Survive Your Little One's First Flight

The plane is done climbing into the sky and you're just starting to relax when, with no warning, it begins. "Waaaa," wails your infant.

What's the best way to survive that first flight with your little one without going crazy?

Experts say it's best to go into the trip knowing that there are some things that are just out of your control, including how often your child cries and how other passengers are going to react. Parents need to plan ahead and then be prepared to focus their energy on soothing, distracting, or comforting their child during the flight.

Here are some suggestions to make your flight less stressful:

• Book a direct, nonstop flight. If possible, have it coincide with your child’s regular sleep schedule.

• Buying a separate seat for baby can cut your "frazzle factor." If you do so, bring a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight, and height of your child that meets the standards for aircraft. A bulkhead seat, if the plane has one, provides a little extra room, but does not have space for under seat storage.

• Allow extra time to go through the security screening process. If you’re bringing bottled breast milk or formula, jarred baby food, or liquid-filled teethers, separate these from your other carryon items and let screening personnel know you have them.

• Find out the airline's policies for infants and children in advance. Ask about pre-boarding for families, which can help get you settled in your seats more quickly.

• Strollers can often be rolled to the aircraft door and then gate-checked as a piece of luggage.

• Give your baby something to suck on (like a bottle or pacifier) during takeoff and initial descent (when the pressure change is most noticeable) to help prevent painful ear pressure changes.

• Bring a carry-on bag stocked with essentials. Include extra absorbent diapers, wipes, favorite "comfort objects" (blanket, stuffed animals, teethers), a change of clothing for baby, and extra shirts for parents in case of spills.

• The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends consulting with your pediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant who has chronic heart or lung problems or with upper or lower respiratory symptoms, or if flying within two weeks of an episode of an ear infection or ear surgery.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jovino, Louise DO

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

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