Traveling with an infant on a plane 101 – Everything you need to know

Tips, Travel, Traveling with Baby

Traveling with an infant on a plane can be tricky. And more so if you’re flying with a newborn, where you do not have an option to step into a private space if the baby starts crying or demands to be fed. Many breastfeeding mothers find it extremely difficult traveling with baby and have nightmares just thinking about it.

What many do not realise is, that every new experience with an infant or toddler is scary. We do not know how they are going to react to it. The only thing we can do is PREPARE for the worst scenario and become tough ! I can assure you that your flight will be comfortable if you take the below mentioned precautions while travelling with infant in flight.

My baby’s first flight was when she was 24 days. My baby is 3 and a half months old now and I have taken 3 flights with her. This is what I have learnt and how I prepared for traveling with baby on lap. Below are some choices you need to make and things you need to consider to make your flight comfortable. Some points are to be followed exactly, so consider them as rules for flying with a baby.

Before the Flight

Traveling with an infant on a plane – Alone or Accompanied?

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Actually that’s never a choice. You’re either travelling alone with baby or with a close one. But in a scenario, where you were to travel alone, you can decide if you want someone to travel along to help out with the baby. That will mean two extra flights for the person who is going to accompany you to and fro.

Every child and every mother is different so finally, it’s upto you but this post will arm you with everything you need to know and do to prepare yourself even if you’re travelling alone with a baby. Most often, fear is only in our minds and if we remove that and become confident moms, even our babies will go along with that. At the end of the day, who does a baby need more than the mother?

Time of the Flight

Book a flight so that the time of the departure coincides with the general ‘happy’ or ‘sleepy’ time of the baby. Keep in mind the weather as well if booking an early morning flight. And If your baby sleeps well at night, book a flight in the first half of the day as by evenings, the baby will get tired and cranky without the comfort of home. Most mothers will tell you thats it’s easy to deal with a baby crying for food as compared to a baby crying for sleep.

Duration of the flight

I have comfortably traveled on 2.5 hour flights with additional delays. You should not have a problem if you feed the baby before leaving home and during take off. You can take longer flights if you’re confident feeding the baby on the flight. ( Get enough practice to feed the baby outdoors and in public at least a month before your planned travel because babies have a habit of wanting food when you’re least expecting. They feed not only for food but for comfort as well. )

Infant flight ticket cost

You do not have to book an extra infant airplane seat for infants (0 – 2 years) but can carry them on your lap. Some airlines provide with bassinet seats on select aircrafts. In my experience, count on this only if flying international.

Airlines will charge you a fixed fee (1200 – 1500 including taxes) for infant booking which might or might not include extra baggage. Strollers and car seats ‘should’ go as cabin baggage free of cost. I say ‘should’ because many times you will be left at the discretion of the ground staff with half knowledge so it’s easier to travel light than argue. Check with your airlines before flying.

Choice of seats

Window seats for sure because they give you a private space to feed your baby. Also, I would prefer sitting at the back before the washrooms in case of diaper changes. Getting help from air hostess’ is also easier from this area.

What are bassinet seats? Which airlines provide a bassinet?

Bassinet seats are infant airplane seats and are generally located in the first row of economy class and will have cradles attached to the partition in the front. You can easily lay your baby in the bassinet instead of holding her in your arms.

I’ve travelled Indian Airlines and Jet Airways and they are supposed to have them. Indian Airlines supposedly booked bassinet seats for me on phone and the ground staff confirmed during check in but the air hostess informed me that they do not have bassinets on that particular aircraft.

Jet airways has bassinets only on International routes. I’m sure Vistara would also provide bassinets. Indigo and Spicejet do not have this option.

How many bottles of liquid medicines can I carry onboard?

There is no specific number but I have carried 5 small bottles of liquid medicines and cream with me onboard with the baby. I’m sure you can carry a couple extra.

Which medicines should I carry onboard with me?

  1. Colic Aid
  2. Diaper Rash cream
  3. Liquid Paracetamol / Crocin
  4. Nasoclear Nasal Drops
  5. Any other medicines prescribed by the doctor.

How much formula milk / expressed breast milk can I carry onboard?

You are allowed to bring enough baby food for the flight, although a ‘reasonable amount’ is not actually specified anywhere. There have been occasions where airport security staff have deemed the amount of baby food that parents have attempted to bring through security as excessive. It is the final decision of the security staff as to the amount that is allowed.

Which airline should I fly? [ India Specific ] 

If you do not have much luggage, you can choose any of the budget airlines or Jet Airways. Read about Traveling with an Infant on Jet Airways in detail, here.

But in most cases, you will have quite a bit of weight and number of items. In such a scenario, I strongly suggest booking a seat on Air India, as they charge the least for infants [ Rs. 1200 (including taxes) ] and give you 10kg extra luggage and 7Kg extra for infant hand baggage. They also allow strollers and car seats onboard and their flights are rarely full. This makes it easier for you to request the air hostess for a change of seat where you can keep your baby on the empty seat next to you in a car seat. Even if you do not have a car seat, you can request some privacy for breastfeeding. Also read the detailed blogpost about Traveling with an infant on Air India.

Traveling with Baby Checklist

Traveling with baby checklist has been moved to another blogpost. Please click here to see it.

Ask for help when traveling with an infant on a plane

Again, in any scenario that you might need help before booking your flight, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments below.

Do I need to bring my baby’s birth certificate when flying?

Yes, if you have a birth certificate, please carry it when traveling with an infant on a plane. Or carry a document that proves that you are the baby’s parent and mentions the age of the baby.

Will they allow multiple bottles of baby medicine in liquid form and  / or mixed formula?

Yes, you can carry as much formula as you require when traveling with an infant on a plane. Be reasonable. Carry medicines in small bottles buy if you happen to have one odd big bottle, no one is going to stop you. You might be asked the purpose of it, which you can explain to security.

At the Airport

What should I wear?

  1. Wear comfortable and loose clothes with pockets when traveling with an infant on a plane. You dont want to be holding your phone in one hand or keep it in your handbag.
  2. Wear sport shoes or your favourite pair of comfortable shoes that you can take a long walk in. Don’t try any new shoes when traveling with an infant on a plane.
  3. Wear a nursing shrug or stole, if breastfeeding the baby.
  4. Pack all your essentials in the diaper bag itself instead of carrying a separate bag for yourself.
  5. Make a bun or tie your hair. Go for the messy look !
  6. Apply a transfer resistant lipstick or stain, if you want some colour on your lips. You will be kissing the baby a lot !

Do you need identification for a child to fly?

Yes, please carry the required documents / boarding verification document like a birth certificate or a document that proves you are the parent and the age of the baby.

Can I carry a car seat and / or stroller on the flight? Does it need to be within the 7 kg limit of the cabin luggage?

Yes, you can carry both when traveling with an infant on a plane. They can be carried till the door of the aircraft where you will need to hand them over to the air hostess. In case, you have booked an extra seat for the car seat, you will be allowed to take that into the aircraft.

Jet Airways requires you to have a car seat that is FAA approved if you want to keep your baby on another seat in her car seat.

Air India has no guidelines for car seats and you can use it on the flight if you have booked an extra seat or they have an empty seat when traveling with an infant on a plane.

Do I need to book an extra infant airplane seat if I want to keep her in the car seat?

  • Budget Airlines will not allow you to keep the infant in a car seat when traveling with an infant on a plane.
  • Jet Airways requires you to have a car seat that is FAA approved if you want to keep you baby on another seat in her car seat.
  • Air India has no guidelines for car seats and you can use it on the flight if you have booked an extra seat or they have an empty seat.

Porter services

If you are traveling alone with a baby and need help to push your luggage into the airport and through the boarding procedure, there is help available at hand. There are porter services available for a small fee (depending on the number of items), outside the airport that will send someone to push your luggage into the airport and accompany you till the counter and help you with the luggage and other things till you get your boarding pass.

You can also board the electric cart that will leave you till the entry gate of the airport.

Ask for help when traveling with an infant on a plane

If your hand baggage is more than you can manage, or need help till the aircraft, ask the ground staff at the counter. They will send someone to help you board without any extra fee. You can choose to tip the staff that helps you.

During the Flight

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Keep Calm and Enjoy the flight

If you have reached your seat, in the aircraft comfortably, rejoice – half the battle is won! If you’ve made it till here, I’m sure you can make it till the rest of your flight too. The first rule to have a happy baby is to BE HAPPY yourself ! Research shows that a mother can pass on the stress to her baby (yes, even after pregnancy), So keep calm and enjoy the flight.

Once you’re settled in the flight, make eye contact with your baby, smile and talk to her, kiss her. This will reassure her that she is good hands and you’re capable to handling any storm that comes by 🙂 Needless to say, her smiles will reassure you that you’re her SUPER MOMMY !

There is no bassinet / extra seat. What to do now?

Again, just relax.

Use the car seat, if you’re carrying one.

Use a baby carrier, if your baby is comfortable in it.

Hold the baby in your arms, there’s nothing more comforting that her mother’s cradle, warmth and smell.

Lap infant vs seat infant

Do I have to hold the baby or can I keep the baby in the car seat next to me.

If you have booked an extra seat for the car seat (You need an FAA approved car seat for Jet Airways) or they have an empty seat, go ahead and use the car seat.

If not, wear your baby or hold her in your arms.

Will the hostess provide me with an extra seat belt for my baby?

I got it on my first Air India flight and I used it. On the second flight with Air India, they said, it is not required. On Jet Airways, I didn’t have an FAA approved seat. Don’t bother about the extra seat belt, the journey on a flight is smooth with no sudden jerks. In case of turbulence hold your baby in your arms. But be sure you have strapped your baby properly in the car seat.

What safety precautions should I keep in mind in case of an emergency?

  1. In case of turbulence hold your baby in your arms.
  2. Follow the safety procedures meant for mothers traveling with an infant on a plane. Ask the air hostess to explain it to you.
  3. In any dangerous scenario, shield your baby with your own body.
  4. Let your motherly instincts take over.

Do I need to breastfeed while take off and landing?

It is not necessary. If the baby is sleeping comfortably, don’t wake up the baby to feed. The hostess has asked me to feed the baby on landing and not on take off but I did the reverse and we were fine. Let your baby guide you. Most flight cabins these days are pressurised and do not need you to feed your baby but you can do it if your baby is awake and is hungry anyway or shows any signs of discomfort.

NOTE: If you are flying a smaller aircraft than usual, the baby will feel more air pressure. I flew an ATR 72 or ATR 500 as popularly known and my baby showed signs of discomfort and cried for a minute. Breastfeeding, immediately comforted her.

Breastfeeding the baby on the flight

Most aircrafts these days including the airbus are optimally pressurised and there is no pressing requirement to feed your baby during landing and take-off. However, as per the instructions of the Air hostess, feed the baby during landing, during take off in not necessary.

If you feel any ear pressure yourself, be ready to feed your baby if you see her in any discomfort. If your baby is sleeping, please don’t wake up the baby just to feed her. You can try offering a pacifier or bottle, if you want to and see if the baby takes it. DO NOT FORCE.

If you do not want to breastfeed the baby on the flight, feed her just before boarding so that the baby is not hungry on the flight.

  1. First of all, practice breastfeeding in public. The closest is breastfeeding in the backseat of a car.
  2. Book in advance and choose a window seat so that you have one private side.
  3. Carry a nursing bib, wear a nursing shrug or use your ring sling to feed the baby.
  4. Use the breast away from the window to conceal better. In order to do so, make sure you feed from the other breast before the flight.
  5. Breastfeed like a PRO !

Using pacifier and / or bottle for feeding while take off and landing

It is medically recommended to either breastfeed, bottle feed or offer a pacifier to a baby on the flight during take off and landing. However, these day most aircrafts are optimally pressurised and this is not necessary.

If you feel any ear pressure yourself, be ready to feed your baby if you see her in any discomfort. If your baby is sleeping, please don’t wake up the baby just to feed her. You can try offering a pacifier or bottle, if you want to and see if the baby takes it. DO NOT FORCE.

Where and how to change the diaper?

Change the diaper only in the washroom. There is a pull down table available in most flight washrooms specifically for this purpose. Do not flush the diaper, throw it in the dustbin.

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Will my baby sleep through the flight?

I have taken three flights and my baby slept through the first one, slept through 2/3rd of the second one and slept just before the landing in her third flight. Babies are not predictable. You can just make sure that they are comfortable and well fed. Sleep or no sleep is upto the baby.

How to pacify a crying baby on a flight?

  1. Try to feed the baby – breastfeed or formula, whatever you use.
  2. Distract the baby with rattles.
  3. Try giving a pacifier.
  4. Make sure the sunlight from the window is not troubling the baby.
  5. Make sure the AC vent is not directed at her.
  6. Make sure she is not feeling hot/cold. I usually turn off the AC vent.
  7. Talk to the baby. Sometimes, whispering works better that talking loudly.
  8. Make the baby hold your finger to let the baby know you’re around.
  9. Put your palm on the baby’s head and gently tap your fingers on her forehead.
  10. Make the baby sit in an upright position facing away from you.
  11. Walk up and down the aisle while rocking your baby.
  12. Ask the hostess to talk to the baby, sometimes the baby is interested in new faces.
  13. Don’t shy away from asking for help, if you’re distressed or tired from walking the baby. You can always find experienced mothers or fathers on a flight.

Inconveniencing the other passengers

Do not and I mean DO NOT worry about inconveniencing the other passengers. You are a mom and you have paid for your and your infant’s flight. Flights are almost never comfortable and people who want seamless travel, fly business class.

That does not in any way mean that you be insensitive towards other passengers. Change diapers only in the bathroom. Try and pacify your baby is she is crying but if hells breaks loose and you cant do much about it, worry about the baby not what people will think !

Ask for help when traveling with an infant on a plane

Don’t forget to ask for help if you’re travelling alone or need any kind of help. Airports have ground staff in every section who will help you.

After Landing

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Where to collect the stroller and car seat from after landing?

You can collect the car seat and the stroller from the hostess and they will get it for you before deplaning. In case, you need help with putting the stroller on to the bus, you can ask them to get one of the ground staffs to help you when traveling with an infant on a plane.

At the luggage belt

If you have luggage that is too heavy for you or too many items, you can again ask for help from one of the passengers or the airport staff. The luggage help staff will pick up and arrange the items on the stroller and even escort you out of the airport. It’s nice if you can tip them !

Babycare after landing

Apart from feeding the baby on take off and landing to reduce the ear pressure, your baby might get hungry or poop after you have collected the baggage or you might want to feed the baby or change the diaper before taking a taxi to your next destination. In such a scenario, you can go to the women’s bathroom at the airport. Many airports have a separate section for baby care or a cubicle in the bathroom especially for diaper change where they have a pull down table for you to keep your baby on and change the diaper.

Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi also has a separate baby care section by Himalaya next to the luggage belts where you can change diapers, feed the baby in a private cubicle or put the baby down for a nap in a crib. They have two such private spaces inside the babycare section.

Booking a taxi

If someone is not coming to pick you up, I would suggest booking a prepaid taxi rather than an Ola / Uber and wait for the taxi and co ordinate with the driver. Prepaid taxis are hassle free if you’re travelling alone with a baby. You will find prepaid taxi kiosks just before the exit.

Air-travel-with-an-infant-luggageSomeone is coming to pick me up at the airport. Can visitors enter the airport?

Many airports give entry to visitors for a small fee. Indira Gandhi International airport is one such visitor friendly airport. Find out in advance if the airport in your city allows visitors to receive guests. Also, make sure you ask your visitor to carry a photo id as this is mandatory for entry.

Till where will a visitor be allowed? Can he/she come till the luggage belt?

Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed till the luggage belt and that bit will have to be managed by you. Visitors are allowed to receive you just after the luggage belts.

Ask for help when traveling with an infant on a plane

Don’t forget to ask for help if you’re traveling alone or need any kind of help. Airports have ground staff in every section who will help you.

Hope this blog post answered all your questions about air traveling with an infant on a plane. In case you have any more queries, please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below. Traveling with an infant on a plane is completely different from traveling with a toddler on flight.

Recommended Reads:

How to get Leh’d with a baby

Traveling with a Baby { Checklist }

Traveling with an Infant on Air India

Infant Travel on Jet Airways

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