Flying with Baby

Parents share some advice about traveling and flying with a little baby. In this article:

General advice

Long-haul advice

Wondering how to deal with Jet Lag? Read the PSP article HERE that deals specifically with how to help babies/kids adjust to a new time zone.


I'm very grateful for all the excellent advice I've received in this forum for the flight itself, and I'm thinking that I might wait till we return from our flight to report back on it and how it went, for other parents planning flights with their babies (by the way, I stumbled on a website called something like where people who've returned from flights with children post advice...mainly I learned from it to take tons of wipes!)


General tips:

A parent shares the crucual tips they've learned so far. Here are their tips:

- You can detach your medela style advanced pump from its case and pack it in your suitcase;

- To take extra clothing for yourself as well as baby (see PSP's list of what to pack for the plane here!);

- To get a bassinet, get to airport really early and make a fuss about it.

- A stroller may be taken as far as the gate and then should be packed in some kind of bag because it will get dirty (see PSP's advice about strollers and car seats on the plane);

- I found out that is the place to get a somewhat flimsy but better-than-nothing orange bag marked 'gate check' for umbrella strollers to be checked in, at gate; Sasha's Kiddie products sells the same thing at a higher price.

- Something I'm trying (our baby is breastfed but we supplement with Similac): bringing a load of pre-prepared, disposable Similac bottles for the flights there and back (16 2-oz bottles each way! she sometimes does short feedings..) to avoid the hassle of obtaining water & then mixing formula on the plane & solve problem of washing up bottles. Delta say we may take as many as we actually need for the flight, so I'm hoping they won't be puzzled by the sheer number of bottles. We're taking 18 or so non-disposable nipples (I had some headaches obtaining ones that actually fit but have them now) to use with these, planning to sterilize at other end for return journey (while there, we'll revert to Breastflow bottles & nipples). This may turn out to have been an extravagant way of doing things. We're also having to take 6 cans of Similac powder (buy through if you have amazon prime, and not through our luggage because no way to buy it there, and I didn't want to try her on a new brand once over there (see PSP's advice about traveling with breastmilk). 


Long-haul flight advice:


Original poster asks:

"My husband and I will be flying to Italy to visit my family with our 1 year old baby. In our lap... I flew with him by myself when he was still fitting in the bassinet that the airline provides, but now he is too big for that, unfortunately, so we have to keep him in our lap for 9 hours. And I am terrified! He doesn't like to stay in our laps usually, and he doesn't stay still not even for a minute. Also, he will definitely need some sleep (we are flying overnight), but I am afraid he won't get any because he will be uncomfortable.
Does any of you have some good advice to give me before this veeeeery long journey?
I am also willing to give him a light medicine, like Tylenol or similar, but I have never done it before, so i would like to hear if anybody else tried that and if it worked in order to help the baby to sleep."


Replies (includes advice from other, very similar threads on our groups):


Book a red-eye:

We did our first transatlantic to London when [my son]s was 3 months and just did it again this weekend now he is 9 months. Both times we have taken a night flight. James is a pretty great sleeper so aside from him being a bit ratchety during boarding because it was past his bedtime we felt like it was better than the day flight. We’ve flown BA both times and both times he had slept pretty much from taxiing down the runway to starting to land. Only difference this time is that James was not happy sleeping the entire time in the bassinet because he wants to sleep on his front. In the end he slept on me which means no sleep for me. Otherwise we prepped like baby Armageddon for the flight. Multiple outfits, all the favorite toys/soothing things/ extra bottles and food."

"When we flew to the UK with a one year old, we had a night flight going and a day flight coming back. The night flight was better as the baby slept (fitfully) and the day flight was absolutely miserable with lots of screaming (mostly baby.)"

"We flew to Melbourne with our twins at 5 months and it was actually fine (just beware the jet lag!) The flight over was a night flight and they did a lot of sleeping, so it really was quite a breeze. The flight back was a daytime flight and it was definitely more challenging because they were wide awake for most of it and squirming. So I’d say night flights are a better bet at that age."

"I would also recommend the red eye - did it at around 6 months and our baby slept most of it in the bassinet. However the bassinet seat only fits a tiny baby so make the most of it. At 15 months when we next went back she didn’t fit... I just remember the biggest logistics headache at 6 months was timing vaccinations before flying."

I fly a few times a year to London with my two kids, normally alone (starting from age 3 months onwards) I always get the night flight out and accept I will get zero sleep, but they sleep the whole way. I prefer not to use the bassinet personally as they are small and uncomfortable and on the front row of the plane the arm rests don't lift up, so was tricky for my older one as he couldn't lie down. I don't care too much that I don't sleep as I can hand the kids over to my parents as soon as I land :-) 

"I normally get a very early day flight back, they are normally so tired from the early start and hectic trip that they sleep most of the way back too, but definately harder to entertain a 6 month old when they are awake. I just hate that the flight is so short to UK and longer on way back as I normally have to wake the kids up! Good luck!"


Book around naptime:

"We recently went to New Orleans (~3 hour flight). It was helpful to go at nap time because he slept a good portion."


Explore seating options and always ask about open seats. In addition, some prefer aisle seats while others love a window - so chose wisely what you think will work for you and your child:

"If you are flying overnight, I think you might be surprised at how well he will sleep once they turn the lights off and with the hum of the engine. We have gone to Europe several times with our older son, the first time we went he was also 1. He slept the whole way in my arms, which was not comfortable for me but he did great. I would agree with bringing some kind of carrier in case he can’t get comfortable in the seat and you can stand at the back while he sleeps. The busy bag idea is great [read more ideas of what to bring for baby here]. Put a few things he has never seen in a bag for him. Little travel bottles with Cheerios to shake and eat, a water bottle with a little water in it always fascinates them. Also, it is worth asking if the flight is full and if not, perhaps the ticket agents will be kind and give you the whole middle area(3 or 4 seats) so you could potentially lay him down. Or the bulkhead with no seats in front of you for extra room. I hope it goes well and that your family is ready to entertain him when you arrive so you can sleep!"

 "We just took another long flight. As it turns out our son is better in planes than he is in the car. If you can coordinate it with a nap time or bedtime, that's convenient (except for when they don't let you get up and rock the kid on takeoff). I think having an aisle seat is also helpful so that you can let the kid walk up and down the aisle during the middle of the flight. We also did a lot of reading."

"I had better luck in a window seat because she wanted to walk up and down the aisle too much and it didn't occur to her that she could get out by the window."

"I found that when I traveled with my husband we were fine not having a seat for the baby. When I flew myself, a second seat was a lifesaver- I had her in the car seat and kept giving her snacks and a book.  Always ask at the gate if there are any empty seats (I've gotten lucky a few times)."

"Oh and aisle seat definitely!"

"DEFINITELY yes on the window seat if it is an option.  Besides just being able to look out the window and the fact that it resists some of the temptation to make a break for it and go for a run, we got bumped a few times with the service cart as it was going up and down the aisle - RIGHT AFTER SHE FELL ASLEEP.  Argh!"

"Also- we got to the airport early and asked if there were any open seats if we could have a seat for the baby. This worked for the way out there (and also a few months back when we travelled to London ~6 hr flight) and is so helpful!  Also- we bought new toys, lots of snacks, extra milk- which was a lifesaver- and kept him by the window so he could look outside."

"Lots of good advice. I personally want an aisle seat. [Baby] won't settle in the carrier anymore unless I'm moving. I usually stand right next to my seat and can move in as needed to let people pass. After she's done with the carrier or napping, I plop her into my seat and buckle her in. She loves it and has plenty of room to read her books or play with her toys. I find she's happy there and doesn't try to get away like she does just in my arms."



"Endless walks up and down the aisles to tire them out."


Upgrade for extra legroom:

"Throw money at the problem  But extra legroom if you can. There is so much to juggle (especially if you're traveling on your own, which I usually am) with bags and baby, that the more room you have, the better."

"I upgraded to extra legroom which let her play on the floor and stand in front of me."


Try feeding as soon as you board:

""I would suggest bottle/ milk/ nursing as soon as lights go down and everything is settled and quiet. We tried to make it as cozy as possible, and while she was on my lap I didn't get to sleep well, at least it was calm and quiet and no one around us was bothered. She arrived happy.  This was a few months ago and she was squirmy and wiggly, but now she is walking and it's a lot harder to lock her on a lap or in a carrier for a long time."


Try keeping to schedule if you can:

"Keeping her schedule as much as possible seemed helpful and getting the sleep/naps/meals/snacks etc at the time she is used to seems to help her from freaking out and helped pass the time."


The new surroundings and stimulation may be to your benefit:

"Just last week I took a flight with my 1 year in lap.  I too had similar worries.  Our son is super energetic and won't sit still even for a diaper change.  Our flight was domestic and not nearly as long but we did have a transfer and I was by myself with him.  Surprisingly he was so interested in the new surroundings that he was totally occupied with new sounds and sights for the first part of the trip.  Thankfully we were also seated next to some kind people on both flights (a father of 8 and a grandmother) who were happy to interact with him which helped.  He stood up in my lap and "talked" to the people behind me.  I also made sure I had aisle seats on both flights so I could easily get up and walk with him if needed.  For the second leg of the trip he also shockingly fell right asleep in my arms after take off and slept the whole rest of the way.  That has never happened before.  I packed lots of toys and snacks in his diaper bag and was even prepared to play Sesame Street videos on my phone for him.  I didn't even have to pull my phone out once.  I'm not sure if this is really helpful as far as tips for a much longer nonstop flight but I think you may find that it goes smoother than you think so I wanted to share my experience as encouragement.  All the best!!"


If you child is old enough, hype up the flight:

"Getting her excited about the plane ride for a few days before the trip. She's at the point where she understands everything so we got her very excited about the plane and where we are going."


Use a soft carrier:

"I would recommend some kind of soft carrier (wrap, k’tan, sling) to put him in (after take off) for him to (hopefully!)sleep in. If he sleeps a while your arms could get super tired! And stick with a medicine you know actually makes him drowsy (some have the opposite effect!). Also look up busy bags for one year olds/toddlers for some easy, cheap, surprisingly engaging activities (for example, mini post-its that you can put throughout a board book for him to pull off Peek-a-Boo style). But the aisle seat/walking around a lot (maybe in carrier to get him to fall asleep too) will be really helpful. Good luck!"

"YES to the carrier. That's what we have done on all of the long haul flights we have taken with our kids . . . you will see other exhausted parents wearing their children in an Ergo, walking up and down the aisles and swaying in the dark hallway behind the bathroom. The flight attendants are very used to it. Good luck!!"

"We took some long flights this summer and were really pleased at how well Lula slept. Not the whole way, but in one direction for 4 or 5 hours as I recall. The way home wasn't as good, but I was really nervous as it was much better than I expected. A carrier and walking around, hanging in the back with the attendants was also a good tip when she wouldn't be still in the seat. She was sort of just starting to crawl then, so either on a lap or being carried were the options."

 "I've found strapping our daughter into our Ergo carrier while on a lap greatly reduces the squirming, kicking, and flailing."

 "Carrier - I haven't taken the carrier onto a flight before and couldn't believe how much easier it made everything, especially sleeping since I didn't have to spend energy holding her."


Bring distractions and snacks!

PSP has a GREAT list of toys and activities to pack for the plane >

"I bought a bunch of small, cheap new toys that kept her busy. A slinky, a small my little pony, small baby doll, new book etc. and just kept swapping them around like nobody's business. I also bought headphones bc while she was too young to be kept entertained with shows (I tried), she LOVED watching videos of herself on the iPhone."

"I feed her CONSTANTLY. She can't scream if her mouth is full."

"Bring a ton of diapers and snacks in case you get delayed."

"The NYC - California flight is my jam! I recommend lots of snacks, a couple board books, a device of some sort with cartoons. You'll be ok- just active ! Also I've found that the cabin pressure makes them fall asleep for at least a few hours and that helps.  I'm going to try stickers on my next trip."  

"Letting others entertain her! This has really been a lifesaver on all our flights. My daughter is pretty friendly and people always find babies cute in general. She loves to play hide and seek, especially with people sitting behind us. Flight attendants also help a lot when we walk around the plane. Others entertaining her takes a lot of pressure off us, even if just for a few minutes at a time. I've had flight attendants walk around with my daughter around the plane in their arms, and it's amazing."

"Screen time- we don't have any at home so on the plane it is a great 'luxury' for her."


Be courteous:

"Take kids shoes off when they kick the seat, and to bring along packages of earplugs for the people ahead of me to make a conciliatory gesture 'if they are also showing you they are high maintenance by being huffy'."



Important Message from Park Slope Parents (PSP): Just a reminder, PSP member posts are not checked for accuracy. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on the PSP Yahoo! Group or on the website. Do consult with your physician on this tip:

"My sister swears by this: she gives her babies something like Tylenol to make them more drowsy. I've not actually tried this but am planning to for a long haul overnight flight on Friday to Europe."


Useful tips from around the web:

This is a cool infographic about traveling with babies!


(Image via Flickr here)