How to Travel With an Infant by Airplane

Book flights that coincide with her nap time.
Book flights that coincide with her nap time. (Image: Richard Semik/Hemera/Getty Images)

Flying with an infant is perfectly safe in most instances. It can be challenging too, especially if you're traveling without a partner, but maybe not as hard as you expect. The typical infant makes a low-key travel companion, as she'll stay put, snooze often and won't demand constant entertainment like older kids. Plan carefully in the days before your flight and the trip itself will fly by.

Consult the Pediatrician

Age doesn't typically affect a baby's ability to handle flying, according to Dr. Jay L. Hoecker of the Mayo Clinic, so even a newborn may be able to safely fly. However, if your baby was born prematurely, has breathing issues or has recently been sick, your pediatrician may advise delaying travel or may recommend some medical precautions such as supplemental oxygen. Even if your infant is healthy, it's wise to get your pediatrician's blessing before taking your baby's first flight.

Sort Out Seats

Most airlines allow children younger than 2 to ride for free, provided a parent holds the child at all times. While that's a boon for your budget, the Federal Aviation Administration "strongly urges" parents to strap young children into their own safety seats. That means you'll need to buy your baby her own ticket and carry her car seat onboard, provided the car seat's label states that it's approved by the FAA. Install the seat facing the rear if she weighs under 20 pounds and facing forward if she's more than 20 pounds.

Pack Strategically

Don't load your bags with diapers, wipes and other items you can buy at your destination, but do fill your carry-on with enough diapering and eating supplies to last 24 hours in case of delays. Bring a hat and sweater for your baby and one change of clothes for yourself. Pack a light blanket or scarf to use as cover while nursing. Stow a few quiet, colorful toys in your bag to distract your infant if she gets fussy, and don't forget snacks such as nuts and cheese to keep your own energy up.

Sail Through Security

You may find that wearing your baby in a carrier makes getting through the airport easier than pushing her in a stroller. TSA agents may ask you to remove this carrier when going through security, especially if it contains metal. While liquids are limited by the TSA, you're allowed to carry breast milk, formula and juice through security in whatever quantities your baby requires, along with frozen ice packs to keep these items cold. Let an agent know that you have these liquids when arriving at security.

On the Plane

Make a diaper change your last order of business before boarding the plane. If you need to do another change mid-flight, strip your baby down to a onesie at your seat and carry her, a portable changing pad, a garbage bag, a diaper and wipes to the bathroom. Lay the pad on the closed toilet if the bathroom has no changing table. If your infant is awake during takeoff or landing, give her a pacifier or feed her. The sucking motion helps prevent ear pain.

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