, there’s a good chance the airline may have a bassinet you could use. The bassinet attaches to the bulkhead wall and can hold a baby of a certain weight. Ask your airline in advance for the requirements and whether this is an option.

  • Sleeper seat. When travelling abroad with your baby, you may be able to book three seats in a row and interlock them to form a big sleeper that can fit a parent and a child. Check with your airline in advance for more information on the availability of this option.

  • Inflatable seat extension. If your airline allows it, an inflatable seat extension is a big help for baby travel, as it creates a bed for your little one to sleep or nap. Remember that not all airlines approve this device, and your child must have her own seat to use it, so check with your airline ahead of time. Keep in mind that during takeoff and landing, your baby can’t use any of these sleep devices. She must be in your lap or in a CRS. Moreover, even on an airplane, you still need to practice safe sleep practices. As long as your baby is placed on her back for sleeping and that she's on a firm, flat surface with no soft bedding, you should be good to go!

24. Don't hesitate to ask for help. Our list of tips and tricks for baby travel should help but remember that flying with your infant isn’t always easy. The flight attendant or the person sitting next to you may be more than willing to help, especially if you’re travelling alone with your little one. Many other people have been or will be in similar situations and don't mind lending a hand! Accept offers from the crew or other travellers to help with loading carry-ons into the overhead compartment, for example.

25. Try to remain calm and focused. One of the biggest stresses that parents face when flying with their baby is the fear of a meltdown or crying mid-flight. Maybe you can relate! It’s easier said than done but try not to worry about what others think or if they’re looking at you. Most people, whether they show it or not, are sympathetic to a crying baby on a flight. Remember the point above that they may even want to help by smiling or waving at your little one. Regardless, try to stay calm and remember that you’re doing your best. As long as you stay cool, your baby and seatmates will be more likely to do the same.

FAQs at a Glance

  • How early you can fly with your baby depends on her age, as newborn infants shouldn’t take to the friendly skies. Flying with a newborn can unnecessarily expose her to infections. Your healthcare provider may advise waiting until after she’s had some of her vaccines.

  • Your baby will need a valid passport in order to fly internationally.

  • Cabin pressure and noise levels can affect your baby’s ears during a flight: To protect her ears

    • try nursing your baby, giving her a bottle, or having her suck on a pacifier during takeoff and landing
    • use small earplugs, cotton balls, or noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Yes, you can. Although the CATSA generally doesn’t allow liquids over 100 milliliters in your carry-on, parents with babies are exempt from this rule and are allowed to pack expressed breast milk, liquid formula, or water for mixing with powdered formula later.

  • You aren’t required to buy a ticket for your child if he is younger than 2 years old, but purchasing a seat is recommended. This is because having your baby with you on your lap while flying during turbulence can be dangerous.

  • In most cases you will be asked to remove your child from the carrier before you go through the security checkpoint and carry your child through the metal detector.

The Bottom Line

When flying with your baby, the best travel tips include those that make him as comfortable as possible and help you remain calm yourself. With a little preparation, flying with your baby can go smoothly, we promise! And before you know it, you’ll be landing at your destination.

Don’t forget to pack plenty of diapers and wipes for your trip and reward yourself for all the hard work. Yes, you could go get a massage, but you can also earn rewards for all those diaper purchases. Download the Pampers Club app to start earning now!

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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