A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

The 7 Worst Mistakes Parents Make When Flying with Their Baby

Veteran parents share the in-flight fails that taught them how to keep baby comfortable and happy for her first ride on an airplane.

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Forgetting to check with your doctor first

When can you fly with a baby? According to webmd.com, age isn’t a huge factor. Still, if you have a newborn less than 2 months old, you should check with your doctor first before buying tickets. Babies need time to develop their immune system, which is why not all babies may be ready for air travel. A pediatrician can say whether or not your baby is ready and counsel you on any precautions you should be taking.

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Being unprepared for take-off and landing

Chaunie Brusie, a mom of four, said the biggest mistake you can when flying with a baby is not anticipating the changes in cabin pressure that happen during take-off and landing. Even if your baby falls asleep, wake him up to offer coping mechanisms in advance, rather than having him wake up in the middle of the descent to popping ears, Brusie warns. “The change in cabin pressure results in middle ear discomfort in infants,” explains Jacqueline Romanies, DC, Family and Pediatric Chiropractor at Dr. Matt’s Wellness Center. “This is why during take off and landing you often hear a little one crying on the plane. Encourage the infant to feed or suck on a pacifier to help keep the ears more comfortable and to equalize the pressure.” Traveling with a child is among the best times to check your baggage.

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Not packing a change of clothes

It might be a no-brainer to pack extra onesies for baby, but they’re not the only ones who might need a back-up outfit. “Don’t make the mistake of only bringing a change of clothes for the baby,” warns Kelly Burch, mom of one. “Babies plus low pressure equals enough poop to ruin both baby and mom’s outfits.” When you pack your carry on, make sure you grab a change of clothes for everyone who will be caring for the baby. Of course, don’t forget a few extra Ziploc bags for soiled clothes just in case. And avoid changing dirty diapers on the tray table—it’s one of those airplane etiquette rules you just need to follow. If you don’t you could get banned from flying.

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car seat

Skipping a baby seat

Babies under age 2 fly for free on mom or dad’s lap on most airlines, but that doesn’t mean you should assume that is the best option for your family. Both Jennifer Walker and Gretchen Bossio, moms and seasoned travelers, suggest taking the car seat with you and buying your baby an airline ticket whenever possible. Especially if they’re mobile, it is good to have a convenient way to keep kids in their seat. You might also want the car seat once you reach your destination. Renting kids’ gear is an option in many cities, but getting stuck without a car seat if one isn’t available, is a total drag, not to mention potentially dangerous.

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Boarding too early

Some airlines give families the option to board first so they can take their time getting settled in their seats. This sounds amazing in theory, but it could be a bad choice if you have kids who have a hard time sitting still or if you’re trying to time a nap. “We did this once and never again,” says Katie Anne, mom of two. “For us, it was better to actually board last and give the kids extra time to run around. Also, less time in a small space with toddlers.”

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Traveling infrequently

“Travel as much as possible so they get used to it,” encourages Jennifer Walker, mom of two. “It makes trips so much better!” It may seem easier to avoid traveling until your kids are older, but traveling more frequently is best if you have the opportunity. Regular trips give your children the chance to practice flying, and it gives parents a chance to get used to bringing a baby or toddler along on trips. If you’ve got a toddler, it’s a good idea to prepare for tantrums.

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Stressing out

“The mistake was worrying ahead of time, honestly,” said Kelly Burch, mom of one. “Babies just want to sleep and eat, and our baby was great on the flight. Even if she had fussed, there is so little you can do.” Stressing in advance serves zero purpose, according to Mark Henick, a mental health advocate. “One of the biggest mistakes that parents make is being too concerned with what others on the plane think,” says the father of two. “At first, you feel like everyone is watching and judging you. That makes you parent differently, more anxiously, which your baby picks up on. The most useful skill I’d recommend practicing is mindful awareness,” he adds. “Be present with your child and remind yourself that babies cry, that’s OK; you’re doing your best.” Here are the reassuring signs that your baby trusts you.