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Airplane travel with baby (Part 4): On the airplane

20040825152022-0In the last instalment in our Airplane Travel with Baby series, parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley shares her tips on how to make your time on the plane with a baby or toddler stress-free, warming baby milk on the plane, changing baby’s nappy on the airplane, and what to do about those little ears.

  • To help your baby’s ears adjust to changes in cabin pressure, encourage swallowing during takeoff and landing. You can do this by breastfeeding, or offering a bottle or pacifier (dummy). Toddlers can take a drink, nibble on crackers, or suck on a lollipop. (Look for those without a gum or chewy center, which can present a choking hazard.) Use the feeling in your own ears to determine when to give your baby something to swallow, or feed your baby when you see the flight attendants preparing the cabin for takeoff or landing. If your baby is sleeping soundly, don’t feel you need to awaken him; he’ll be fine.
  • Flying in an airplane can cause dehydration, which occurs much more quickly in a child than with an adult. Keep your baby well hydrated with water, juice, or milk.
  • Changing nappies can be a real challenge. Some airplanes have changing tables, but these are typically very small, and while great for newborns a tricky challenge for bigger babies. You can ask the flight attendant for the best place for changing. A small baby can be changed on your lap on or the pull-down tray table. (Be sensitive to the people seated near you if you do this.) Some airlines will allow you to use the flight attendant’s jump-seat; some will let you change your baby on the floor near the galley or in the bulkhead area. If you have an older baby, consider using pull-up disposable diapers on the flight, as these can be pulled up with your little one standing. Use a plastic bag from home or the airsickness bag for disposal in the bathroom trash. Remember that, since flight attendants handle food, they can’t handle dirty diapers. (And they probably don’t want to, either.)
  • The flight attendant will usually heat a bottle for you. Be sure that you shake it well and test it thoroughly, as the galley system often makes things very hot.  Editor’s note: If you’ve brought boiled water and powdered milk in a dispenser, the best thing to do is to pour out a little of the water and ask the flight attendant to top it up with freshly boiled hot water. One ounce of boiling water in 7 or 8 ounces of room temperature water should be about right for most babies.
  • If your baby is unhappy and begins to cry, take a deep breath and focus your attention on your baby. Fellow passengers who are unhappy about the disruption may forget that you have as much right to be on the airplane as they do. They also may not know, or may forget how difficult it is for a baby or young child to be patient during a long flight. Your best defense against an unpleasant stranger is to say with a smile, “I’m doing the best I can.” And then tend to your baby.
  • Unless you have to, don’t rush off the plane. Let your child play until most of the passengers have disembarked. This will prevent you from standing in the slow-moving line in the aisle while carrying an armload of luggage and trying to keep your baby happy.


Editor’s note:

We’d like to add a couple of airplane tips of our own:

  • Baby food: Remember, you may be asked to open unsealed jars of baby food at airport security. If you’ve done so, remember to ask the flight attendant to store the jars in the fridge as soon as you get on the plane. When it’s time to warm it through, be aware that their microwaves are industrial strength and warming it may only require 5 – 10 seconds, or if heated through may need up to 30 minutes to cool enough for baby to eat
  • Night flights: If you are taking a night flight, consider trying a revised bedtime routine on the plane, with nappy change, pyjamas, brushing teeth, and a quiet storytime. Put the baby to bed in the bassinet or carseat, with a muslin shade, and let your preschooler rest on your lap with a blanket and eye shade. If you have a solid routine at home, chances are they will go off to sleep on the airplane too.

Elizabeth Pantley Greatvine consultant, author of No Cry seriesAbout Greatvine Consultant Elizabeth Pantley:

Elizabeth is USA-based parenting educator and president of Better Beginnings Inc, an American family resource and education company. Her No-Cry parenting book series achived worldwide recognition and won Amazon’s Best of Parenting Award in 2005 and 2007. Elizabeth lives with her husband and four children in Washington, and can offer expert advice through Greatvine.

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Image of family on airplane courtesy of Cesar Rincon on Flickr.

Written by Janis P.

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