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Flying with a Baby: Checklist to Prepare for the Unexpected

Flying with a Baby: Checklist to Prepare for the Unexpected

There is an insurmountable list of things that make us nervous as new parents, and every new experience is an instance we can to add to that list. My husband and I recently had the opportunity to tackle an experience that had us quite anxious leading up to it: flying with our seven-month-old for the first time. My in-laws live a 3 1/2 hour flight away in Phoenix, so I’ve known for a while that we’d be taking on this challenge at some point. I’m happy to report that everything went fairly well – as well as you can expect it to go with an infant in tow anyways. As we learned, flying with a baby is not easy, but a little preparation can help make it a lot easier.


Secure an aisle seat. If your baby is at a point where they’re mobile, this will help save your sanity. As I’m sure many of you have gone through with your little one, our guy has a case of “up-itis.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s a condition where your baby prefers for you to stand and hold him or her – no sitting allowed. For those of you not sensing the sarcasm here, this is not an actual medical condition but rather a preference of nearly every baby alive. If you choose not to satisfy your baby’s request to stand, he or she will whine, cry and squirm. These are things you do not want to happen in flight. Because of this “condition,” on our most recent flight, my husband and I collectively spent more than half of our airborne time standing up with our son while he walked the plane aisle. It was much easier to walk the aisle with him since we had such easy access from our aisle and middle seats. Had we taken the window seat and had to climb over an innocent aisle-seated passenger, it would’ve been more complicated and I doubt the passenger would’ve been very fond of us.

Flying with a baby

Plan to drop your luggage off. At the end of our trip to Phoenix, we had to return our rental car. Instead of parking and then dragging all of our luggage (which we had a lot of, by the way) onto the shuttle to then make our way to the airport, we did a quick swing through the departure terminal first. My husband hopped out and checked our baggage curbside. We then went on to park the car and only carried our son and carry-on bags from that point. This saved us from a lot of unnecessary stress, and I highly highly recommend it.

Pack squeezable baby food (and a bib and spoon). If your baby is due to eat in flight, the squeezable baby food pouches are a life saver. You literally just squeeze the food onto the spoon, feed baby and avoid a potentially large mess.

Change baby’s diaper before you get on the plane. I learned this lesson the hard way. The changing tables in the minuscule airplane lavatories are, as you would expect, also minuscule. At seven months of age, Beckett barely fit on it length-wise, so I’m really not sure what we’re going to do when he’s older, but I digress. The tiny changing table makes it difficult to do a diaper changing. Of course, there are times when a mid-flight diaper change is going to be unavoidable. But be as proactive as you can here, and use the airport restroom changing tables before boarding your flight.

If all else fails, consider nursing (if you breastfeed, that is). I don’t usually breastfeed my son when he’s not due to eat, but flying certainly presented an exception to this rule. At one point during our flight nothing would appease him. I knew he was tired, but getting your baby down for a nap at 30,000 feet isn’t always the easiest. Breastfeeding worked like a charm. He ate, immediately quieted down and took a 30 minute nap. I’m also not one to breastfeed in public if I can avoid it, as it just makes me a little bit uncomfortable, and I’m always worried that I’ll be in the unfortunate position of sitting next to someone who is SO offended by it. I did what I could, though, and covered myself up with a blanket that I had packed just for this purpose and avoided any disapproving looks from my fellow passengers. In this instance, I figured that the surrounding passengers would find the peace and quiet worth any modesty that I might be giving up… and hopefully they did.

Pack a bottle or a pacifier. The ascent and descent portions of your flight can cause ear popping. This is uncomfortable for anyone, but babies can find it especially unpleasant. Sucking on a pacifier or bottle can help ease the popping sensation.

Pack extras of everything. You never know when your flight is going to be delayed or when you’re going to have to make an unscheduled landing because of weather or to refuel the plane. Luckily, this didn’t happen for us. Had it happened, though, I was prepared. Pack enough diapers and wipes to get you through a 24 hour period. Pack extra squeezable baby food, an extra spoon, formula if you’re not breastfeeding, a bib and maybe even a few outfits. Delayed flights are draining enough without scouring the airport to find baby food and diapers.

At the end of the day, all you can do is prepare to the best of your ability. Always know, though, that virtually anything can happen when there’s a baby involved. So when you’re packing those extra diapers and wipes, throw in an extra dose of patience for yourself. You may not need it, but it’s good to have it there just in case you do.


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