Believe it or not, flying with a baby is (relatively) easy. Sure it takes lots of strategizing and patience—especially if you're traveling solo—but, as children grow and explore the world around them, it can be hard for them to sit still during flights because they need to constantly be entertained.
There will always be hiccups when traveling with little ones, but planning ahead can help save your sanity. If this is your first time, start with domestic flights, and work your way up to international trips. But ask any momma who has traveled with a baby—it takes practice.
That's why we asked Dr. Tanya Altmann, a working mother and UCLA-trained pediatrician, to tell us how to fly with a baby, making it easier on yourself—and the entire family. Here are top 10 tips for flying with a baby:
1. Pack essentials for your carry on.
"Make sure you have a well-stocked diaper bag with the essentials: at least 10 diapers, a changing pad, diaper cream, burp clothes, a blanket, a pacifier, hand sanitizer and baby wipes," says Altmann. "As gentle as water, these wipes effectively remove impurities while instantly moisturizing baby's delicate skin."
Also, don't forget to pack something for yourself. Just don't over-pack, or you'll wind up lugging way too much equipment on the plane and across the country.
2. Go hands-free whenever possible.
Wearing baby onto the plane helps keep your little one snug and close, which makes it easy to nurse baby during take-off and landing, and to help them rock to sleep.
The loud ambient noise and shimmying of the plane can actually be really relaxing to baby, so take advantage by wearing baby. It keeps your hands available for changing the channels on the in-flight entertainment.
3. Do whatever relaxes you.
Air travel can be stressful, so keep calm and carry on (get it?) by practicing whatever flying rituals usually work for you.
Watch your favorite episode on your phone, listen to music, or treat yourself to your favorite snack. Whatever keeps you calm, we're all about it.
4. Bring a stroller.
It can double as a carry-on holder, and is easily gate checked once you board. Unless you have a partner traveling with you to hold the carry on, it's probably easiest if you use the stroller to glide through the airport.
And remember—gate check the stroller, not the baby!
5. Pre-load digital entertainment for baby and yourself.
Maybe your kiddo is entertainment enough, but just in case bring a device pre-loaded with a baby friendly video or two. During flight time, normal rules about screen time go out-the-window. It's all about survival. If your little ones gazes at Wonder Pets for a few peaceful hours, we're not judging.
6. Dress your little one in easy-to-access layers.
Leggings, sweaters and onesies with easy access to diaper changes make sure babies stay comfortable in multiple climates. "Messes will happen, so don't forget to pack an extra change of clothes in your diaper bag for you as well as your little one," suggests Altmann. "Nobody wants to travel covered in spit-up—or worse."
7. Pack easy-to-eat food.
You'll be allowed to take formula and breastmilk bottles, along with baby food packs on board, but TSA might test it for hazardous materials. Don't worry about this part, most TSA agents are very compassionate to parents traveling with children. Just stand there and try not to look stressed.
8. Keep important documents accessible.
Babies under 2 can fly on your lap for free, but airport staff can have different guidelines on whether or not you need to show baby's birth certificates. To be safe, always travel with a copy of baby's birth certificate or passport, and make sure their name is assigned to your ticket as a lap child.
9. Wear comfortable clothing.
Nursing-friendly tops, comfy shoes, stretchy pants. We're all about traveling in comfort—and style. The more comfortable mama is, the better.
10. Bring small toys on all flights.
Flying is all about keeping baby as happy and calm as possible. A few new toys (maybe even wrapped in exciting paper that baby can open) help kill the time. The goal is to keep baby happy by rotating between activities like nursing or feeding, looking out the window, reading a book, opening a new toy, or handing baby off to a friendly stranger. Hey, a mama can dream, right?