Flying long-haul with a baby – Your questions answered.

The anticipation of flying (long-haul especially) with a baby can be daunting! Before my recent trip from Australia to the UK i was full of questions and considerations and was pretty terrified i was going to be scowled at by the passengers and remembered as THAT mum with THAT baby. Let’s face it, we’ve all had that moment of dread long before we had children of “oh shit, i’m next to a baby!”. But don’t fret, I have compiled a list of likely questions you may have before taking your tiny baby up into the skies with answers that will hopefully ease your mind.

Please take into consideration that these questions are answered with my experience of flying with a baby under 6 months old… toddlers are a whole new ball game!

Before you fly:

Who should i fly with?

I didn’t do too much research into this as i was flying with my partner so knew i would have all the help i needed. Steer clear of budget airlines though, the last thing you want is crap(pier) plane food, limited entertainment and no free alcohol when you have the added stress of a baby to look after. If you will be flying on your own with a baby check out Etihad Airways, they have flying nannies to lend a helping hand!

Top tip: 

  • Request in advance, directly with the airline, a bassinet seat as these come on a first come first served basis for some airlines, others give priority to lighter, younger babies.
  • Check-in online as soon as you can and double check you have a bassinet seat (these are located on the bulk head or basically where ever the extra leg room is!)

What is the baggage allowance for my baby?

Again, do your research before booking your flight as some airlines include checked baggage for your baby, some don’t. This will decide whether you pack bubs clothing in your case or their own. All airlines however should allow a ‘baby bag’ carry on item which can contain all essentials for your baby including liquids of more than 100ml (sterile water, medications, baby foods etc). Be mindful that whilst the airlines have these guidelines for baby bag items it is at the discretion of airport security who may deem items unnecessary or prohibited, so always have a back up or ‘plan B’. All airlines will allow a pram and some a car seat.

Should i check in the pram or take it to the gate?

This comes down to personal preference once in the airport as checking in the pram or using it until you board the plane makes no difference in where it will be stored, how quickly it will come out the other end or what condition it will be in. You might find ease in having the baby in a carrier whilst at busy airports or if you have a lot of hand luggage. However, we chose to take the pram to the gate and then place bubs in the carrier for boarding so that we could sit down for food or drinks in the airport without disturbing him, it was also an easy way to transport duty free items around!

Top tips: 

  • Buy a pram carry case or enquire whether your airline provide durable plastic bags (these are pretty good) for your prams or they will get damaged.
  • For ease of transport, you might want to consider transitioning your baby from the bassinet attachment to the pram only part a few weeks before you fly, unless of course you plan to use the bassinet at your destination as a crib.

How will i keep bottles/water sterile?

I worried myself silly about this and i needn’t have. After all my research i came to the conclusion that the following two options were the easiest (after breastfeeding obviously):

Bring your own sterilised bottles and sterile water with you in a good quality thermos flask. Remember you are allowed as much liquids and baby items as you need. This way you can add formula to the water as you need it. I never actually found any absolute guidelines on how long water stays sterile for but this was the option i used –  all bottles were consumed within 24 hours. You will need to make your own judgments here.

Top tips:

  • Place the bottles with water into plastic sandwich bags as you may be asked to do this by security anyway. If they test your water they should not open the bottles – they have machines that can do this without contaminating the water.
  • Bring a formula travel pot with all the feeds you will need for the day, plus extra should you get delayed!
  • For freshly sterilised water, re-fill your thermos flask with boiling water from a cafe or restaurant in the airport of you have a stop-over.

Or, you can bring your own sterlised bottles and ask the flight attendants to fill it with boiling water so you can make up your feeds. This is probably the best option if you don’t want to carry water thermosflasks filled with water with you but not the best option if your baby’s feeding times vary as you would want to get the timing pretty spot on to allow the water to cool and the flight attendant time to see to you.

Other options include disposable bottles (Avent sell these) and pre-made formula. However, pre-made formula is particularly hard to get hold of in Australia.

During the flight:

How can i stop my babies ears from hurting on take off and landing?

The advice here is to feed on take off and landing. I could never time the feeds right and found that a dummy worked just as good.

Top tip:

  • Pack some baby panadol/nurofen/calpol etc just in case or talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Will my baby sleep!?

Of course… didn’t i tell you i have psychic powers? Jokes aside, this is likely the question that is causing the most anxiety for those flying first time with a baby. However, if your baby sleeps pretty well usually, has no issues with colic or teething then i see no reason why they shouldn’t sleep. If anything they may have the best sleep they’ve ever had with all that white noise from the plane’s engine, you forget how loud (yet completely soothing) it actually is. If you have the bassinet seats you will have the bonus of having two sleeping options for bubs… your lap and the bassinet. Please note: You will be asked to remove your baby from the bassinet and place them on your lap, regardless of whether they are sleeping or not, when the seatbelt sign comes on.

Top tips:

  • Take a blanket or baby sleeping bag on to the plane, the air-con is freezing!!
  • Take some baby moisturiser for their lips and cheeks as i found the air-con dried out bubs skin and left it quire red.

What if my baby cries?

So what if your baby cries? I can assure you they won’t be the only ones. Pack plenty of the things you know sooth your baby whether its dummies, cuddly comforters, lullabies on the ipad etc. There is also a pretty long gang-way for you to pace up and down and ‘ssshhhh’ the hell out of your baby!

Where do I change my baby?

There is always a toilet cubicle which has a pull down change table above the toilet for you to change bubs on. However, if the queue is pretty long and you know it’s not a messy one just do it in the bassinet!

After the flight:

Will my baby suffer jetlag?

Who knows!? Just like us adults everyone is different and so is every trip. My bubs didn’t suffer at all on the way out but was a bit messed up on the way back for a week or so.

And how do i deal with it?

As i am discussing long-haul flights time differences will be longer than a few hours so there is no option of sticking to ‘home time’. I found that ensuring the same bed time routine and setting really helped i.e. bath, swaddle, lullaby, night lights etc. Be flexible for routines to be out of whack by a few hours for a while and get up during the day no matter how tired you are. Getting out into the midday sun with your baby is supposed to work wonders in helping them adjust to the new night and day settings, i did this as soon as i could in both directions.

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So that’s it, grab your passports, sit back, relax and enjoy the flight 😉

If you have any other questions i would be happy to try and help.

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2 thoughts on “Flying long-haul with a baby – Your questions answered.

  1. Very helpful, just one thing. I’m not sure about formula in Australia but in the UK it is not sterile. The powder needs to be added to water of at least 70 degrees C to sterilise it. Adding formula powder to cold water can be dangerous. Safest would be asking for boiling water into a bottle and a jug of cold to cool it down quickly or premade formula cartons.

    Obviously Australian formula may well be sterile but UK stuff isn’t. Hope you enjoyed your trip back.

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    1. Oh wow, that’s interesting, i have never read anything about that here in Australia nor have i been informed by health providers, we were always told to add formula to cooled boiled water at room temperature. I doubt our formula’s are sterile. I hope people will do their own research on their countries guidelines before making a decision. Thanks for the heads up, i will edit my post so people aren’t wrongly informed.

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