Flying with an infant might be the hardest thing you do, even if you are fully prepared. I have compiled everything you will need from packing to landing. Enjoy!
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Packing For Baby
To begin, bring things that baby will love and not necessarily toys. Mine, for example, found the chips bag to be incredibly entertaining! Then, when I opened it and gave him one, it blew his mind! However, taking the chips away once he had destroyed everything was a bit of a fuss fest. Ok, he screamed at me.
So, have something ready to go next. Like juice. Don’t waste your money on new toys.
Another thing my baby was addicted to at the time was paper. This would keep him busy or stop a fit immediately. I threw a few pieces of emergency notebook paper in the carry-on bag.
Get creative. Now is the time to give them the thing they have always wanted to play with like the TV remote control!
Additionally, you will need a baby-wearing device, changing pad, a change of clothes for the baby, maybe an extra shirt for yourself, a burp rag, diapers, wipes, a few favorite small new novel things, bottles, food, spoons, and disinfecting wipes or spray. (Thieves cleaner is my favorite because it’s non-toxic and kills everything! Just put some in a little 3oz travel spray, and you are good to go!)
Packing For Convenience
First, try to put all of your personal belongings with the baby’s in the same backpack. Also, if you are carrying food and breast milk with freezer packs, make sure this bag fits in your same backpack if possible.
The airplane is a very confined space; you won’t be able to get to all the toys and gadgets even if you wanted to. The backpack will be at your feet or over your head. Neither are easy to get something once you are holding a baby on your lap.
Next, set out a drawstring bag to take to the airport for your car seat if you plan on putting it in one. You can check your car seat (convertible or infant seat) or carry it on.
Checking it at the luggage point is free on most airlines to fly domestically. However, if you plan on putting baby in a purchased seat on the airplane, in their car seat, you need to take it with you to the plane.
Additionally, wear something comfortable and stretchy on the plane. I wore a long black t-shirt dress. The top had a v-neck perfect for nursing, and it was incredibly comfortable. The black came in handy for any stains that might happen. Also, your body can swell in flight so keep this in mind when choosing your wardrobe.
Next, planning your seat location, time of flight, and gate connection window of time is essential when flying with an infant.
Get a window seat if you want privacy. If you think you will need to get up with your baby to soothe them, then get an aisle seat. Just keep in mind that the beverage cart is constantly going up and down the aisle along with people who are not very careful. You could be getting bumped continuously next to the aisle.
Also, watch the connecting flight times. One or two hours in-between flights was perfect for me because any longer and the baby was hungry and fussy inside the airport. I had just enough time with 1-2 hours to change a diaper, grab a bite for myself, get to the next gate, get on the plane, feed him, and he was asleep again for the next flight.
Security With Food And Breast Milk
First and foremost, I recommend getting a TSA pre-check before your flight. You can do this at several places. I did mine at Staples.
First, you fill out an application then pay online. Next, set up your 15-minute interview. In the interview, you take 2 forms of government-issued identification. They will go over some questions, and BAM! You get to skip the general security line at the airport because there; they make you take off shoes, belts, electronics and layout all of your belongings in bins.
You will already have enough going on. So, if you don’t mind paying for convenience, make sure you get this.
Also, make 10000% sure the TSA pre-check is clearly marked on your boarding pass when you purchase your ticket. Of course, my first time flying with my infant alone, it wasn’t on my ticket, then I had to go through the general security line that was 10x longer and harder to get through. It’s like a cattle shoot for real.
Additionally, your minor child is free with your TSA pre-check. It takes a few weeks to get it done so plan accordingly.
At either security checkpoint you go through; you will need to take the baby out of the stroller and empty the contents of the stroller. Make sure you have everything already in your backpack so you can fling it up onto the belt and not worry about it once you get up there.
Laptops and electronics like phones and tablets have to be placed separately. Have these already removed from your backpack or bag.
Before you enter security, have your babywearing device on and baby in it. Also, have the baby’s food and milk in its own separate bag out and ready. If you prefer not to have the milk and food x-rayed, tell the TSA agent you want it hand-checked and to please wait for you to be present. Ignore their eye-roll; you will never see them again.
The stroller can go through a gate if it can’t be folded down to go in the x-ray machine. This is the same area they take wheelchairs. You will have to do this quickly and with one hand if your baby needs the other.
Once you have it unpacked, and on the conveyor, you will have to get everything off of the conveyor and back into the stroller while they wait impatiently on you to check the milk. They act like it is taking you eternity but really, what else do they have to do?! It takes max, 5 min.
The standard 3oz liquid rules don’t apply to baby food, formula, water, or breast milk. The TSA agents will want to examine the items visually, but under no circumstances are they to stick anything into the food or milk.
If they try, insist on speaking with a supervisor. If the milk or food is frozen solid, they will most likely be fine with this and move on. But, if it is even slightly thawed, they will want to pour out a small amount into a separate container to be tested.
Some agents have not thought twice about the baby strapped to me with a bag full of breast milk. Others have wanted a full head-to-toe pat down with an x-ray of everything except the food and milk. Some have been extremely irritated with me for refusing the food and milk to go through the x-ray machine. (Don’t care) I even had one tell me this past trip, “I’m not hand-checking all of this!” Don’t respond with the first thing that comes to mind. They have the power to make it take an eternity and for you to miss your flight. Just smile and say, “Thank you, I appreciate your help.”
Finally, look up the TSA guidelines, print them off and take them with you in your backpack. I’ve attached a link here. Ensure you have extra time to go through precautions because they will thoroughly check you, most likely with a pat-down.
Embarking And Disembarking
Next, when you finally arrive at your gate, you can put yourself back together. Put everything back in your bag if you haven’t already. Keep the baby in the wrap if you are close to boarding time.
Try very hard only to have one backpack. That way, you can wear the baby on the front and put your backpack on your back. Now your hands are free, and you can fit down the narrow isle of the airplane. Flying with an infant is a bit like playing Tetris.
At your gate, make sure you get a tag for your stroller and car seat if it is with you. Most airlines will call early boarding for people needing assistance or ones flying with an infant. Take advantage of this!!
When they call that, go get on. Have your baby on the front of you, push the stroller with your car seat and backpack down to the airplane’s door. That is where you will fold your stroller down and leave it.
If your car seat detaches and you want to put it in a large drawstring bag, now is the time. They put these items in the belly of the plane with all the other luggage. But when you get off the plane, it will be in the same spot waiting for you.
When you land, put the baby wearing device back on if you took it off. Get off the airplane the same way you got on.
If your connecting flight is close to your arrival gate, keep the baby on and throw your belongings in the stroller. You might have to do all kinds of things, including elevators and trams.
If you are anything like me, I want my baby as close to me as possible around strangers and unfamiliar settings. That way, my mind is free to figure out my next steps. I found it best to wear the baby through the connection. Watch your time. The flight will usually board 30 minutes before it leaves.
Always! Even at the top elevation, your ears pop. Always give your tiny tot a chance to pop their ears. I can’t stress enough how important it is for sanity purposes always to have them swallowing.
If you are flying with an infant internationally, this isn’t rational. Hopefully, in that case, you can reach a cruising comfort with sleep involved.
I took MY pillow from MY bed with MY pillowcase on it just like I would nurse at home. It was the most familiar feel and smelled for the baby while he was in an unfamiliar setting. I sat by the window. It gives a small amount of privacy if your baby doesn’t nurse under a nursing cover like mine.
If the person next to you has a problem with you nursing, tell them you don’t care. Truly! Stand your ground! They get to eat in public, your baby should too. You will never see that person again so let them have it.
I promise, most people won’t care. Most people on flights have had babies. They just want to be left alone and get off the airplane as soon as possible, just like you.
Loud On The Flight
After he fell asleep, I plugged his ear for the rest of the time he slept. No, it isn’t comfortable for me, but it’s important. The overhead speaker gets loud when the captain gets long-winded about the weather or the destination airport. It wakes babies up. And there is NO warning. He literally starts yelling for as long as he wants.
Finally, if your baby starts to lose their grip, don’t join them. Have 3 backup plans to offer. Just remember, the people around you have half of the hearing because of the pressure. So, your baby isn’t bothering them as much as you might think.
One time, my husband and I got caught during landing with nothing to offer our 5-month-old baby when he wouldn’t nurse. We had no water, food, nothing. Don’t do this.
They might refuse the breast because their ears hurt or they are mad, scared, or just curious. Have water or food ready to help their ears pop. Get up and walk around if the time is allowable.
If it doesn’t get better, ask a flight attendant to smile and coo at your baby. Strangers are sometimes what is needed to break their attention and get their mind straightened out. Then you can try their favorite food or toy again.
You will have a wonderful flight flying with your infant! And if you don’t, remember that it will all be over at this time tomorrow, and you will never see those people again. Do what is best for your baby and stay calm.
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Additional Reading You Might Enjoy:
11 Genius Baby Food Hacks You Haven’t Heard Yet
Flying With A Toddler; Post-Covid
Do you have any tips or tricks for flying with an infant? Let’s help each other out! Leave me a comment, I would love to hear from you!