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Flying With a Baby

by Amanda on January 7, 2008
category: 0 – 1 year (baby),Travel

I researched flying with a baby a few months ago and enjoyed reading the stories of other parents’ experiences. So I decided to write my story about my first experience flying with a baby.


In August of last year I had to decide if I my baby and me were going to the Philippines with my husband and 10 other people in December. Part of my concern was traveling with a 7 month old. I researched flying with an infant and spoke to many parents. They all agreed that this would be a great time to travel with Ace, because she would not be crawling yet. So we bought the tickets and in December we left to travel to the other side of the world.


Getting through security would have been a bigger challenge if I had to do it by myself. Luckily my husband was with me to help Ace and I get through the lines. Between the three of us we had five items: a car seat, a car seat frame stroller, a diaper bag, my backpack, and Daniel’s bag with a laptop computer. Almost each time we had to put everything through the security ex-ray machine, including breaking down the stroller. In addition, we had to take off all our shoes, even Ace’s little knock-off Robeez. The first time we went through the line my husband thought he lost his mobile phone. He found his phone, but we agreed to get through the line slower next time and not care about the people behind us. Going slow through the line may not have made the people behind us very happy, but we were much more relaxed and less stressed.

In the Los Angeles airport there was a special line for strollers and wheelchairs. We zipped right through the line while we waited over thirty minutes for our friends to get through the regular security line. In the Hong Kong airport before Daniel and I went through the security line a nice security man with clean white gloves held up his hands and asked for my baby. I handed him my baby thinking, he just wanted to see her. Then, on the other side of security we saw three security personnel crowded around my baby trying to get her to smile. They had sat her sitting up in her car seat. I wasn’t sure what to think about all of it, I was tired and just glad that my baby was okay after passing her off to a security guard.

Finally On The Plane

My husband, baby, and I did not always have our three seats assigned together. Imagine if I had left my baby in the row behind me next to two unassuming passengers! Every time we would not completely settle into our seats until we made sure that the seat next to us was empty or until after we asked someone to exchange seats with us. Everyone we asked politely obliged to move seats even though they did not have to.

Having a stroller and a baby lets you get on the plane first, but sitting on the tarmac is one of the worst parts of the trip. I waited to nurse my baby until after take off to help her ear pressure, but if your baby is already crying of hunger while waiting for take off, what do you do? I went ahead and fed her. We entertained her the best we could with toys, kisses, and smiles.

The Great Car Seat/ Buckle/ Lap Debate

There are many opinions about the safety of infants on airlines. The Consumerist posted a scathing commentary on his experience with his car seat in Business First Class on Cathay Pacific Airlines. The Jet Lag blog on the New York Times exclaimed how unsafe it is for infants to sit in their parents lap. There is a new safety harness that just got FAA approved. We decided to purchase an additional airline seat and use our car seat, because the duration of the flights were long.

We had no problem using our car seat on American Airlines, but there was some confusion on Cathay Pacific. They made us buckle in our rear-facing car seat facing forward. One time they made us stow the car seat. On another leg three Cathay Pacific flight attendants debated how to install the car seat for almost ten minutes. Every time we complied with their requests.

Cathay Pacific also made us use child lap seatbelts when she was sitting in our laps. The seatbelt loops around mine and then connects another loop around my daughter’s waist. I loosely put it on her just to comply, but I didn’t really use it. She kept slipping out of the seatbelt every time she moved.

I honestly did not have any problems with holding Ace in my lap on take off and landing. My pediatrician told me to nurse Ace during take off. I asked her about the car seat and she said it didn’t really matter. So I didn’t worry it and Ace liked the comfort of being in our laps. She would have been screaming in her car seat anyway.

In The Air

So what is it really like with a 7 month old on a plane? Depends on the length of the flight. Short flights are a piece of cake. Our 15-hour and 12-hour flights were not fun. We have learned our lesson – don’t start 40 hours of traveling already exhausted. We are not super humans! We had stayed up until 3 a.m. packing the night before having to be at the airport at 9:30 a.m. Caring for an infant on a plane requires energy and every brain cell you have.

Many people told me that their child slept right through it, just like they were in their car. I was not so lucky. I learned that my child was going to sleep whenever she darn well felt like it. No amount of lying down, coddling, rocking, walking up and down the aisles, or breastfeeding was going to help. It was so hard to get her to sleep. Finally, I let her nurse as long as she wanted, even though she wasn’t really eating. She finally fell asleep nursing and we quickly placed her in her car seat and she slept for five hours. She woke up crying and a little later she slept for two hours on Grandpa’s shoulder. So she slept for a total of 7 hours on a 15 hour flight. She was awake for over 8 hours on the very packed and crowded flight.

We did not use the bassinet on the first long flight, because every time we hit turbulence we would have to take her out. They were button happy with that dinging seatbelt light. Even though I tried to stay hydrated I was out of milk by the end of the flight. I couldn’t get her to nurse. They tell you to nurse upon ascending and descending, but what do you do if your baby doesn’t want to nurse? I gave her a pacifier, but she stuck her thumb in it and chewed on it.

By the end of our last lag Daniel and I were very upset that nothing we could do could comfort her in any way. That is hard on a parent. We were physically and emotionally drained. I like to let Ace cry it out every once in a while, but that is hard to do when 400 other passengers are sleeping in their contorted forms. Adding the pressure of trying to keep your baby quiet is draining. On the way back, I didn’t care so much about what other passengers thought. Babies cry. That is just what they do.

The journey back home was better. We were rested and the flights were shorter. We used the bassinet, because there was not as much turbulence. The seatbelt light came on a few times, but we waited until an airline attendant would come and tell us that we had to take her out. Luckily they were busy passing out drinks and didn’t make it to us before they turned off the seatbelt light.

The hardest part of traveling with an infant is that you can’t sit back, relax, and watch the movie of your choice on the personal monitor in front of you. You can’t just sit there and peacefully read your book. I brought three books that I never read. You are constantly caring for a child, even when they are asleep. You don’t get a break. The breaks from your baby that your spouse gives you don’t help much, because you can still hear her crying in the back of the plane.

Flying with Ace was exhausting, but one of my biggest accomplishments of the trip. It was hard, but do-able. I made it. We all survived and made it to our beds.

Lessons Learned

  • Always travel with a partner when flying with an infant.
  • Start the trip as well rested as you can. Don’t stay up until 3 a.m. the night before.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • The extra seat is nice.
  • Call ahead and get the bulkhead seat. Use the bassinet.
  • Don’t care about what the people around you think. Most of them slept right through Ace’s fussiness anyway.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you have done everything you can and still your baby is not comforted. You are not a bad parent.

12 Responses to Flying With a Baby

  • Comment by McKenna
    January 7, 2008 @ 9:47 am

    Wow! I haven’t flown with either of my kids yet. We may be taking them on a flight with us this summer. I think Connor is going to be my handful on the flight. Darah is such a DVD junkie that I imagine her sitting in her seat watching Signing Times and Barney nonstop.

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    Comment by Dawn
    January 7, 2008 @ 11:04 pm

    I have flown with Lucy on four trips, all before she could crawl.

    Now, I have little interest in tackling that adventure with an almost-two-year old & a 6 month old. It’s not like coach is all that spacious to begin with. :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Chrissy
    January 8, 2008 @ 12:54 am

    Amanda…great story! Such a great idea – I’m sure you’ve helped a lot of moms, expecting moms, grandmoms… even dads etc… It reminds me of a book I had bought recently called 101 Accessible vacations – which you could use for a baby but it’s super useful for the disabled. I find it hard to start to book a flight or vacation with my husband being disabled. This book is awesome for that. I would really like to get your book as I have a 5 year old and plan to have one on the way this year. (I better get started hey!) And well this will be our first year traveling together to make the baby haha… but It would be nice to travel with the kids next year to see family.
    All the best and really – great story! I will come back to visit soon!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Heidi
    January 8, 2008 @ 11:04 pm

    I definitely say AMEN to Lesson Learned #4. Ava had her first flight back to the NW and luckily she slept most of the flight. However, she was sleeping in my arms so I could do absolutely nothing but watch my son’s dvd next to me with no audio. Boring. My arm was so numb the end of the flight I was alreadying dreading the flight back to SA. I could have handed Ava off to my husband, but we were in fear she would wake up with any subtle movement. I will be purchasing Ava her own seat on our next flight!

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    Comment by amelia
    January 9, 2008 @ 3:08 pm

    We are about to fly with all 3 boys next week. The last time we flew was 2 years ago when Isaac almost 2 and Ewan was almost 3. This time we will be adding the baby. I am hoping now that the boys are 3 and 4 they will be easier on the plane. They have their own seats of course and they will be able to bring their backpacks with fun stuff to entertain themselves. I don’t think the airlines let you wrap a baby in a sling on the flight which is really a bummer because I know that Graham will need to sleep at some point on the flight and holding him the whole time doesn’t sound fun. Thankfully we got a nonstop flight from Pittsburgh to Dallas to cut down on travel time. We decided it was worth the extra $$ to fly non-stop rather than the kids get totally worn out from layovers.

  • Comment by Amanda
    January 9, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    Hey Amelia – I bet you could use your wrap when you reach cruising altitude and the seat belt sign goes off. Maybe even before. I would try it and let them tell you no. I think a wrap would be safer and easier in your arms than your lap! I just looked on American Airlines and they didn’t say anything about wraps. Way to go on the non-stop! That is worth every cent!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Sonali
    June 25, 2008 @ 11:14 am


    Thanks for writing this ! I am flying with my 3 month old on a non stop flight (20 hrs with a 2 hr re-fueling stop in which we stay in the plane). I was wondering if it is safe for her to be in a plane for so long? Your non stop flight was for 15 hrs at a stretch ?

  • Gravatar
    Comment by sue
    October 16, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience. We are flying with our infant on Cathay. We will be taking a rear facing seat. Can you please let me know whether it was easy to install the rear facing seat forward? Also did you take the base?

  • Comment by Amanda
    October 17, 2008 @ 11:09 am

    @sue – Hi Sue,

    Thanks for commenting! No, we did not want to carry the base with us overseas, so we didn’t bring it. Our rear facing car seat has a spot on each side to slide a seat belt through. So the seat belt went over the baby. I hope that make sense. I have attached a photo (not my baby) and you can see where it looks like hooks on the side of the seat. I slipped the airplane seat belt through those without the base. So, in that case it was easy to install.

    I will say that Cathay was confused with our car seat. On one flight they insisted that I hold my baby in my lap with the child lap belt that attaches to my seat belt during take off. My baby just slipped through their belt. So I obliged and held her, even though I thought she would be safer in her seat. It turned out fine.

    During the flight the stewards and stewardesses were very kind and would offer me juice or a diaper. Even though I didn’t need any of what they offered.

    I hope your flight goes well for you and your baby sleeps most of the way! Good luck!

    If you have any other questions, I would be happy to answer them.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Sasha
    November 20, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your adventure! The story was informative and funny.

    So my husband and I are traveling for Christmas with a 2-year old (her own seat) and almost 1-year old (lap). We will have a longer layover there. So i have been trying to think of how to entertain both my children on our longer travel day.

    Any Suggestions????


  • Gravatar
    Comment by Colleen
    June 2, 2012 @ 11:53 am

    Wow!! So great to know it can be done! I will be moving back to the states from Central Europe in about 9 months, and my datugher will be about 7 months by then. We will also be taking cats with us, an added issue, but shorter flights and one layover. Thanks so much for sharing your story!!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by AnneR
    January 31, 2013 @ 1:42 am

    I will be traveling with my husband and baby, also to the Philippines, and my baby is also 7 mos. old. We will have 3 domestic flights because I don’t think the baby can take the 12 hour and mostly the initial 15 hour flight to the Philippines.

    I got to read your blog because I’m looking for a seat for the baby. I’m considering the SnazzyBaby because we did not purchase an extra seat and then I saw your picture with your baby in the bassinet. Did u buy the bassinet or was it provided by the airline? Thanks so much!!!

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