Baby's first flight? Tips to help everyone cope

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Published January 30, 2013

| Condé Nast Traveler

If you’re bringing your baby home to meet the family for the first time this year, you’re probably anxious about weathering that first flight. The truth is, most parents are surprised at how well their young babies do on flights, and many infants are content to let the gentle motion of the plane and the soothing hum of the engine lull them to sleep. Here are some tips to help you set yourself and baby up for a smooth flight.

Bringing baby food and formula through security

You can bring as much baby food or formula through the airport security checkpoint as you think you will need (you still need to remove it from your bag so that it can be seen by TSA agents,) but note that agents may open any containers over four ounces. My recommendation is to pack only containers that are 100 grams or smaller. Remember to bring along enough for your flight and what you'll need in transit from the airport to your final destination, then add a little more in case of flight delays. If you’re bringing powdered formula, buy bottled water after security—the tap water on a plane is not considered safe to drink.

Pack an extra shirt for you

You probably already have a change of clothes for your son or daughter in your diaper bag, but what about you? Air pressure changes can wreak havoc on little tummies, and I’ve learned from experience that it’s no fun to step off a plane with a child perfectly changed while mom is dressed in clothing fashioned from a baby blanket.

Pack light and organized

It’s tempting to throw everything you might possibly need into your carry-on bag, but nothing wears you out faster than lugging that extra weight through the airport or having to search through a mountain of gear to find the one thing you do need. Instead, try to choose items that do double duty (your down jacket, for instance, might also work as a blanket) and keep things organized in purpose-specific pouches or pockets. Remember that your child will probably be fascinated with the airplane and the people nearby, so you might not need to pack as many toys as usual.

Talk your way through the tricky parts

Getting through security and onto a plane can be disorienting, especially if mom and dad seem frazzled. Even if your child isn’t old enough to understand all the details, it’s worth narrating what is happening; just hearing the sound of your voice can be soothing for everyone.

Feed during takeoff and landing

The air pressure changes during takeoff and landing can hurt babies' ears. If your child is awake, either nursing or a bottle will help clear ears, and may just put your infant to sleep in your arms. If your little one isn't hungry, a pacifier or even sucking on a finger works well, too.

A paid seat is safest

Though regulations allow children under age two to sit on a parent’s lap, the safest place for a baby is buckled into a car seat in his or her own airplane seat. If another ticket isn’t within your budget, consider reserving a window and aisle spott near the back of the plane. With any luck, that middle seat will remain open, and you can install the seat. If not, you’ll gate check the car seat just before takeoff.

For more tips on flying with kids go to CondeNastTraveler.com

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