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Welcome aboard: surviving baby's first airplane flight

It is possible for babies to be happy before, during, and after a plane flight.
It is possible for babies to be happy before, during, and after a plane flight.
Vanessa Scarbo

If you are a parent debating whether to take that trip with your little one, stop debating and just do it. The rewards that come with traveling as a family and the experiences that your children will have far outweigh any hassles you may encounter en route. This article will provide some tips for those parents thinking about taking that next step in family travel: the airplane flight.

Many of you may first consider the health risks to your infant or child that could potentially result from a plane ride. Many pediatricians will argue that infants and children are better fliers than adults, and that the most significant threat to children on a flight is the germs passed from the other passengers. As a result, be mindful of your child's hands and always keep antibacterial gel at-the-ready for quick and easy clean up's. Bring toys with you so that your infant or child is not using something from the plane as a toy and sticking it in his mouth for the duration of the flight. And, of course, check with your personal pediatrician before your first flight just to ensure everything is A-ok. Many pediatricians recommend the first flight be taken after two months of age, but be certain to double-check.

From start to finish, getting your infant from point A to point B can be simplified with a little planning. Know in advance that you are going to have much more luggage than you have ever had on a trip in your life. You will likely have the following for you infant: a diaper bag (this will be your carry-on), a bag full of baby's clothes, diapers, toys..., a pack-and-play (recommended to bring your own versus using one that a hotel or cruise line may provide), stroller, car seat, and car seat base. What to check and what to carry-on? If you have less than an hour to wait for your flight departure, check everything except your diaper bag. You will not need the stroller, just hold your baby prior to boarding. If you have more than an hour's wait, bring the stroller. TSA agents will need to physically see your baby in the security line and you are required to take your baby out of the stroller, sleeping or not, and carry him through the metal detector with you. You will want the ability to walk baby up and down the terminal if needed. Keep in mind that you will need to gate-check the stroller and car seat, and it is suggested that you have these items tagged for baggage claim. Why? Because if your baby is throwing a fit after landing and upon arrival, you want to keep moving off the plane and the jetway. You will not want to wait on the jetway with your screaming child waiting for your stroller and carseat. Simply carry your child to baggage claim, retrieve your stroller, and place him back in.

Surviving the actual flight with your baby is, also, possible, and here is another example of where some pre-planning can prove helpful. If your baby is on a schedule, try as much as you can to book flights that accommodate that schedule. And, if possible, try to keep baby up as long as you can before the flight. This will increase the liklihood that baby will sleep on takeoff and the beginning ascent of the flight. A diaper change right before boarding is, also, a good idea. Take advantage of the family boarding at the beginning of the boarding call. You will want the extra room and the extra time to get situated, especially if you are traveling alone with your infant. If you are traveling alone, use the assistance of the flight attendants. They are usually more than happy to hold your baby while you put your diaper bag under the seat and get settled. Do not try and do everything yourself while holding your baby.

The ascent and the descent of the plane can cause troubles for the ears of little ones, and with infants, you cannot tell them to swallow or chew gum. Have a few bottles prepped. If the child is still breastfeeding, check the TSA website online for guidelines: Otherwise, prepare bottles with powdered formula and mix a bottle with water (get from flight attendant) prior to take-off. If your baby starts to cry, give him the bottle and in swallowing the formula, his ears should begin to pop. Pacifiers can, also, help with this. Have a bottle ready for the descent, as well. If your flight is over five hours, you may want a third bottle in the event your child is hungry mid-flight. For those of you with your infant on an eating schedule, do the best you can. The comfort of your child is more important on a travel day involving a flight than his schedule. Finally, if your infant becomes fussy in-flight, get up. Babies, like many adults, get bored with sitting in one place. Walk the aisles if you can and utilize the back of the plane near the lavatories to hold and rock your baby. It is likley the flight attendants would rather have you back there than a screaming baby disrupting the entire flight.

A quick note on your diaper bag. Your carry-on diaper bag should contain prepped bottles, a changing pad and/or a receiving blanket to lay on surfaces for changing diapers, diapers, wipes, toys, diaper cream, antibacterial gel, a camera, some snacks and gum (for you) and your wallet. You will need your ID and cash and credit cards so don't forget about your needs, as well. And, as with all liquids going through airport security, be certain that they meet TSA requirements and that you have them in a separate plastic bag for removal through the security line.

Some other things you may wish to know to be prepared and ease your first flight with your baby include having the child's birth certificate or a copy, bringing a camera, and having fun. Have your child's birth certificate or a copy with you when traveling by air with your baby. You will likely not need it since your child will be on your lap and does not have his own seat, but it is always best to be prepared. Be sure to pack your camera in the diaper bag. This is a milestone event for your little one and pictures can be fun. You as the parent may not look great, but your infant will be adorable. And, of course, have fun. Yes, you will get dirty looks from a few non-parentals but the majority of passengers are helpful and sympathetic. Be sure to ask your flight attendant for pilot wings to commemorate baby's first flight.

You will certainly have your very own experience with your baby when you fly. Gather your own tips and tricks that work for you and your baby to ease subsequent flights. Traveling as a family is a rewarding way to see the world, expand children's horizons, and build family bonds. Welcome aboard!