If there's one thing that even the most relaxed parents dread, it's being on an airplane with a baby. There's something about being stuck in a cramped seat for endless hours surrounded by disapproving strangers that saps your confidence.
But once the wheels hit the runway, most parents report that baby's first flight was much better than they'd expected.
Here are some tips to fly happy and arrive sane:
1. If you are traveling with your baby, it's a good idea to choose your seats ahead of time. Most airlines require child safety restraint devices to be placed near a window, so it will help to choose your seats when you book your tickets. Learn how to install the restraint device properly yourself and don't opt for putting baby on your lap – in the event of turbulence, children on laps are more likely to suffer injury or death.
2. Try to choose seats as close to the front of the plane as possible. The front of the plane is less noisy, vibrates less, and makes it easier to get off and on quickly. Sitting in a bulkhead row can be a good idea if you have a very active child who might be inclined to toss a toy into the row in front of them, but bulkhead rows also prevent you from having your carry-on baggage close at hand during take-off and landing.
3. Make sure you pack something for your little one to suck on during take-off and landing. A pacifier goes a long way to relieve ear pressure. You can also administer a little infant acetaminophen if your baby is stuffed up (just make sure to clear it with your pediatrician ahead of time).
4. Make sure you bring enough of everything to accommodate an unexpected layover, or a trip that turns from three hours into three days. You never know when bad weather or airplane issues can unexpectedly make your trip into an over-nighter. A cloth carrier or sling can make it easy to get through the airport without taking up too much space in your luggage.
5. If your child already has a well-defined nap schedule, try to book your flight as close to these times as possible, to make it easier for both you and your little one. If you are flying on an airline with open seating, keep an eye out for other parents who are likely to be sympathetic and may have a spare pacifier or nipple, if needed.
6. Most importantly - relax! You've done everything you could to prevent your baby from being uncomfortable or crying, but sometimes it's just out of your control. Try not to stress out if something unexpected pops up. Most people are sympathetic towards parents of infants, and the few rude people you may encounter will be long forgotten once you get to your destination.