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Flying with a baby can be a very stressful situation, especially for new parents. One of the requests I receive most frequently is 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, and while I have written about flying with babies and young children several times before, the reality is that lumping advice for flying with “babies” together is really over-simplifying. There is such a huge difference flying with a 6 week old, a 6 month old, and a 12 month old even though they are all “babies”.
While a “bad flight” can strike at any time, I’ve flown eight flights pretty successfully with my six-month old, as well as countless flights starting at 11 months old with my now six-year old, so I’m trying to break down the advice a bit more into age specific recommendations.
In this post I want to look at some tips geared for flying with a 6 month old baby. as it is generally a very good time to hit the skies with your baby! Some of these are very similar to flying with a 3 month old or even a 2 month old, but there are some differences, too.
Tips for Flying With a 6 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, a pacifier, or whatever, encourage the opportunity for your little one to suck on something for as long as possible – especially on take-off and landing. 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 while drinking 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 6 months old, most babies have at least some sort of routine in place. This would probably usually increase at least one morning and afternoon nap, as well as an approximately regular bedtime. Their schedule 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!). Regardless of when their usual sleep time is, consider scheduling the flight during one of those times as it is possible they will fall asleep for a good portion of the flight. This is far from guaranteed, but it may contribute to a peaceful portion of the flight.
- Bring toys and activities for the baby. Probably the biggest change when flying with a 6 month old and a baby a few months younger is how interactive they have become with the world around them. Unless you have a very short flight or hit the jackpot, they probably won’t sleep for the entire flight at 6 months old, but instead will need something to play with for at least some portion of the flight. I highly recommend packing several of their favorite toys as well as potentially something new they haven’t seen before.
- Get the wiggles out before the flight. Another major change when flying with a six month old rather than a younger baby is that they are now wiggly. They probably aren’t quite yet fully mobile, but they also aren’t just sweet swaddled bundles of snuggles. They need to move around and get some energy out before the flight if you want them to hopefully be peaceful during the flight. I bring a blanket and let my daughter wiggle around either in an airline lounge family room or even in the gate area before boarding. This will only become more important as the baby becomes more and more mobile.
- 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 since by 6 months you are probably actively entertaining the baby during some portion of the flight, then trade off that task with your spouse (if both people are flying). This tag-team effect can be a good way to not only ensure everyone has a break, but also give the baby some different stimulation.
- They may start checking out the TV screen on the plane. For better or worse, by six months old, babies are well aware of the screens that are all around them. On an airplane this is something that may buy you a few minutes of entertainment if the screen happens to be on a cartoon or similar. Alternatively, if you don’t want your little one to make eye contact with a screen then be sure to keep it off.
- 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. A six-month-old will probably be very interested in all the sights and sounds on the plane. The flip side is that a baby that can get overwhelmed easily may be over-stimulated with all of that going on.
- 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 six month old is much murkier. I know my own six 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 a nursing pillow or baby carrier if you wish. While it probably looks kind of funny lugging it around the airport, I still enjoy flying with my boppy for my six 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, though technically this is not permitted on takeoff/landing/etc.
- Have back-up clothes, diapers, bottles, etc. Since you never know when a quick two hour flight can turn into four hours or more on the plane thanks to unexpected delays, bring extra essential supplies in your carry-on. 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 six month old will temporarily lose their cool, it is actually generally a very good age for air travel. At this age babies generally have settled into a predictable rhythm, still nap and enjoy nursing or bottles, can be distracted with toys for a few minutes, but aren’t yet in that fully mobile stage that is looming right around the corner.
Have you flown with your six month old? What tips worked for your family?