Updated: Jun 19
Flying with babies for the first time can be a daunting experience for many new moms.
Knowing what to expect and how to best prepare for your first time flying with a baby can alleviate much of the stress that comes with the territory.
We'll discuss car seats, seating options, and ear pressure when flying with babies.
Whether you're just starting to plan a flight for your newborn or are already in the thick of it, we've got the information you need to make sure you and your little one have a comfortable and safe flight.
Flying with babies - when can you start?
If you're wondering when your baby can take their first flight, the good news is that healthy newborn infants can travel safely by air.
In the past, there were restrictions on such travel because aircraft were not pressurized and oxygen was sometimes required during flights.
However, commercial jet airliners generally cruise at altitudes between 30,000 and 40,000 feet, and while they are not totally pressurized, they do simulate a cabin atmospheric pressure of between 5,000 and 8,000 feet.
It's important to note that the arterial blood oxygen saturation of healthy passengers of all ages decreases from near 100% at sea level. But as long as your baby is healthy, they should be able to handle the decrease in oxygen levels during the flight. In my personal experience, I flew with my baby at 12 weeks old and we had no issues.
When it comes to your first time flying with a baby, there's no need to be overly concerned about the flight itself.
But there are a few things you'll want to consider to make the experience as smooth and comfortable as possible for you and your little one. Let's take a look at some of the key factors to keep in mind.
Most importantly - take all of the advice here and discuss it with your pediatrician.
They know you and your baby best and can help you to make informed decisions that are best for your situation.
Car Seat or No Car Seat?
The safest place for a child under two on a U.S. airplane is in an approved child restraint system (CRS) or device, not in the lap. Arms cannot hold an in-lap child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.
As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states, "The FAA strongly urges you to secure your child in an approved CRS or other approved device for the entirety of your flight."
Buying a ticket for the child is the only way to guarantee the use of a CRS. A CRS is a car seat specifically approved by the U.S. government for airplane use. To ensure your car seat is approved, check for the label stating it meets FAA standards.
Note that booster seats and backless CRS are prohibited during ground movement, take-off, and landing.
If you choose not to bring a car seat, you might want to consider baby-wearing instead of holding the baby in your lap. Babywearing is a popular option for baby travel and has the added benefit of leaving your hands free for carry-ons and other necessities.
If you do decide to bring a car seat, consider investing in AmSafe's Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES), which is FAA-certified for children up to 40 inches tall and between 22 and 44 pounds.
The CARES system is lightweight and adjusts to fit virtually all economy-, business-, and first-class airline seats. With a CARES system, you can be confident that your child is safely secured during the flight.
Onboard Seating Options for Babies
When flying with babies, choosing the right onboard seating option can make a big difference in your travel experience.
1. Purchase a seat for your baby and bring your own car seat
One option is to bring your car seat on the plane. While it may seem like a hassle to lug around a bulky car seat, it can make your flight more comfortable for you and your baby. Not only will your baby be safely secured in their seat, but the car seat can also provide extra protection and familiar space for your little one. This requires you to purchase a plane seat for your baby. While this can be more expensive, it allows your baby to have their own space and can make the flight more comfortable for both you and your little one. Some airlines even offer bassinets for babies (on international flights) under a certain weight limit, so it's worth checking with your airline to see if this option is available.
Bassinets are not for take-off and landing and are fitted to a bulkhead row.
If you decide to bring your own car seat on the flight, make sure it is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for use on airplanes. You can check with the airline to see if they allow car seats on their flights, and whether they have any specific requirements or restrictions.
2. Hold your baby (lap baby)
If you prefer to hold your baby during the flight, many airlines allow babies under a certain age to sit on your lap for free. However, remember that this can be uncomfortable for both you and your baby, especially on longer flights.
Regardless of your seating option, it's important to follow airline regulations and ensure that your baby is safely secured during the flight. And don't be afraid to ask for help from flight attendants or other passengers if you need it – flying with babies can be challenging, but it's doable with a little preparation and support.
Ear Pressure: What You Need to Know
When it comes to flying with a baby, ear pressure can be a major concern. Changes in cabin pressure during a flight can cause temporary changes in middle ear pressure, which can trigger ear pain and discomfort in babies. But don't worry, there are ways to help your baby during the flight.
Offering a breast, bottle, or pacifier to suck on during takeoff and the initial descent can help relieve discomfort caused by ear pressure. You may also want to time feedings so that the baby is hungry during these times.
If your baby has had ear surgery or an ear infection two weeks before the flight date, you should ask a healthcare provider if it's safe to fly. Your baby's health and comfort should always be your top priority when flying.
In addition to feeding during takeoff and descent, you can also try to distract your baby with toys or books to keep them calm and happy during the flight. And don't be afraid to ask the flight crew for help or advice – they're often more than happy to assist new parents with their little ones.
With a little preparation and attention to ear pressure, flying with your baby can be a comfortable and stress-free experience for everyone involved.
Preparing for Your Flight with a Newborn
With a little preparation, you can make your travel experience much smoother. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your flight with a newborn.
Firstly, make sure you have a change pad handy. You'll want to change your baby right before boarding and after landing. It's also good to ask the flight attendant where to put the soiled diaper. Make sure you have a trash bag for used diapers too.
Another tip is to pack some wipes in a ziplock bag along with a diaper and a trash bag. This will make it easy to grab just what you need instead of rummaging through a whole diaper bag.
It's important to remember to take care of yourself too. Hungry or dehydrated parents aren't happy travelers either. Make sure you bring snacks and a water bottle for yourself, and don't be afraid to ask the flight attendant for assistance.
Strollers - check in with luggage or at the gate
Traveling with a stroller can be a lifesaver when flying with babies. Most airlines allow you to check in your stroller for free when you check your luggage at the airport. However, if you prefer to use your stroller until the boarding gate, you can take it with you and leave it at the gate.
To do this, ask for a pink tag from the airline staff at the gate. You can get this tag well ahead of boarding time, and it's available at any gate. Attach the pink tag to your stroller and hand it to the airline staff before you board the plane. The stroller will then be stored with the rest of the cabin baggage and will wait for you when you disembark.
Having a stroller at the airport can be helpful, especially when traveling with a baby. However, it's important to have a backup plan in case your stroller is lost or damaged during the flight. Always pack a carrier or sling in your hand luggage so you can safely and comfortably carry your baby if needed.
Remember that airport security may ask you to fold and put your stroller through an X-ray machine. You'll also need to take your baby out of the stroller and carry them through the security checkpoint. So, be prepared to handle your stroller and baby when going through airport security.
Overall, strollers can be very useful when flying with babies. Knowing your options for checking them in with luggage or at the gate will help you make the right choice for you and your family. Don't forget to have a backup plan and pack your carrier or sling just in case!
First flight certificate from the crew
If you want to make your baby's first flight extra special, consider asking the flight crew for a first flight certificate and even little wings for your little one. Many airlines offer this sweet souvenir to commemorate your baby's first time up in the air.
As you board the plane, let the flight attendants know that it's your baby's first flight. They will likely be excited to help make the experience memorable for your family. If they have a first flight certificate, they'll gladly present it to you and your little one.
This certificate is a cute keepsake to remember your baby's first flight. You can add it to your baby book or display it on a bulletin board at home. It's also fun to announce your baby's first trip to friends and family.
Asking the crew for help
It's always helpful to know that airlines and flight attendants are familiar with kids flying, and they're there to assist you.
If you have any concerns or questions during your flight, don't hesitate to ask for help. Whether it is help with stowing your carry-on luggage, getting an extra pillow or blanket, or requesting special meals for your toddler to travel, the crew is ready to help you.
It can be tough to juggle a baby and everything else that comes with air travel, so don't be afraid to reach out for assistance. They're there to make your flight as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, so take advantage of their help whenever you need it.
And remember, you're doing great! Flying with a newborn can be stressful, but with a little preparation and the right mindset, you can make it a successful and enjoyable experience.