Traveling on an airplane with an infant can seem like an impossibly difficult task. Though you would be right in assuming that it can be hard, there are some simple ways to make it easier on yourself and your baby. However, before committing to any travel with your baby (either domestic or international), I would highly recommend checking with your travel provider for their requirements and guidelines. Here are my personal top five tips for flying with an infant. These tips are only about making the actual flight easier on you and your baby, not the overall travel experience.
1. Wear your baby.
There is nothing so frustrating as trying to lug all of your things through an airport while trying not to disturb or startle your baby. If your baby is snuggled up next to you, warm and secure, it leaves your hands free to deal with the bags, the ticket and all of the regular juggling you would normally encounter in an airport. One of my favorite baby-wearing tools that is safe for infants is the Moby: http://ow.ly/7bdK . Be sure to check the age and weight restrictions on any baby-wearing devices, because some (like the Bjorn) are not very safe for babies under a certain weight.
2. Start the day by calming yourself.
Do your stressing about the trip the day before you go. Get your itinerary, bags, emergency formula (even if you are breastfeeding it is a good idea to have some prepared formula ready in case your little one gets hungry at just the wrong time for you to be able to deal with it), transportation to and from the airport and all other stressful details in line on the day before you leave. Start the day of the travel by having yourself a cup of chamomile tea, listening to some calming music, doing some calming yoga (if it's calming for you) and snuggling with your baby. The less stressed you are, the less stressed your baby will be.
3. Give your baby a pacifier, a bottle or the breast for take-off and landing.
Your babies ears will feel the pressure changes just like ours do, but infants are unable to "pop" their ears themselves, for an older child I would recommend chewing gum, or blowing their noses, but for infants, the easiest way to get them to stretch their jaw muscles enough to relieve the pressure is through a sucking motion.
4. Have hand-sanitizer easily accessible.
The last thing you or your baby needs is to get sick on the plane. Keeping your hands clean throughout your flight will drastically reduce the risk of coming down with a vacation-spoiling bug. Attach a key-chain sized spray or squirt-bottle to your belt or purse strap for easy access.
5. Bring soothing music/lullabies on an mp3 player.
Whether you use a pair of ear-buds, and simply lay them near your baby, or whether you use the in-flight earphones and try to position them on your babies ears (always test the volume on yourself first), this kind of low-level soothing sound can help your baby block out most of the over-stimulation that surrounds you on an airplane. Sounds from your own nursery noise maker can add a feeling of familiarity and homey comfort.
Airline travel can be hectic and trying even when you only have yourself to deal with. Hopefully these suggestions can give you a few more tools for minimizing the stress of the situation on your baby and yourself. If you have any questions or comments please leave them, I will try to respond to everyone who needs advice. Happy trails!