How to fly with a baby

Flying with a baby and how to book a bassinet

Baby on a plane with pink and white striped pajamas to show flying with a baby

You’ve seen the looks. You know the ones you get as you board the plane getting ready to fly with your baby in arms. My anxiety is already through the roof that she is going to cry for the whole flight and all of these looks are confirming my fears.

What I want to say to them as I get on the plane is “Guess what people, I don’t want my baby crying just as much, or more than you do!” But I don’t say anything, I just silently find my seat praying for the best.

Our first time flying with a baby was a complete disaster

Our first experience flying with an infant was one of the worst flights we’ve ever done. We were taking our oldest daughter, who at the time was 3 months old, to meet her great-grandparents for the first time.

We thought it was extremely important for her to meet her great-grandparents and to spend time together. So important to us that we were willing to brave the 5-hour red-eye flight as our inaugural flight flying with our baby.

Almost every possible concern came upon this flight; she had a diaper blowout (a poop big enough to literally explode out of the diaper). It got all over her onesie and pants.

This happened just as the plane was getting ready to depart. Then, she wouldn’t take a bottle on takeoff. This was a result of the big “snack” I fed her while we waited for the plane. It was way past her bedtime and she was still awake. “Why was she still awake?!”

Meme about the smell of baby throw up with a yellow background and two kids.

We thought she would fall asleep quickly once we got on the plane. As we took off, the crying started. She cried long enough and hard enough that she vomited all over me. This lasted most of the flight. We looked like a circus. For 1st-time parents, we thought we were prepared.

Well, since that wonderful flight we have continued to travel and still have much to learn, but we have learned from our mistakes.

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Parents, we’ve been there with you

We have traveled with our 3 kids starting at about 3 months of age. When our youngest was just 6 months old we braved 30 hours of traveling with her to South East Asia. We have fought battles of infant altitude sickness multiple times and crying that seems like it will never end.

In addition to the long journey, she had horrible acid reflux that would result in hours of crying with no way of calming her down if she missed a dose of her medication.

We know flying with a baby is stressful, whether it is a one-hour flight or over the seas. Stress and anxiety can almost be enough to make you not want to go anywhere. Whether you love to travel or have to travel for any reason, here is what we have learned along the way (the hard way).

How to book a bassinet

Do you want to let your baby lay down while letting your arms rest? Then opt for the bulkhead and get a bassinet. Here’s how you can get it.

If you are taking a red-eye or a flight lasting longer than 4 hours, try to book the bulkhead section on the airplane. The bulkhead is a dividing wall between sections. Usually, there is a bulkhead dividing first-class and economy class. This is common on a long-haul flight and some domestic flights.

Airplane seat map with the best seats for flying with a baby
Bulkhead seating on the airplane for infants for a baby bassinette

Take a look at the seating map when you are booking your flight. If the seats are available, book them. If there are not open, you can call the airline. Most airlines are very good to reserve the bulkhead section for this reason.

Once you have the bulkhead reserved, you will want to call the airline to verify that there is a bassinet available on your airplane. Also, they will put this on your ticket to give the flight attendants a heads up.

Flying with a baby and how to book a bassinet.
Baby Bassinette bulkhead #delta

The times that we have used the bassinet, we did call the airline in advance, just to ensure the bassinet would be available and they were super helpful.

Once you board the plane, you will have to remind the flight attendants that you need the bassinet. They will set it up for you after take off.

Getting the bassinet that sits in front of you is a lifesaver when flying with a baby. Even if they are not fully sleeping, the baby can stretch out and lay down. Let’s not forget about how nice it is to have some freedom.

Other seats that are good with babies

What if I don’t want to sit in the bulkhead? I get it, the bulkhead does have some disadvantages. Such as there is no room for your carry-ons to be easily accessible. When you sit in the bulkhead you have to put all your carry-ons in the overhead.

If this is the case book your seats towards the back of the plane. The back of the plane is usually less busy and sometimes you can score a whole row to yourself.

Also, the back of the plane has more room to walk around if your baby needs some entertainment.

Flying with a baby and how to book a bassinet. Tips for babies flying. Airplanes with baby. What to do if my baby cries on the plane? And how to book a bassinet.

**Pro-tip~ Be aware this is where the airlines will place large school tour groups or class trips. These groups can be extra noisy so book different seats anywhere on the plane if the seats look extra busy in the back.

Any seat on the plane will not be easy with a baby but make sure to book an aisle seat so you can easily get up and down with your baby.

Prepare for your flight

  1. Exercise: Encourage your baby to play whenever you find some space or a play area at the airport. There are some great kid-friendly airports for the little ones to stretch their legs and play before a flight. Hopefully, this will help in tiring them out and allow them to sleep sooner on the flight.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Make sure your baby has had plenty of milk, water, or juice the day before and on the day of the journey. Make sure to change the diaper/nappy just before you get on the plane. Because it could be a little while to you get in the air and at cruising altitude to be able to change the next one. The low humidity on the plane can dry and irritate the nostrils and throat, staying hydrating will help; which equals less crying.
  3. Ear Pain Management: If you can time your bottle or breastfeeding to time at take-off, you will have a better chance of your baby sleeping. This may mean holding off or changing up your feeding times a little bit throughout the day. Make sure to pack a binky/pacifier/dummy to help once the feeding is done. These will help to keep the ears popping and release the pressure on the ears. If possible, give them another bottle during landing.
  4. Carry-on Packing: Make sure to bring some toys and if you have familiar toys from home that won’t take up a ton of space. Bring toys that are easy to clean and wipe off (because it will fall on the floor). Make sure nothing is sharp, and if your baby is teething, pack something the baby can put in their mouth. **Pack some antibacterial wipes for the toys and tray tables. Really just wipe down the entire section of where you and the baby will be sitting.
  5. Packing list for an infant:
    • A diaper bag that will fit under the seat in front of you. Do not put this in the overhead bin as you will need quick access to many things.
    • Bottle, snacks, crackers, puffs, or yogurt melts
    • Extra change of clothes for both you & the baby. (in addition, also pack pajamas if you’re taking an overnight or long haul flight)
    • Diapers/nappies
    • Medicines
    • Diaper Wipes
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Extra power milk (you can also take water on in the bottle)
    • Baby food (don’t forget the spoon and bib)
    • A plastic bag or two. Just in case you have to change that diaper. No one wants to smell that. Wrap it up and throw it away.
    • Antibacterial wipes

There is so much to do to prepare for flying with a baby, we have a whole post to make it easier on you!

Things to pack to make your flight easier

Multi-use nursing cover

These are perfect for nursing while flying with the baby because they offer full coverage of your front and back. I also love them because they can double as a soft blanket once the baby is asleep. It’s a must-have carry-on.

You can easily purchase one on Amazon for around $15.

My favorite carry-on diaper bag

I love this backpack! It’s perfect for my stuff and as a diaper bag. There are tons of insulated pockets for bottles, extra zipper in the back for easy access to the bottom of your bag, and a secret pocket in the back for your phone. It’s honestly the best! And it comes in so many cute colors.

This can also easily be purchased on Amazon for around $28.

Bottles for on the go

Dr. Brown’s bottles are by far the best at preventing gas, which means less crying for the baby. They have a lot of pieces which is a pain, but it is well worth it.

Amazon has a set of 4 bottles for around $18.

Honestly, there are so many things you could pack, but try to keep your carry-on as minimalist as possible. Babies don’t need a lot of extra things. Just remember diapers, wipes, pacifiers, and food; those are your basics. You will survive without everything else.

Make sure to pack toys!

If you are flying with an older baby or a toddler, toys are a must-have carry on item. You will want to take at least a few toys with you on the plane no matter what age your baby is. Check out some unique ideas for toys for toddlers, make sure to plan ahead and pack a few!

Inflight- When the baby cries

When they start to cry: Here are some things that you can do on the plane if while flying with your baby starts to cry and can’t stop. Remember to focus on your child and don’t worry about the other passengers around you.

  • Try to engage with your baby. Play, read a story, sing songs with actions. Dig into your bag of toys if you have some.
  • Put your baby cheek to cheek with you and hum a song, this skin to skin helps calm them.
  • Try a bottle/feeding or other snacks.
  • If possible, walk them to the back of the plane. Typically the flight attendants are busy and babies love to watch the action.
  • Take them into the bathroom so they can see themselves in the mirror. Babies love to look at themselves.
  • Try to STAY CALM (the baby will sense when you start to get stressed).
  • Remember that when you are flying with a baby, your main job is to take care of you and your baby.
What to do when baby starts crying on the plane. Flying with a baby is hard work.
Walking on a plane with a baby – what to do when your baby cries

These tricks will usually quiet them down, but we have had one flight that we walked up and down the aisle almost the entire flight. We didn’t get any nasty looks or comments.

Actually, most passengers were friendly and tried to help, smiled, and some even encouraged us to keep walking. Most passengers are willing to help and understand if your child is crying, but every once in a while you will get a passenger that isn’t as accepting or helpful.

If this happens, politely ask a flight attendant if there are open seats. You can also politely ask the flight attendants to check with other the passenger to see if they want to change seats.


Infant altitude sickness or altitude sickness in children

Baby sleeping on plane to show flying with a baby to can be easy.

It can start at 7,800 feet. If your child/baby has had air sickness before or gets easily carsick, make sure to have an airsick bag close by and easily accessible or a spit-up cloth or bib for the baby.

Altitude sickness in children and infants can manifest its self in different ways. If the child is older or able to talk, they might be able to tell you they don’t feel well. Altitude sickness in infants or toddlers is more difficult to determine. Here are a couple of signs you can look for.

  • The baby begins to become more restless and is warmer to the touch.
  • Toddlers begin to breathe a little faster and heavier.
  • Infants might try to throw off blankets or move around.
  • Is your baby tugging at its ears

This list is not all-inclusive and each child shows signs differently but there isn’t anything to be concerned about.

Place your hand on your child’s stomach and feel if your child is breathing heavier or if there is a more upward and downward movement with your child’s stomach. This could be a sign of altitude sickness in your child or your baby has infant altitude sickness. Don’t worry or panic. This is just motion sickness.

What you can do to try and help your child is to cool them off. Make sure the air vents are open. If your plane does not have air vents, just grab the safety card in the seatback pocket and use it as a fan. For older children, you can try a little ginger ale but not too much. For babies or infants, a small amount of water can help.

If your child is sick, don’t get up and walk around, it could make the altitude sickness worse. Try to keep the child or baby calm, and maybe even get them to sleep.

Up close of an air sickness bag in the back of the seat pocket
Air Sickness Bag for when you travel with your kids or baby

Other tips that might help. Make sure when flying with a baby, that they are always facing forward. Make sure that there is good ventilation. Reach up and turn the air vent so it is open. If you can open others.

Good ventilation can help, but also keep the baby distracted on other things. Try to avoid snacks or a bottle at this time if you can tell the child is not feeling well.

**Pro-Tip: Make sure to pack an extra shirt or outfit for you and the baby.

Join our Facebook page and share with us what has worked well for you to help calm your baby during a flight. Because as parents we can use all the tips we can get our hands on!

Are you flying with twins?

If you are flying with twin babies, I know things can get a lot harder! Check out this great post by Twins & Travels for awesome tips specifically for twins.

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Kanupriyaa Kanupriyaa
March 9, 2020 at 6:48 am

Such a good post, it’s so hard to travel with babies these days!

April 12, 2020 at 11:49 pm

Lots of respect for you for flying with a baby! I couldn’t imagine how challenging that may be! But at least now you conquered it and can share it with many new families who will experience this for the first time haha!

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