If You Give Birth to a Baby on an Airplane…

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I’m not sure if babies are really being born on airplanes more now than they used to, or just like with everything these days, we simply are alerted when it happens thanks to camera phones and social media, but recently yet another baby was born on a plane.

This time the mom was reportedly close to 32 weeks pregnant and the flight was a long haul 12 hour China Airlines flight from Taipei to Los Angeles.  On the plane the woman’s water broke and she went into labor.  The pilot diverted to Anchorage upon learning the woman was in labor, but since it takes a little while to get to land when you are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the baby was born about 30 minutes before landing in Alaska.

baby on plane

Thankfully there was a doctor on board who assisted with the delivery, and in true 2015 fashion the delivery was caught on video by another passenger.  The round of applause after the baby was delivered was quite sweet, but there are a couple things I would do differently if I found myself in this situation.

Now, I am not at all a birth expert, but I’m close enough to the experience to have a couple non-professional tips if you happen to have a baby on an airplane – note that none of this is meant as a criticism to the way this birth was handled since based on the short video clip and later news reports everything went well.  Though hopefully you wouldn’t by being pretty selective about which flights to take during the third trimester.  

First, those napkins they appear to be cleaning the infant with are probably not the softest material on board.  I don’t know about those particular napkins, but napkins can often be pretty scratchy and a premature baby’s skin is pretty sensitive.  I would instead opt for using soft t-shirts or similar to clean the infant off if necessary.  Or, just don’t clean the infant off at all as it really isn’t immediately necessary from my understanding beyond ensuring they can breathe.

Baby Born on Plane


Second, and much more importantly, put the baby chest to chest, bare skin to bare skin on the mom.  This kangaroo care is linked to stabilizing heart rate, body temperature, breathing, and more.  Since most babies born on planes are presumably born a bit early, this stabilization is even more important.  The mom’s bare chest can work very effectively to provide the infant with the warmth and other things they need until they can safely land.   Of course there may be some more advanced interventions needed that perhaps an on-board doctor can perform, but then put the baby back on the mom and add a blanket over them both.

This kangaroo care obviously isn’t just useful on a plane, but it certainly would often be the best way to stabilize a newborn infant and keep them warm until landing.

At least this time the mom knew she was pregnant!

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