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I remember my first flight as a new mom with my 6-week-old son. I was terrified! I had no idea what to expect and I was dreading all of the mean looks we would get from people sitting around us.
But surprisingly, while he was a newborn, he flew great! (It really is easy to fly when they’re so little… it’s when he got older and mobile that sucked!)
So to all of you new mamas—don’t panic! Read over my tips below to help get you through.
- Babies under two years old fly free as a lap infant on domestic airlines. (You can call to add them to your ticket or
- Bottles and bags of breast milk and/or formula are allowed through Security and are exempt from TSA liquid limits. However, they will be pulled aside and scanned. Read the TSA rules here.
- Breast pumps are allowed through Security.
- You will have to take your baby out of their car seat/stroller to go through Security. (You can keep them in the baby carrier though).
- Car seats, strollers, and many other baby related items can be checked with luggage for free.
- Car seats and strollers can be gate checked at the terminal for free on most domestic airlines.
- Liquid medications are exempt from TSA liquid limits.
- Airlines have different policies. Call them with any questions about flying with your newborn.
Talk to your pediatrician about flying with your newborn baby
You should get the go-ahead from the doc before booking your flight. The standard is to wait until baby gets their first vaccinations (which is usually around 8 weeks.) But every baby is different, and your doctor will be able to guide you since they know them so well. If you want to fly before the baby’s first vaccinations, then it’s even more important to talk with your doctor.
Try to book a direct flight
The quicker you can get there the better. If that’s not possible, try a longer layover (like 2 hours) to give you and baby some time to adjust. Stretch your legs, find some food, and get the baby changed.
Fly during baby’s nap time
This got me through every flight with my son until he was about 18 months. The engine noise knocks them out and whether they’re sleeping on you or in their car seat, they are cozy. Put them in a thick, comfy outfit since planes get cold.
Call the airline about adding a lap infant
Every airline has different policies and it’s better to ask beforehand so you’re prepared. And just to be safe, it’s always a good idea to bring a copy of their birth certificate.
Carry or stroll baby through the airport.
My baby carrier was a life saver! I always used it to get through the airport so I could have my arms free. If you don’t want to carry baby, bring a stroller through the airport and gate check it. If you want to carry baby, but need a stroller at your destination, check it with your luggage so you don’t have to bring it through the airport (one less thing to worry about). If you’re looking for a great carrier, check this one out by Ergobaby.
Tip: if you think that you’ll be traveling with your baby a lot, look into purchasing a smaller travel stroller. They will be easier to get through the airport, but also in rental cars, taxis, or public transportation at your destination.
If you want to know which travel strollers are the best, check out my list of the top 9 (they’re all under 16 pounds!)
If you can get the baby their own seat, bring the car seat for the flight.
Unfortunately, it’s the same cost as an adult fare, but it’s way more convenient for you and safer for baby. Most airlines require a FAA approved car seat and it will have to be installed on either the window seat or middle seat if window seat is empty.
If you don’t get the baby their own seat, keep them in the baby carrier and you have options on what to do about your car seat:
- Gate check the car seat: let the gate agent know you’ll be gate checking and they will give you a tag to put on it. Then you leave it at the gate before you get on the plane. You can just carry it, or you can get a car seat travel backpack, so you have your hands free while walking through the airport.
- Check the car seat with your luggage. It goes free on all major airlines but if you do this MAKE SURE to put it in its own bag. I’ve heard horror stories of car seats coming back damaged or soaking wet when people checked them and didn’t put it in a bag. Tip: Add in a few bulky items like sweaters or jackets to the car seat bag so they don’t take up more space in your luggage.
- Do neither and rent one with the car when you get to your destination. Call the rental car agency beforehand to confirm there will be one for you. Know that you might not get the cleanest and best quality car seat this way. If you want to buy one when you get there, one adult will have to stay at the airport with the baby until the other can get the car seat. (In my opinion, even though it’s annoying to carry, it’s better to just bring your own car seat and gate check it).
- Tip: if you know you’ll be flying with baby to a certain location a lot (like grandparents, aunts, or uncles’ houses) it might be beneficial to buy a car seat to stay at that location so you don’t have to lug one around at all.
Check the airport map for mothers’ rooms.
Pumping stations have become very popular as well! If you are in a terminal that doesn’t have one, ask staff for other options. (I once nursed my baby in an airport chapel. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!)
Only bring the travel essentials and compartmentalize them in their own bags.
- Diapers and wipes (bring a few extra then you usually need)
- Bottles (bring an extra bottle or two in case of delays).
- Burp cloths
- Nursing cover, if needed
- An extra change of clothes for baby AND you
- Medicine bag
- Small baby blanket
- Any attachment item like lovey or pacifier
- Wipes to wipe everything off
Put everything in a clear or ziplock bag so you can easily grab it. Bring extra ziplock bags for dirty diapers, trash, or dirty pacis/toys.
Nurse or give baby a bottle or pacifier during landing and take off.
Protect baby’s ears from the changing air pressure by having them swallow liquid or suck on a pacifier. Having the baby sit up helps too.
TIP: For pacis, make sure you bring extras or clip it on them. If they hit the floor, throw them in a ziplock bag to clean off later.
TIP: For bottles, you can bring as many as you need. If you need warm water for formula, go to one of the coffee shops in the terminal and ask for it. You can also add water to bottles beforehand and bring the pre-portioned formula separately to mix together on the plane.
Use the restroom and change baby before boarding.
Get everything out of the way before you board. Use the airport restroom and get freshened up, and change the baby. You’ll have a lot more space.
Ask which restrooms the changing tables are in when you get on the plane.
Sometimes, only one or two of the bathrooms will have a changing table. It’s best to know beforehand so you can plan accordingly.
When changing the baby on the plane, just bring the essentials.
Bring a mat to lay baby down on, a diaper, and a package of wipes. It’s a TIGHT space.
Bottles of breast milk are allowed through Security
There’s no limit on how much you can bring (within reason). They will get tested in Security so it’s easier to take them out of your bag so it can be screened separately. Read over the TSA website here.
Tip: If you need to bring frozen breast milk: it will stay cooler in checked luggage. Put the bags of milk in gallon ziplock bags or a soft cooler bag with ice bags. (This got me through a flight to Hawaii!)
Also, an important note: Frozen breast milk that has started to thaw but still contains ice crystals can be refrozen. If the milk has completely thawed but still feels cold, put it in the fridge and use it within 24 hours.
All breast pumps are allowed through Security
They might get tested in Security though, my Spectra did once. Bring a portable one if you pump regularly just in case. My Willow pump was a life saver!
Read over my review of the Willow Pump here.
Don’t forget yourself!
The baby will most likely nap most of the flight. Bring your tablet and headphones, a little lip moisturizer and eye cream, and a water bottle to hydrate.
And if baby doesn’t nap…
Play with a toy, take walks down the aisle, and let them look out the window. Just breathe, the plan will land eventually!
And that’s all folks! Do you have any tried-and-true tips you use for flying with a baby? Let me know in the comments!