graphic by Anne Holmquist for Minted (minted.com)

postmod travels: 10 Things to Remember on Your First Flight with Your Newborn

Visiting Contributors

Brought to you by Juliana Shallcross of Trips + Giggles

Baby's first cry. Baby's first smile. Baby's first blowout diaper in a cramped space surrounded by at least 100 other people and no Diaper Genie in sight.

Flying with a baby for the first time is incredibly nervewracking.  New parents worry not only about their baby physically enduring an airplane flight, but they also fear upsetting fellow passengers who may be none too pleased to sit next to a baby. (You know those people. You were probably one of them too before you had kids.)

Oh, and then there are the usual hassles of flying like airport security, fighting for overhead space, delays and cancellations, cramped seats, ridiculous baggage fees and lost luggage. Adding a newborn and all his or her gear into the mix sounds just like the worst idea ever, right?

Surprisingly, it’s not. Flying with a newborn can be an easy and (mostly) worryfree experience. Both my daughters were on planes when they were two months old, and they were way more wellbehaved than when they were 20-month-old crazy toddlers, that’s for sure.

So long as you prepare properly, you and baby will make it to your destination without any neverending crying fits (from either you or the babe).

10 Things to Remember for Your Newborn’s First Flight

1. Birth Certificate or Passport: Most airline and security agents will clearly see that your newborn baby is younger than two years of age and thus, qualifies as a lap child. However, there are some real sticklers out there, especially at Southwest Airlines, who require a birth certificate. (Or else, they will charge you for a full seat fare.) For my girls’ first flight, their birth certificate didn’t arrive in time, so I brought a photocopy of the letter from the hospital stating who was born, on what day and where.

2. A Well-Stocked Diaper Bag: This is a challenge because you don’t want the bag to be so heavy that it hurts your arm while walking through the airport but you should pack extra everything. Extra diapers, extra wipes, extra clothes, extra milk or formula, etc. Because the last thing you want is to be stuck on the runway with a leaky diaper and no spares.

3. Bottle, Pacifier or Boob: A baby will need something to suck on at takeoff and landing to help their little ears deal with the pressure.  They will also occasionally need a drink or the pacifier at some other time during the flight so pack the right amount of milk for that, too.

4. Arrive Early for TSA Screenings: Even though the TSA hates your bottled water and your 5 oz. eye makeup remover, they will allow your breast milk and formula through security, provided they can scan it. Or not. I’ve been through security checkpoints who could have cared less about the bottles I had premade for the flight. Other times, I’ve been subjected to really weird searches. One TSA agent peeled the label off the bottle of formula so she could “get a better look at it.” So give yourself extra time at the airport to prepare for these security holdups. (You should also read up on the TSA rules here.)

5. Randomly, a Dishcloth: This is mostly for you as holding a baby on your lap in a tight space is bound to lead to some spillage, whether it be formula, milk or chardonnay. Flagging an airline attendant to ask for those small cocktail napkins could take a while and most likely, won’t even absorb the spill. Burp cloths could work in a pinch but you should save those for the baby. You could also pack a few extra paper towels.

6. One or Two Toys: Don't go crazy with the toys in your carryon, especially for a newborn who still sleeps plenty. But definitely bring a lovie or a special blanket that they are used to having with them.

7. Bring Only The Gear You Need Onboard: For my older daughter’s first flight, I brought my Boppy pillow onboard for breastfeeding. I am actually embarrassed by this now as it was way too big to fit in the seat with me, and I was able to prop up my daughter for feedings comfortably without it. My poor dad got stuck carrying it around with him. As for the stroller and carseat, you can check those at the gate and you’ll pick it up as soon as you step out of the plane. (You won’t have to go to baggage claim to get it.)

8. Digitize Your Plans: Storing all your travel plans in one spot on your smartphone is a great idea. I like the Tripit app which pulls all your hotel, flight and dinner reservations together to give you one master itinerary. You can also sync it to your own calendar. The app is free but a Pro version costs $4.09 a month and gives you flight alerts, seat alerts, and some travel savings.

9. Ease Up on the Schedule: Newborns don’t have much of a schedule other than sleeping and eating but if you’re trying to keep them on a certain schedule, don’t freak out when they won’t stick to it. At least not for the first day. After giving everyone a day to adjust to their new surroundings, you can try to get back on track.

10. This Too Shall Pass: If you’re stuck with a nonstop crying baby on the plane or if you’re trying to change a loaded diaper in the seriously small space of the airplane lavatory, take a breath and remember, “This too shall pass.” The plane will land, you will get off it and you will go on to have a successful vacation. Until it’s time to fly back home.  

Julianna Shallcross is the founder of Trips and Giggles, devoted to cool travel ideas for parents who just happen to have some kids in tow.  Spotlighting kid-friendly hotels, amenities and programs; fun things to do in different destinations; tips on how to get where; and even a babysitter directory for your vacation date night, Trips & Giggles is a major resource for families on the go. 

Image Credit: Anne Holmquist for Minted

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