Having a baby is a major life change, but for some, it's not as scary as the prospect of air travel with infants. New parents face a big adjustment in their traveling style.
The addition of a third person who is completely dependent on you can make you feel like you've never traveled before. But planning, patience and extra time can make the trip a lot less stressful.
Preparation is Key
Successful air travel with infants requires a well thought out action plan. That plan begins long before you get to the airport. If at all possible, try to schedule your flight during your baby's nap or down time. Easier said than done, but if it's an option, take it.
Non-stop flights can be better, but even more so when you have a baby who could wake up if you have to change planes. If you can afford it, book a separate seat for your baby.
Check in on line and print your boarding passes from home before you leave for the airport. Bring plenty of diapers and wipes, a change of clothes for your child, and an extra shirt for you just in case.
Expect delays! Pack as many diapers as you think you will need, then add more. It's much better to have extras than to be on the plane and have to improvise or go without.
Figure out the best way for you to carry your baby through the airport. Slings without metal are a great hands-free option. Travel systems with a car seat are also a good choice.
At the Airport
Get to the airport early! One sure way to add stress to the situation is to be behind schedule. Once your bags are checked, take the time to organize everything before you get to the security lines.
Have tickets, ID and boarding passes ready. Get everyone's things on the belts before you take your child out of the stroller. Many airports now have family lanes with extra staff available to assist parents. Take advantage of that opportunity.
Baby formula, food and breast milk are exempt from the standard TSA 3-1-1 rules for liquids. Bring enough to get you through the trip, but not so much that it could cause problems at security.
After security is also the time to stock up on snacks, drinks and other items. Bring an empty sippy cup or bottle and fill it with water or juice in the terminal. Before boarding is also the time to make sure diapers are changed and you have more than enough for the flight.
On the Flight
Many airlines allow those traveling with children to board early. This is one of the traps of air travel with infants. Boarding early allows time to stow everything and get situated, but it also means you're on the plane for 30 minutes or more before it takes off.
If you're traveling with another person, send them onboard first with everything but your child. They can get everything put away, install a car seat, and get everything situated before you get on board. This allows you to board very late with minimal waiting before the flight takes off.
Offer your baby a pacifier or bottle to suck on to help them pressurize their ears during takeoff and also as you land.
Bring enough toys to get your baby through the flight, but ration them one at a time until they lose interest. If you offer multiple toys at once, they may become fussy and you won't have many options left.
If your child has an issue, do your best to ignore those around you and stay calm. Stress and embarrassment can be high but your child is screaming for a reason. Maybe they're scared or their ears hurt. Keep cool and speak softly to calm your child down. Your infant is your concern right now, not the people in the next row. People will complain, but that's their problem not yours.
Once the flight lands, allow the other passengers to deplane first. This will give you the opportunity to clean up and make sure you haven't left anything behind while not having to worry about blocking the aisle. Again, if you have a travel partner, it may be best for you and the baby to deplane first and have your partner pack the rest of your things.