Parenting a difficult baby can be a tough job, and the thought of flying with your baby probably makes your breakout in a cold sweat. If this is you then this article is written just for your situation, read on to find out the extra tips you need for flying with a fussy baby.
Tips for flying with a hard to settle baby
This advice is for those of you that have fussy and hard to settle babies. Maybe you’ve been warned just “don’t do it.” Or reassured that flying with a baby is easy.
Flying with a baby is often much better than what you might believe.
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But it is a reality that there are some babies who throw up more challenges and keep their already overtired parents constantly on their toes. The thought of taking your first flight with your baby may be sending you into a panic.
Please don’t feel I am negatively judging your baby. Having a baby that takes more effort to settle and tends to cry a lot is a normal variant, it does not mean there is anything wrong with your child or that they will continue to cry and fuss as they get older.
If you have any concerns that your child might have a medical condition causing their crying or you are having any thoughts of harming yourself or baby please see your doctor. For more information on postpartum depression please click here.
A certain amount of crying and fussing is to be expected in babies and usually decreases over time. Some babies seem to hardly cry and fuss while others seem to be constantly upset. Both of these babies can be healthy and thriving falling well within the normal range.
If you have a fussy difficult baby it is always worthwhile to speak with your doctor and ask for a check-up especially if there has been a sudden change in temperament.
For a baby that is otherwise thriving, there is usually no underlying cause for crying and you can be reassured that it is safe and fine for you to fly with your baby.
Tips for flying with a colicky or fussy baby
1. Bring along someone to help with the baby on the flight
Bring along someone to help you. If you are planning on flying with a fussy baby an extra pair of hands is always worthwhile.
Having someone to hold your baby while you freshen up, go to the bathroom and eat some food will make the trip a lot easier.
A person to share the experience with also helps mentally, and feeling more relaxed will definitely pass on to your baby.
2. Have someone meet you at the airport
Whether or not you are able to take another adult with you on the trip having someone that can meet you in the terminal and take you to your destination is very helpful.
If you don’t have family or friends that can collect you use a pick-up service. Many private transfer services will meet you at arrivals and help with luggage at your destination.
Check trip-advisor for a reputable company, prearrange car seats and shop around since prices can vary a lot.
3. Consider the time of your flight
Some babies are very unsettled during the witching hours often starting at around 5 pm. If this is the case for your baby avoid travelling at this time.
The best time for you will be very individual. For a baby that falls asleep in the car flying during nap time might be ideal.
For those that aren’t good at napping on the go, a mid-morning flight might be best.
A baby that is very hard during the night is going to be a lot harder to keep entertained on a night flight when the lights are dimmed and everyone else is trying to sleep.
People are more tolerant during daytime flights and while what others think shouldn’t be our main concern it is a tough-skinned mamma that can ignore the shushing and glares from fellow passengers trying to sleep on an overnight flight.
4. Should I purchase an extra seat for my baby?
If you can afford to purchase an extra seat it is very much worthwhile.
Having an extra seat means you can bring a car seat for baby to sit in. This is the safest way for babies to travel on a plane. It also means you have a safe place to put your baby while you organise yourself or have something to eat.
Even if you do not take a car seat having the extra space means no one else will be sitting directly next to you, baby can stretch and kick without having to worry about encroaching on someone else’s space, you have room to place a bag and can easily grab things when you need them.
5. Request mobility assistance.
At some airports mobility assistance is readily available to be utilised by families travelling with young children.
Carts can be provided to transfer between gates and help with carrying luggage can be provided.
Fast track through security and passport control may be available.
Call the airline and check the airport website for more details.
Sometimes it is just a matter of presenting at the assistance counter and at other airports, assistance needs to be arranged a few days before.
These services aren’t always advertised well so it might take some detective work to find out what is available.
6. Keep moving while waiting for your plane
Even the best baby will get bored sitting at the gate waiting for the plane. Movement helps to settle the nervous system of both you and baby.
Walk baby around the airport in a baby carrier or stroller using. Let baby stretch and kick on a mat on the floor. Look for a play area where a crawling baby can safely explore.
Wash hands well after visiting play areas or touching airport surfaces.
7. Should I do preboarding when flying with a difficult baby?
There have been a number of times when we have been called forward for family preboarding only to be herded into a corner to wait another 30 minutes.
If you have arrived at the gate on time, you will not need to board early to have enough time to organise yourself and baby before take off.
The only advantage to preboarding is ensuring you get enough space in the overhead locker. Otherwise preboarding just means more time sitting in a confined space trying to keep your baby happy.
8. Have something for baby to suck and swallow during take-off and landing
Have something ready that baby can suck on when taking off and landing, this helps to clear the ears which can be uncomfortable for babies who don’t naturally know how to clear the ears themselves.
This could be a dummy, breast, wet washcloth, clean finger, a bottle of milk or water or age-appropriate food.
Descent prior to landing is often worse than accent after take-off. The action of swallowing added to sucking can help relieve pain better than sucking alone so even if baby has been fine with just a dummy on the way up, have some food or drink available in case more relief is needed on the way down.
Remember you won’t be able to get up and get items from the overhead bins during take-off and landing so ensure you have a small satchel with everything you might need within reach.
9. Consider the days before the flight
Try to consider what activities you are doing in the lead-up to the flight. Schedule any vaccinations or routine doctors visits at least a week prior to flying. Some children get a little more irritable after vaccinations and medical waiting rooms are a petri dish for coughs and colds.
Though if your baby has had a recent illness or cold consider taking them to the doctor for a check-up, this can serve as reassurance nothing is physically wrong.
Avoid disrupting bubs schedule with new activities or late nights. As much as possible stick to your regular routine.
Get plenty of fresh air and sunlight, getting out into nature decreases stress hormones so has benefits for you and baby.
10. Can I give medications to help baby settle on the flight?
Disclaimer: The following is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Read the full disclaimer here.
Some people might tell you to give sedating medications like Phenergan to encourage baby to sleep. These medications are not recommended for children under 2 years. Even in older kids, it can potentially slow breathing and in the low oxygen environment of an aeroplane cause a dangerous drop in blood oxygen levels.
If baby has had a recent viral illness and has a bit more nasal congestion than usual you could consider using saline nasal drops to help loosen any secretions and make it easier to breathe.
For ear pain during take-off and landing analgesics like paracetamol/Tylenol or ibuprofen/Motrin/Advil can be helpful. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for the right dose for your child. These medications should only be given if there is an indication for pain relief, ‘just in case’ dosing should be avoided even if flying with a fussy baby.
11. Use a baby carrier
Carrying your fussy baby in a carrier is a blessing for getting through the airport with ease. This keeps your hands free to deal with passport control and luggage.
The close contact provided by wearing a baby increases the calming hormone oxytocin.
On the plane, the carrier can be used while seated to hold your sleeping baby, help position for feeding or standing in the aisles walking and bouncing to help calm your baby.
There are many different types of baby carriers and it is worthwhile getting your baby accustomed to being in a carrier before the flight. Look for a local baby carrying group, they often have demonstrations and different styles that can be tried to find a suitable one for you.
These are tips for flying with a fussy baby, read more tips that will benefit everyone flying with an infant in this post.