Last Mother’s Day, the airline JetBlue released a new ad focusing on babies flying with them. In the “FlyBabies” spot (see below), the company offered 25% off of passengers’ flights each time a baby cried on a flight from New York City’s JFK airport to Long Beach, California. Instead of unhappy glares and whispered complaints, the other passengers suddenly started cheering and clapping each time a baby began acting out. The campaign garnered mixed reactions. Boston Globe correspondent Janelle Nanos seemed largely positive. While Shawna Kaszer, writing for the Huffington Post, was unhappy, arguing that it is insensitive to celebrate a crying baby’s discomfort even if it means profiting from it.
Most people complain about the difficulties of flying: traffic to get to the airport, endless security line, long walk to the gate, delayed departures, and more. When you travel with your baby, other factors add to the stress: will the TSA agent give me grief about my baby’s food (formula, breast milk, and juice for infants or toddlers are permitted through the security checkpoint. Will I have to pump in the small airplane bathroom while people are standing outside knocking at the door while I do it? Will the stroller stored in the cargo compartment reach my final destination? Did I pack everything we need in the diaper bag? Will my little bundle of joy cry during the flight? Sigh. What an ordeal!
Here is a list of things you can do to help make air travel a bit more comfortable for you, your little one, and everyone else sharing in the joys of air travel:
- If you are travelling with your baby and another adult, make the seat reservations leaving the middle seat open. You might get lucky and that middle seat will be unoccupied! If that’s not possible, choose seats across the aisle from one another. This will allow you to take turns with the baby plus aisle seats are more convenient if you need to stand up, walk, or go to the bathroom. (Note: when purchasing a seat for a child under two, a government-approved car seat is required. Baby will need to be in a window seat away from the exit row. Some airlines impose additional restrictions, so it’s a good idea to check with yours in advance.)
- Make sure the diaper bag has everything you will need, including diapers, wipes, bottles (with nipples), snacks, a sippy cup, a book or two, and some quiet toys. Children like to play with things they don’t always play with at home, so bring some new toys to keep baby’s interest. If your child is a bit older, you can play soothing music, an audiobook, or let him play a game on your phone or tablet.
- Try to travel during nap time or bedtime. Some moms will prepare their babies a day or so in advance by making them a little extra tired before the flight. Also, arriving at the airport earlier means your family may be able to spend more time walking around. Burn off some of that extra energy and tire those little jetters out. For toddlers, T5 at JFK includes a kids’ play area located near Gate 12.
- When you check-in, ask the airline staff if you can keep the stroller until you board plane. Usually, airlines will allow you to store the stroller it in the baggage compartment at no cost.
- Think whether items your baby will need could be easily purchased at your destination. For example, you do not need a large amount of diapers and wipes. You can buy them in any pharmacy pretty much in any city.
- Have all of your liquids out of the diaper bag when going through security and tell the TSA agent exactly what you are carrying. If you leave liquids inside a bag going through the X-ray machine, you will be delayed.
- If the baby is awake during takeoff and landing, give him something to suck and swallow on, which can help relieve air pressure. This could be, for example, a bottle of milk, a pacifier, a blanket, or a lollipop to suck on.
- If your child won’t stop crying, pick him up and walk around the plane once you’re in the air. Take him to the back of the plane and hold him up so he can look at the window. The view — and new surroundings — may distract him enough to calm him down, and the hum of the engine helps to mask the crying as you move about the plane.
- Ignore dirty looks. No one wants to be the parent of an infant who won’t stop screaming on a plane, but babies, crying or otherwise, are a fact of life.
- Do not give your baby medication to induce sleep (eg, Benadryl). These medications can have side effects and make your child hyper instead of sleepy.