Travelling with a Baby: some tips for flying

So now that we have done our trip to Florida over Christmas when Maya was 3 months, and our recent trip to Puerto Rico for my girlfriend’s wedding when Maya was 6 months (we got lucky with hot vacay’s this winter!), I feel like I can pass on some tips and tricks for flying with a baby. I’m definitely no expert, but both were long enough travel days and used different airlines, so I feel like we had a bit of variety in our experience. Some were nighttime flights, some were daytime ones, and all had connections.

I was definitely nervous before going, but in the end found it not to be too bad. Here was some of the stuff that worked for us.


When we booked our tickets, we chose a window and aisle seat fairly close to the back of the plane. We did this because the middle seat is always the last one selected, so we figured if there were by chance some empty seats on the flight, a middle one (especially near the back) is the most likely to be left open. On all the flights we went on we asked when we were checking in if the flight was full – and the answer was always yes. So we assumed that we would have someone sitting in between us and would just ask them if they wanted the window instead (and we would take the middle and aisle). Who’s going to *want* a middle seat over a window anyway, right? But just as a double check measure, when we got to the gate, we would go up and ask again if the flight was full. And you know what? For about half of our flights, it turned out it wasn’t entirely full, and they were able to do a little switcharoos and give us that empty middle seat. The extra room makes such a nice difference to give the baby somewhere to sit and move around. We even got Maya to fall asleep lying down in the seat on a few flights! So lesson learned? Always check again at the gate. Those folks seem to be able to have more control over the seat selection.


This might seem obvious, but board the plane early to ensure that you get enough space in the overhead bins. All flights give priority boarding to first class travellers, but most will also allow families, elderly, and others who require assistance to board early. Take advantage of it. You really don’t want one of your bags in the overhead bin 10 rows behind you or something.


We tried to get Maya to sleep anytime we were waiting around in the airport — connections, waiting for flight, etc. She is usually able to fall asleep in the stroller or the carrier if you walk around for long enough, so we took that time to just walk walk walk, until she had nodded off. We knew that sleeping on the plane would be more difficult, so it was important to catch as many zzz’s for her in the airport. Any schedule you might have at home for naptime sort of goes out the window when you’re flying, so for us we just tried to get her to sleep whenever we could. The more sleep, the happier the babe.

Once on the plane, we ended up getting her to sleep a few different ways. When we had the empty middle seat we would lie her down with some cozy blankets all around, and then give her a bottle and sing quietly until she nodded off. You obviously need to stay alert when they are sleeping like this though, as you can’t let them roll around! We also used the carrier and had her fall asleep in it, but we found it to be a bit uncomfortable to sit in after a while. Because of that, we would instead hold her facing outwards or inwards (whichever she preferred) and went to the back of the plane to bounce a little. I would just go and stand behind the bathrooms where the hosts/hostesses are. They were always super friendly. This usually made her sleepy and then we would go back to our seats, sit down carefully, and she would stay asleep. It’s not the best because then your arms aren’t really free to do anything else, but if you just want to put your head back and try to doze a little yourself, it’s not bad.

One of the things I totally would’ve used if we had the opportunity are those attachable bassinets that some airlines have. None of our flights had them, but if you are flying with a baby then I would definitely call the airline ahead of time and see if you can swing one of those. You sit up in the first row and the bassinet attaches to the wall in front of the seats. I think the weight limit is pretty limited (15 pounds rings a bell?), but it’s definitely worth checking into.

Take off/Landing

So funnily enough I was told by the stewardesses that I couldn’t wear the carrier during take-off, and then that wearing the carrier is a great position, and then getting absolutely no instruction – all depending on which airline I flew with. There clearly aren’t any hard and fast rules on this. For the most part, I think that holding the baby in an upright position (like a burping position) is the way to go – so wearing the carrier is actually perfect for this. Only once was I asked to take off the carrier — so I just undid the arm straps, but kept the middle all done up. Then during take off and landing I would just sing quietly to Maya in her ear. This seemed to distract her enough and she was happy as a clam. If your baby is a soother baby, I would pop one in as a distraction, and in case it helped with the ear popping. I also had a bottle at the ready, and wouldn’t have hesitated to adjust my holding position with her a bit to be able to pop it in, had she started to fuss. If you are breastfeeding, I would be ready to quickly get out a boob! The flight staff are going to be sitting down themselves during take off and landing and won’t actually be able to see you. I would do whatever works to calm your baby, as long as you are holding them securely in case of turbulence.

What to pack

In terms of what to have in your diaper bag, we kept it pretty simple: diapers + wipes with a portable changing pad, 1 big muslin blanket, 2 changes of clothes (layers so it was easy to put on/remove if the plane was hot or cold, or if things got messy), a couple of favourite toys, a soother, a couple of bibs, and several bottles (however many were required for the length of travel). We always put Maya in a clean diaper before boarding each flight, to try to minimize having to change her on the plane. Changing on the flight is do-able, but not the easiest in those small bathrooms.

We had the diaper bag with most of those things in it, plus the things that I wanted for myself on the plane (it doubled as my purse), so it was all at-the-ready. Then we had a small suitcase as the other carry-on with other things that we didn’t think we would need on the flight: one of the change of clothes, all of my pumping gear, extra formula, extra diapers, etc. That way you can have the diaper bag on the floor where you are sitting, and the other in the overhead bin, and don’t need to mess about on the flight trying to get things.

Bottle Feeding and Baby Food

Breastfeeding is obviously a lot easier if you’re travelling, but if that isn’t an option for you like it wasn’t for me, you’ll be happy to hear that with a bit of planning it really wasn’t a big deal to bottle feed during our travel. It wasn’t a problem in any airport we went through to have bottles that were already full with water, or to bring liquid formula. For when we did water, we just measured out the right amount of water in each bottle and sealed it. Don’t do bottles that are too huge, because you need to throw out what the baby doesn’t drink — no fridge to put it in and save for next time. Then we had pre-measured amounts of powdered formula in a plastic container (like this one) that were ready to mix in and shake. We didn’t want to have to rely on getting water from the hostesses during flights just in case we were in a pinch. If it were a long flight though, we could’ve done that. Since the water had been sitting out, it was at room temperature, which is how Maya drinks her bottles. If you needed to warm them up, I’m sure you could ask the hostess for some warm water to dunk the bottle into.

We also had some jars of baby food with us, and again this wasn’t a problem to take through security. Just get it out when you are going through the conveyor and the guards will run in through a test thing. No biggie. We tried to feed Maya actual food before boarding – we would just hit up an airport restaurant with a high chair. We figured it would just be too messy on the plane.

[Note: Mixie also has these bottles if you want to skip the separate formula containers. – Amy]


One of my best tips? Travel with grandparents. Man those two can seriously help a girl out. I even got to read a gossip magazine or two like the BB (“before baby”) travel days. The best!



The Mile-High Milk Club – A Guide To Flying With Breastmilk

Note: While the FAA doesn’t require a seat for your child, they do strongly recommend one. If there is turbulence or a runway emergency your arms just aren’t going to cut it so it’s recommended that all children use a child restraint from birth to 40 pounds. This can be an approved car seat (it needs to have “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft” printed on it) or a safety harness if your child is over 22lbs.

Listen, I totally recognize this is a large cost implication here. I know there are people that will squawk “well, then just don’t fly if you can’t afford the extra seat” but we all know that it’s rarely that simple.

It’s just worth noting and something worth checking out. You can find some more information here and here.


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  • I agree with the flight attendants comment about the carrier and I took the comment the same way about the flight attendants being seated and not seeing it, not the way Amy took it. That’s not cool. OP – just because it seemed hit or miss doesn’t mean it’s not a rule it’s just that not all airline employees know it. It’s definitely a FAA rule as the FA said.

    I agree with another poster about having multiple extra outfits especially with babies who’d spit up or have blow outs.

    My tip is DONT WAKE THEM for take off and landing because you think it might bother their ears, if they’re sleeping. It might have no effect on them at all! It didn’t for mine. So if they’re asleep roll with it.

    I also don’t take toys because they’re SUPER annoying to try to pick up off the floor in those cramped spaces in those small airplane seats.

    I always buy baby a ticket once they are mobile because they won’t want to stay in my lap for hours and I don’t really want to fight them on it. Not to mention for safety. It’s more runway accidents than the plane falling out of the sky you need to be concerned with. When you do start taking your car seat make sure it’s FAA approved and PRACTICE installing it via seat belt and also practice your set up for getting through the airport. I use a car seat cart. But get comfortable with assembling it and disassembling it to make it quicker when you get there.

    Lisa Peek
    Parent and Travel Baby Gear Rentals

  • Baby needs their own seat because they need to be in their car seat! If the airlines have to buckle in the peanuts and the coffee pot, why would you not want to buckle in your baby? This precaution is not for the random “plane falling from the sky” scenario, but the ALL TOO COMMON turbulence issues and runway accidents. Turbulence is enough to cause adults to be thrown from their seat if not buckled in, so imagine what would happen to an unbuckled baby. And no. You can’t hold on to baby during these instances. The law of physics makes it impossible. The speed of the plane plus the mass (weight) of the baby increases the forces pulling on baby. If the plane is involved in a runway accident, fore example, the speed is around 200mph for take-off and landing. Even if they are accelerating or decelerating at the time, and not up to full speed, this is still much greater than the force of a car crash. a 200 mph plane and a 20 pound baby means you’re trying to hold on to a 4000 pound baby in the event of a crash. And your baby carrier turns the baby into your air bag in these cases. So, buy baby a seat and use their car seat, or rethink the plane trip.

  • We just had a first trip with our second one and what we have found helpful with both include using a baby carrier to get through security (and having a travel stroller that easily collapses to go through the belt for gate check), breastfeeding with a feeding on the take off and, if they are awake, during landing. I also got different answers regarding wearing the baby carrier in each flight, but best results when she stayed in it! I will warn, with our older child, when she was old enough to sit in a car seat on a plane, the car seat was almost too big for the seat and her feet kept kicking the seat in front unintentionally.

  • Currently we are in Peru and flew with our 4 month old, 3 year old, 6 year old and 8 year old. I requested a bassinet and thankfully got not only a basinett but an empty seat on either side of me. It was a dream. The max weight is 25lbs.
    We’ve flown to Uganda with our oldest two when they were 2&4 years and then to Spain (from Uganda) with our 2yo,4yo and 4 month old (twice) and then back to Canada when our third child was 9 months. Lots of flights! Have had mostly good experiences but a couple hairy ones (like where my baby spat up on a man in a suit I was passing on my way to the restroom to change his diaper! ???).
    Overall, I say fly with your kids! And definitely pack an extra set of clothes. 🙂

  • One thing to add, be sure to check the airline’s policy about traveling with an infant. I just flew with my 4-month old and the airline’s policy did not count the diaper bag or the pump towards the carry-on allowance. More to carry, sure, but I liked being able to have my own bag.

  • I just flew a 4 hour flight with my 5 month old daughter. One thing I found extremely helpful is to have a "diaper clutch" instead of bringing your entire diaper bag with you to the bathroom for changes.

    Included a few diapers, bum cream, wipes, and plastic bags (Air Canada required diapers to be in plastic bags to dispose of them in the trash). Plastic bags also came in handy for that dirty change of clothes! I slid it into the diaper bag and could just take that out when going to the bathroom to change her.

    Thankfully Air Canada has change tables (quite large, actually) in their bathrooms. I walked the aisles with her for part of the flight to calm her a few times, but it was never an issue.

    I wore her in the Ergo through the airport and through security, onto the plane, and just took her out of it when the cabin door closed (as per their rules, but I think all airlines are different). Breastfed on ascent and descent (if she would take it, she gets mad if I offer and she’s not hungry. Haha!)

  • I’ve flown over 15,000 miles with my now 4 month old.

    I like using the carrier when going through security or boarding the plane (so you have two hands). Sometimes I even put my bag in the stroller and her in the carrier and it’s easier to get through security and fold up the stroller.

    Delta no longer allows preboarding for infants. Which is odd because they say "if you need more time to board, board now" and then turn away anyone with infants.

    United if you ask for a "bassinet" they will be really tricky and say they got you a bassinet. Then when you’re on the plane and realize you are not in a bassinet seat, they will give you a box to put your baby under your feet (under the seat in front of you). It’s hard enough to pick up a piece of paper from the floor, much more a floppy baby!

    I also pack at least 3 changes of clothing and a couple extra onesies. I think my baby tries to see how many outfits she can blow out while at the airport.

    I also change her before we go on the plane and right when we get off the plane. Especially when we are meeting someone at the airport or have a car ride after the airport.

    And honestly, it’s not that bad when they’re little. It’s just like hanging out on your couch for a few hours with the baby….you play, feed, they sleep in your arms, they cry a little bit (but it’s not as loud because of the plane noise).

  • My best advise is try to go with the flow and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The worst flight we had was one where I was nervous and tired. Baby fed off that energy. Also, our fellow passengers have always been kind and understanding because WE were kind and understanding. A woman offered us her travel pillow and snacks. One gentleman kindly held my (much deserved) glass of wine while I took baby for a diaper change.

  • Thank you, and all the commenters, for this. We have to make a 12 hour flight in a few months, when baby will be about 5 months old, and are worried about the whole experience. These tips are very helpful. For an added level of fun, we’re also traveling (well, moving internationally) with our small dog who is too nervous to be "checked luggage", and will be coming on as carry-on. And there’s an unavoidable connection… Oi, just typing this out is giving me stress hives. We must be insane.

  • Gotta admit I’m kind of scared. We will be flying in January when the baby will be 8 mo and then again in May, plus we’ll have our 5yo. Luckily the flight is only about 3.5 hours, but I’m nervous anyway. Thanks for all the tips!

  • And just to let you know, once your baby is a bit older, the ONLY advice that works is this:

    Hang on for dear life.

    I’m not even kidding, on our recent flight from the UK to New Zealand I was puked on twice by the 1 year old and the two year old damn near shattered the windows screaming that she didn’t want to be belted in for landing.

    Otherwise, all good tips guys, all good tips

  • Flew to France with a 7 months old round trip.
    Agreed on the gate staff. They’re the best! We had requested a bassinet but were told they were not available, we asked again at the gate and were able to get it. It made our lives much easier on an overnight trip. There is a weight limit but still. It was more comfortable for our daughter and us.

    I’d recommend to hide toys that they love a couple weeks ahead and pull them out for the flight, it makes them almost new to a baby. Although we found that the plastic cup was just as entertaining.

    We had no issues with either take off or landing, I was ready to nurse if needed but baby did fine. You can always bring a pacifier if your baby takes one.

    Our flight attendant brought us a small safety belt that attaches to your to put around the baby on most of our flights for take off and landing.

  • I think placing a baby on an empty seat is very unsafe. Any bad turbulence and your child is going to go flying. Of course, this could still happen if you’re holding your child too, but I certainly wouldn’t take that chance. I traveled with a travel boppy pillow and put that on my lap and my child on that. She was super comfy, and I was reassured. When my child got to be a year old and wasn’t happy chilling in our laps (she wanted to get down and run), we lugged her car seat onboard and strapped her in.

  • Couple things from an airline employee that travels with the little one at least once a month.
    The best part of preboarding is that you don’t have to try to lug the baby and all your stuff past people. If I’m not traveling with any helpers (hubby or grandma) it is tough to try to balance baby and suitcase and diaper bag. Preboarding gives you more room to maneuver.
    We prefer the window and middle seat on full flights because it’s a little quieter and more closed off for baby. This way you have control of the window shade, so you can keep it dark if it’s nap time. Also as they get older it’s a little easier to keep baby wrangled in. As they get over access to the aisle can make them want to take off (pun totally intended). Plus, I find it more comfortable for me when I can lean against the wall, especially of baby is asleep.
    Even if you don’t buy a seat for your child, if there are any open seats, sometimes the gate agents can rearrange you so that you can use the car seat on board! It has to be in a window seat, but for the child it’s so much easier because they’re usually more comfortable that way, and as they get older it’s more familiar.
    Every airline is different, as far as FAA rules, however, these rules are follower by all airlines. It’s an FAA rule that a carrier or a sling can not be used at take off and landing. It’s for the babies safety, which I would think would be a top priority for every parent. You’re totally allowed to use it any other time, but just like how your seat back and tray table have to be up during take off and landing, your baby needs to be held by you. You can totally bottle feed or breastfeed during this time, just as long as they aren’t in a carrier or swing. I usually breast feed, because sometimes they’re most likely to fall asleep, especially the little bitty babies.
    One last tip, pay attention to the approximate time they’ll start boarding. About 10 minutes before that, change the diaper! Even if they’re only a little wet, especially if it’s a longer flight! Trying to change a baby on a plane is tough. A lot have "changing tables" in the lav, but they’re still small and tough to maneuver.

    Side note: I’m a little irritated at the above statement "The flight staff are going to be sitting down themselves during take off and landing and won’t actually be able to see you." That is super disrespectful of the people trying to keep you and your fellow passengers safe. Keeping your baby safe is more important than anything, so keep the baby out of of the sling or carrier until it’s safe.

    • Those are awesome tips, thank you!!!

      As for the flight staff statement, I think she means if you’re shy about whipping a boob out in front of people as opposed to breaking the safety rules — at least that’s how I read it.

      Thanks again for the wonderful insight!

  • Thank you! This is perfect – we’re flying to France next week with our 5mo and she’s just started teething and I’m kind of dreading the flight…but we’re meeting one set of grandparents on the other side of the plane so yay! Fit right in with this advice.

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