13 Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant
Travel like a pro when you know what mistakes to avoid when flying with infants. As a flight attendant mom I have either made these mistakes or observed them on my flights. This post is the first of a two-part series. Every Tuesday I publish tips for flying. Be sure to check back next week for 13 more mistakes to avoid when flying with infants. Once you know these mistakes to avoid, you will feel confident and prepared when flying with infants.
1. Not Packing Enough
When you’re flying with infants you need a lot of stuff. That doesn’t mean you have to weigh yourself down with tons of extras, but you need to be prepared for all the many ways your travel day could change from what is expected. Always have a change of clothes for you, at least two sets of clothes for the baby, three times as many diapers as you think you will need, several bottles (if your baby is bottle fed), extra formula, and at least a liter of water (especially if you are nursing: hydration is so important). You never know when your two hour flight could become an unplanned overnight stay because of mechanical problems, severe weather, or flight diversions. Airport shops do not typically carry more than one size diaper (I usually see size 3) and baby formula is a very rare find. Click here for ideas on how to pack for infants on the plane.
2. Packing Too Much
While you want to be prepared for the many scenarios that may take place in your travel day, be reasonable with the items you pack. The best way to decide what you need or don’t need to pack is to lay everything out that you think you want to bring and then strike half of it. Especially clothes and shoes.
3. Walking the Aisles
Many people, including experienced family travel bloggers, will advise that you regularly walk the aircraft aisles with your baby. As a flight attendant mom I have the opposite advice. If you need to walk with your infant to help soothe him/her, that’s fine, but there are three major reasons you want to keep this to a minimum:
- Turbulence—As the airlines always emphasize, “turbulence can occur unexpectedly”. When the Captain turns off the seatbelt sign, it’s because there are not reports of turbulence from other aircraft ahead of yours. But that can, and does change regularly as the weather. Turbulence can be unpredictable. Even mild turbulence can be dangerous when you’re standing and holding your baby, since you don’t have free hands to grab onto anything for balance.
- Interference With Crew—The flight crew are typically busy in the aisles for much of the flight: serving beverages and meals, performing safety checks, picking up trash. It is difficult for them when there are a lot of people in the aisles. We flight attendants don’t mind people being out of their seats when necessary, and we will accommodate passengers, including moving the beverage and meal carts as needed, but the carts are heavy and difficult to maneuver. Also on shorter flights the crew may be rushing to get all passengers served, and having to move around passengers in the aisle can really throw off the service.
- Starting Expectations—Flight Attendant Heather Poole (author of Cruising Attitude) says that from day one of flying with her child she kept him in the car seat for the entire flight except for diaper changes. This made him a really great traveler when he was in those more difficult toddler years because he was accustomed to staying seated for most of the flight.
4. Loudly “Shushing” and “Clicking”
I don’t know if it’s just me, but sometimes the parent saying, “SHHH!!!” to calm down their baby is more irritating than the baby fussing. To me the “SHHH” just carries over any ambient noise of the aircraft and becomes an irritating noise I can’t ignore. If your infant needs a little extra soothing, I have found that using a soft “ch-ch-ch” instead seems to be less irritating to other passengers around you.
5. Over Stimulating Baby
Parents with a newborn tend to worry a lot about how the baby will behave on the plane. Sometimes the baby is fussing because he/she just wants to be left alone. Remember that there are so many new sights, smells, and sounds your baby is experiencing. It can be a lot to take in! Sometimes the best way to calm a fussy baby is to just be silent and still. Bouncing, talking, shushing, feeding, etc. might be overwhelming your infant’s senses. Remember that at home you have lots of times with an infant that are just rest and observe times. Your baby needs some breaks from sensory input in order to be able to relax. If nothing you are trying is helping your baby calm down, just try doing nothing but holding them and giving them a calm, quiet space.
6. Worrying About Ear Pressure
Ear pain from cabin pressure is probably the number one thing parents worry about for their children when flying. You will be happy to know that, as a flight attendant, I estimate I only see about 3% of children having difficulty with ear pressure in flight. Newborns and infants actually have less of a chance of experiencing ear pain than toddlers and older children because they don’t usually have congestion or inflammation in their ears. As children begin teething or experiencing frequent colds, they might experience more trouble clearing their ears in flight, but infants very rarely have issues with cabin pressure.
7.Waiting to Feed Baby
Many people advise timing the feeding of your baby with the plane’s ascent and descent in order to help the baby’s ears clear. As I just pointed out, the pressure is not usually an issue for most infants, and it is more important to keep your baby content by feeding him/her as needed. If you hold off, then your baby might get fussy before you even get started with the flight. Then your infant will be less able to handle other irritants, like ear pressure, should they experience them.
8. Waking Baby to Feed
Along the same lines as worrying about ear pressure, some people will tell you to wake up your baby an hour before landing in order to feed them so that their ears won’t hurt. Make it easier on yourself, your baby, and those around you. When your baby is hungry, feed him/her. When the baby is tired, let them sleep. If your baby is feeling discomfort due to air pressure then they will let you know by moving their jaw, making sucking motions, twisting and turning. Then you can offer milk or a pacifier, but waking a baby from a deep sleep is bound to make him/her fussy. You’ll hold tight to this rule in the coming months/years: Never wake a sleeping baby!
9. Buckling Infant in Your Own Seatbelt
I often see passengers who buckle their seatbelt around both their baby and themselves. This is very dangerous! If the aircraft hits severe turbulence in the air, or comes to a sudden stop on the runway, your body weight could crush the baby! The safest way to travel with an infant is with them in a car seat, but if you are holding them as a lap child, then hold them in your arms without strapping them to anything. I have heard that European Airlines have a seatbelt to attach to yours. It wraps around the baby and then has a loop to attach to the adult’s seatbelt. This is a very clever idea and I’m all for it! However in the United States it is not approved for use on the aircraft so even if you brought your own, you are not permitted to use it in flight. The flight attendants are required to enforce this FAA rule.
Did you know? In the United States, the FAA does not allow the baby to be in a chest carrier during takeoff and landing or when the seatbelt sign is off. Although you may get away with it on some flights if the flight attendants don’t notice, please comply if a flight attendant asks you to take the baby out of the carrier. The flight attendants are not trying to be mean, they are actually required to enforce this rule. If there is an FAA inspector on board and the flight attendant does not enforce the FAA rules and regulations, the flight attendant could face a personal fine!
10. Not Accepting Help When It’s Offered
One of the reasons I started my website, Cloud Surfing Kids, was to empower parents to feel confident in traveling with their children even when they are traveling on their own. I often fly by myself with my kids, and I take pride in being self sufficient and not needing to ask for help. I think it’s good to be capable of handling things on your own and it also gives you a great sense of accomplishment when you do. However, it is important to realize that you don’t have to do it all alone! If a kind passenger or flight attendant offers to hold your baby so you can go to the lavatory or get the car seat installed, or offers to carry a bag for you or something like that, accept their help! Everyone needs a break sometimes, and while you’re on the airplane your baby can’t be taken very far from you, so it’s not like handing your baby to a stranger in a public setting. Sometimes just five minutes with the baby out of your arms can rejuvenate you enough to deal with whatever the rest of the day brings.
11. Bringing Noisy Toys
Those cute infant toys with rattles in them? Books that squeak? Leave them at home or pack them in your checked luggage. There is plenty of stimulation on the airplane without them and all they will do is irritate other passengers.
12. Playing Shows/Games/Books With Sound
This one goes along with number 11. Most airlines actually have a rule: “When using anything with audio, use headphones or turn off the volume.” Even at a low volume, the sound of shows and games really spreads further through the cabin than you would expect. It is just inconsiderate to those around you to use these items without earphones. Of course your infant is unlikely to tolerate earphones. When my daughter was an infant, she quite enjoyed watching Baby Einstein videos even without volume. You could also try just showing your baby pictures on your phone. If that still doesn’t work for your baby then move on to other distractions.
13. Bringing Baby into Galley
Babies are unpredictable. Spit up happens. Spit up and food service don’t mix. You wouldn’t bring a baby into a restaurant kitchen, so don’t bring the baby into to galley. Flight attendants aren’t being mean if they ask you not to stand there with your baby or if they don’t allow you to change your baby’s diaper on the galley floor. It’s important to keep the food service area clean.
Do you agree with this list? What would you add? I have 13 more mistakes to avoid coming next Tuesday. Stay tuned!
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