Five tips to make an international flight more comfortable with a small infant

Veda's first flight at six weeks old to Paraguay

Smaller babies, let’s say newborn to six months, are significantly easier to fly with than older babies and toddlers, primarily because they spend much of their time sleeping and are not yet mobile.  As long as your baby is healthy and your pediatrician approves travel, it is safe to fly with a newborn as early as one week after birth.  Take advantage of this time traveling with a young baby, and enjoy it, because soon you’ll have a mobile baby eager to explore and difficult to contain!

1) Request an infant bassinet in the bulkhead.  Even if you plan on holding baby most of the flight, it’s really helpful to have the extra safe space to put baby while you are eating or getting things from the overhead compartment or diaper bag, especially if you are flying solo with baby.  It’s also made a convenient spot to put my diaper bag during flights, and it’s nice not to have someone throwing their chair back while you are breastfeeding.

2) Use a baby wrap on the plane.  Especially if you are breastfeeding, this is a great option to keep baby snug, cozy, and sleeping on the long haul.  My babe has slept for an entire 12 hour flight take-off through landing.  Baby was well-rested when we arrived, and it was nice to catch up on a couple of movies!  A baby wrap also helps lighten the load as you can really skip the stroller when baby is very young so it’s one less thing to worry about that during security, gate checking it, etc.

3) Keep diapers, wipes, and changes of clothes easily accessible.  When you are changing baby on the plane, you have very little room, and those airplane bathrooms are not very clean.  Especially if you are flying solo, it helps to keep diaper changing essentials easily accessible.  I would just take out the diaper changing pad, a few diapers, wipes, and a change of clothing and keep them under my seat or close to me.  When Veda was an infant I often went through more than one diaper change and a change of clothes during a diaper change because she would go to the bathroom just as I was changing her, so I always made sure to have an extra diaper and change of clothes so I wasn’t stuck in the airplane bathroom with a baby full of poo and no clean diaper and outfit.

4) Bring a few toy essentials.  Bring a few things baby loves, like a rattle, teething ring, etc., but don’t overdo it.  Very small infants are not going to spend a lot of time awake and playing, plus their favorite toys at that age are generally mom and dad, anyway, so save on carry-on space and weight by just taking a few favorite toys.

5) Breastfeed on descents.  Out of over a few dozen flights, we’ve only had a couple where my baby has refused breastfeeding or sucking on anything and so spent the descent screaming. It’s a sad thing to watch your child in pain from the ear pressure and being generally helpless.  I try to time it so that I begin breastfeeding as they turn the seat belt signs on and begin descent.  She often happily nurses and falls right asleep (so it helps to have her wrapped in a baby wrap so I don’t disturb her sleep as I gather my things and get off the plane).  If you aren’t breastfeeding, offer a bottle, pacifier, or anything else baby likes to suck on as the plane descends.

Related Pages:

20 Things to Play with a Toddler on a Plane- Compliments of the Plane

Top 10 Baby Travel Essentials

How much does baby’s airline ticket cost?

Getting Baby Immunized

Bulkhead or Aisle?  Choosing the Best Seats with Baby

5 thoughts on “Five tips to make an international flight more comfortable with a small infant”

  • Fantastic blog! My partner and I used to be travellers before our bubba was born. He’s now 10 months old and we’re itching to travel again but a bit anxious about it all. Your blog is definitely making it easier for us! Now I can’t wait to go on that first trip with my little family 🙂

    • Hi Dianne- I’m glad the blog helped to re-inspire your love for travel + baby! Happy traveling, and if you think of it, definitely let me know where you end up going on your first trip with your little family and how it goes! I also love your photography.

  • I am in a bit of a dilemma regarding choosing the right seat. Few months ago we flew ex Chicago to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We had the bulkhead seat;but it didn’t really work for us. Back then my little one was 5 going on 6 months. He can barely fit into the bassinet and the flight was full. I carried him most of the time and it was horrible. Poor boy had two meltdowns and barely slept.
    I called up the airline and try to sort out the situation. I am very adamant to make the return journey as pleasant or at least bearable for me and my boy.
    Currently we have the bulkhead seat
    ; if our LO doesn’t fit in the bassinet, do u think it’s still good to have the bulkhead seat? I am thinking about getting a seat for him just to make sure we have enough room. I am so stress out I don’t know if I am making the right decision.
    Glad that i came across your blog. It’s very inspiring and I felt more confident traveling with my LO

    • Hi Kacey, I am sorry to hear that you had a not so great flying experience from Chicago to Kuala Lumpur. That’s a long journey, too! I feel for you- sometimes on trips it feels like everything goes wrong no matter what you do. I’m glad you’ve found a little inspiration through my blog!

      I am not sure if you read my post, Bulkhead or Aisle, Choosing the Best Seats with Baby. I always contemplate which is best for our situation, and I think everyone has their own preferences for what works best.

      I typically still choose to request a bulkhead seat, primarily because of the extra leg room and floor space that it provides. You don’t have someone throwing their seat back in front of you, making any space you might have to play with baby on your lap non-existent. When I flew with my daughter on our last flight when she was 16 months old, and 33 inches long in the 75th percentile for height. I actually still fly infant-in-lap and I still used the bassinet and she slept comfortably there (despite the tight fit). Her legs were too long, so I rolled up a blanket to put under her feet so that they stuck out of the bassinet at an angle :). She inevitably winds up in my lap breastfeeding, so the price of the extra seat isn’t worth it to me, personally.

      However, if you tried the bulkhead last time and you didn’t find that it worked for you, you might consider purchasing a separate seat for baby if you can afford it. If, for example, he sleeps well in his car seat and you have one that is FAA certified, you might find that he will sleep more comfortably and for longer if you purchase a seat for him and bring his car seat on the plane. It will definitely give you more space if he has no interest in the bassinet.

      Regardless of what you choose, I highly recommend requesting an aisle seat. On that long of a trip, regardless of what seat you choose, you are going to be up and down with baby, so not having to climb over or wake a sleeping passenger is ideal. If you don’t already use a baby wrap, you might consider using one if you can get your hands on one in Malaysia to calm him and put him to sleep.

      Despite my best efforts I have sometimes been left with a very unhappy baby. I have found that sometimes it’s useful to spend some quiet time in the lavatory. Yes, the disgusting bathroom plane. There’s water baby can splash his hands in, and it’s a space where I can take a deep breath and regroup without feeling like everyone is staring at me. I do hope that your trip back to Chicago goes better for both you and little guy. Let me know what you end up choosing and how the flight goes. I am sending you lots of calming and peaceful travel energy!

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