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Flying for the first time with a baby can be a very stressful situation. In fact, one of the email requests I receive most frequently is for advice on flying for the first time with a little one. No parent wants to be the one with a child who is uncomfortable and crying on the airplane for a very long list of reasons. While I have written about flying with babies and young children before, the reality is that lumping advice for flying with “babies” together is really over-simplifying. There is a huge difference in terms of planning and tips relevant for flying with a 6 week old, a 6 month old, and a 12 month old.
I’ve successfully flown a couple of times now with my second child who is currently around 3 1/2 months old, so I wanted to summarize some tips specifically geared for those flying with an approximately 3 month old since that seems to be a pretty common age when families first hit the skies with their little one. In fact, I think it is generally a very good time to hit the skies with your baby!
Tips for Flying With a 3 Month Old
- Keep your routine and schedule before the flight as normal as possible. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but if you can avoid having to wake the baby up significantly earlier than normal or disrupt a standard nap time (if your baby has one), that would be preferable. While it may against common logic, an exhausted baby doesn’t necessarily just go to sleep – sometimes they can become “over tired” and temporarily turn into something that resembles a hysterical hyena.
- Have the baby suck on something for as much of the flight as possible. Whether your baby nurses, takes a bottle, or a pacifier, or whatever encourage the opportunity for your little one to suck on something for as long as possible. Not only will this help with potential air pressure changes with their ears, but babies that are sucking can’t be crying! If your baby has a tendency to fall asleep nursing or taking a bottle then this is even better since you can then just keep them that way for as long as possible.
- Consider flying during their traditional sleep time. By 3 months old, most babies have at least some sort of routine in place. It may not be totally consistent day after day, but they have probably settled into some rhythm especially when it comes to what time they typically go to bed at night (though lord knows they don’t always stay asleep at night!). Regardless of when their usual sleep time is, consider scheduling the flight during that time as it is possible they will fall asleep for a good portion of the flight. This is far from guaranteed, but it has worked for me so far.
- Bring a few toys for the baby. The main difference between when I flew with my baby at two months and three months old was that by three months she was to the point where interacting with some infant toys was now entertaining for her whereas at two months she wasn’t yet very interested in interacting with toys. Nursing and sleeping were still the main activities for her during the flight, but having a few toys on hand was also a good idea.
- Take turns with the baby. If the baby sleeps for most of the flight or otherwise is easily content this is a non-issue, but in the event you are actively entertaining the baby during the plane then trading off that task with your spouse (if both people are flying) can be a good way to not only ensure everyone has a break, but also give the baby some different stimulation.
- If necessary walk up and down the aisle or head to the galley area. I don’t recommend jumping right to this since the flight attendants and others often need the aisle space, but in a pinch with a really upset baby it can pay to try walking around the plane a little or holding the baby and bouncing in the back of the plane in the galley area if the flight attendants are okay with that arrangement.
- Ensure you have seats assigned well in advance. This perhaps should be #1 on the list of advice, but whether you are traveling by yourself or with a companion, make sure you have selected your seats in advance to make them as good as possible. When flying with a baby by yourself you will probably want the aisle or window seat, and with a companion you will want to make sure you are seated next to each other if possible. While I am a fan of a getting your toddler their own seat even if they aren’t yet two years old, whether or not that is actually helpful with a three month old is much murkier. I know my own three month old would likely scream uncontrollably if she were seated in her car seat next to me instead of in my arms (just as she does in the car).
- Bring boppy or baby carrier if you wish. While it probably looks kind of funny lugging it around the airport, I have enjoyed flying using my boppy with my three month old as it makes holding her in a nursing position for a couple of hours much more comfortable for both of us. Alternatively, you could also consider putting your baby in a carrier if they like that, though technically this is not permitted on takeoff/landing/etc.
- Have back-up clothes, diapers, bottles, etc. While you three month old doesn’t need a ton of toys at this age, you will want extra clothes, diapers, and bottles as you never know when a quick two hour flight can turn into four hours or more on the plane thanks to unexpected delays. A large ziploc bag is also always a good thing to have on-hand in case you need to discard of any unpleasant items…
- Have something to document their age on hand if flying as a lap baby. If you are flying internationally, you will need a passport for your baby, but even domestically you will want at least a birth record to document their age of being under two years old if they are flying as a lap infant. Most airlines won’t really ask for this with a baby that obviously appears to be under two, but some, like Southwest, have a reputation for needing proof of age for every lap child regardless of how young they appear.
While you never know when your three month old will temporarily lose their cool, it is actually generally a very good age for air travel. Three months olds are usually past the total unpredictability that can come with being a true newborn, but they still relatively small and easy to hold, sleep a good amount, and aren’t yet mobile or in need of the extensive entertainment that will creep in as the months pass.
Have you flown with your three month old or similar? What tips worked for your family?