When is it safe for babies be on flights?
Traveling with a baby is never an easy undertaking, most parents are apprehensive of boarding an airplane with a baby, some think it’s crazy. But many families travel by air with their babies every day. Most Airlines allow babies as young as two days to fly, some will require that your baby to be at least two weeks old and others will ask for a letter from your doctor attesting that your baby is in good health and fit to fly. If your baby was born premature, his lungs may be underdeveloped so ask your pediatrician to run tests on baby’s respiration before flying. In case the mother had the baby through a c-section, it is recommended she waits at least six weeks after delivery before flying.
Nevertheless, it is always advisable to wait until your baby is a few weeks old before flying. Airplanes are not the healthiest of places, most planes use recirculated air, germs circulate throughout the plane via the ventilation system. And a baby’s immune system is not strong enough to resist viruses and bacteria found on an airplane. Your baby could suffer from an ear infection due to changes in air pressure and altitude. Since babies easily get dehydrated, they need a lot of fluids on a flight.
If you want to ease your baby into a jet-setting and globe-trotting life, here are basic and essential tips for bringing them on board an airplane with no hassle.
The basic essentials checklist for bringing a baby on board an airplane
1. Bring an approved car seat
Baby in a car seat on a flight
A car seat is the most important travel gear you need when flying with a baby. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) recommends that young children should be restrained in an approved car seat or harness when flying. Babies under 40 pounds are recommended to be secured in car seats on airplanes. You could carry your baby in your arms but it is not the best option, as it is not very comfortable. Car seats are easy to transport and very practical when moving in crowded airports and taxis when you land. Make sure your seat is approved for use in vehicles and airplanes.
2. Pick the right flight
pick the best seat
When traveling with a baby, make sure you pick the right flight and the right seat. Consider your baby’s sleep schedule and choose a flight during your baby’s sleepiest time, even if it means flying at night. Avoid flights during peak periods, go for times with reduced crowds in airports and travel itinerary, so you could limit exposure to germs and have a much more pleasant experience. When picking a seat, go for front row and aisle seats, they give you enough room to stretch out, walk your baby and handle diaper changes.
3. Protection during turbulence
Baby during take-off
During a flight, the change in cabin pressure affects the ears and can trigger ear pain. To equalize the pressure in your baby’s ears, it is recommended to give your baby a bottle or a pacifier during take-off and landing. Breastfeeding is not forbidden but it’s usually not the recommended route so you should check the flight policy beforehand.
If the baby is sleeping during turbulence, you should fasten their seatbelt, or carry him with a moby wrap or a baby carrier, so your hands are free.
4. Plan for meals
Breastfeeding is the easiest way to nourish your baby on a flight, it can be done at any time with almost no restrictions. Bring along a cover to give you and your baby some privacy. According to the Transportation Security Administration(TSA), parents can travel with 3.4 ounces of fluid including breast milk, formula, juice or water as long as it is presented for inspection and x-ray at the security checkpoint.
For formula, make sure you pack an empty bottle and powder formula which is more portable, you can ask a flight attendant for warm water to mix a bottle for your baby.
5. Block germs
hand sanitizer gel
Babies are vulnerable to illness, a simple cold can become complicated and airplanes are not exactly a healthy environment. It is recommended to bring a breathable cover to act as a barrier between your baby and germs.
Wash your hands with soap and clean water every time you change diapers before you nurse your baby or prepare meals. In case clean running water is not available, use a sanitizer. Bring along a diaper changing kit that holds diapers, wipes, and everything you need to change your baby on any clean surface, even your lap if you can’t find a changing station.
Baby’s tiny nostrils will most likely become stuffed with the dry cabin air, bring a nasal saline solution to keep your baby comfortable.
Baby products available on flight that will make your life easier
1. Baby Bassinet
Most airlines provide a baby bassinet or basket to passengers with young ones upon request. A typical in-flight baby bassinet has a dimension of 27.5 inches long and 11 inches wide and can take up 10kg. It comes with a baby blanket and sometimes with a stuffed animal. Reservations must be done at least 24 hours before check-in. But the earlier the better because availability is not guaranteed.
2. Sky couch
baby in sky couch
This is a row of seats that can be extended to make a couch or bed for babies and infants of up to 2 years. It is available for an extra fee, airlines like Air New Zealand provide this service. It offers lots of space for your baby and legroom for the parent. Apply for this service no later than 96 hours prior to departure.
3. Disposable diapers
Baby disposable diapers
Disposable diapers are usually available in flight, although in most cases it is one size fits all and in limited quantity. Wet wipes and disposable bibs are also provided by most airlines. There’s also an in-flight changing station in the bathrooms to give you and your baby some privacy during diaper changes.
4. Baby Food
Baby eating on board
Generally, long-haul flights offer baby food, puree jars, fruit juice, yogurt, compote, cereals, and snacks for post weaning babies. American airlines do not offer this service but Middle Eastern and other Western airlines like Air France, Lufthansa, Emirates, Etihad, Qantas, Air Canada, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, British Airways and many more offer special baby meals. Make sure you order in advance and re-confirm 24 hours prior to departure.
5. Baby headphones and Essential oils
Baby with headphones
Baby headphones and Essential oils
Some airlines provide in-flight headphones for babies and toddlers, the also offer essential oils for your baby’s ears, for example, Air New Zealand offers Olbas oil to soothe baby’s ears from ache during take-off and landing.
on flight toys
Child-friendly entertainment varies from airline to airline but it’s always available. Some airlines have a dedicated baby Tv channel, cartoons, coloring books and crayons for toddlers, stuffed animals, balloons, Rubik's cubes and soft toys to entertain your baby. Emirates crew takes a souvenir picture of your baby wearing an Emirates hat, Gulf Air provides magic tricks and other fun activities depending on your child’s age.
7. Baby sling service
This is provided for parents who do not have a car seat and whose babies are too large for a bassinet. It gives them the freedom to carry a baby and still have their hands free to read a book or just relax.
8. Emergency baby bottles
baby formula on airplane
Baby formula is available in limited amounts, mostly for parents who run out of milk. Spare bottles are also available as well a heating service for pre-made bottles.
9. Baby Amenity Kit
This is a little bag containing essentials a baby might need on board, it has baby wipes, disposable bibs, baby lotion, baby powder, cotton buds, sunscreen, and toys. Gulf Air, in particular, is known for this service.
10. Free flying nannies
flying nannies on Emirates
Middle Eastern and Far East airlines provide the service of a nanny inflight. Etihad has free flying nannies who play with children, does face paintings, arts and crafts, magic tricks and games. Gulf Air has a childcare stewardess or sky nanny who entertains kids to give parents time to relax or take a nap.
Request for family seats with baby crib
front row family seat
As a general rule, children under 2 years can fly without a seat, you can carry them on your lap. But if you decide to get a seat, request for a baby bassinet or a cot, you have to do so well in advance. Request for a front row seat or a collapsible seat where you can place a cot or a bassinet. This is known as the G seat, it has plenty of room.
Most airlines require you to apply for this service when booking your flight and to confirm no later than 24 hours before departure. When requesting a family seat make sure you state your preferences and ask for other available accompanying services to ease your baby’s flight.
Now you know all that you need to take your baby globetrotting any time, this checklist covers the 4 main essential elements of eating, sleeping, hygiene and playing you need to consider when traveling with a baby. This list of baby travel gear available on a flight will make packing lighter and let you focus on the things you really need to bring on your travels. What are you waiting for? Start planning your next family trip.