Infant in Arms | Tips for flying with a baby

Liam has now officially been on six plane rides.  Two of these six were just him and me flying together, while my husband interviewed in other places.  Our Colorado trip has already been mentioned (one solo flight) and then we flew to Florida together to visit a set of grandparents.  We had delays, de-icing, de-boardings...the whole mess of it.  Just Liam and I, while my husband met us in Florida after another one of his interviews.  While I would not recommend hanging out in an airport for 6 hours of delays with a baby, I do have some recommendations for flying with an infant in arms.   I actually have a LOT of tips, but I will spare you from the mundane.  If you're reading this, I assume that you have already armed yourself with a jumbo pack of hand wipes to clean surfaces and know to bring a few toys on board with you.   

(Our airport recently got Southwest airlines, and this was our airline for all of our flights.  If you have Southwest, I recommend it.  I'm not getting paid for that.  They are just really laid back, helpful and accommodating, and their open seating for boarding (along with two free checked bags!) is excellent for families).   

Booking/Checking In
  • After booking your ticket, call the airline to tell them you’ll be flying with an infant in arms.
  • When you check in at the airport, make sure that they print a boarding pass for the baby and that yours indicates that you are flying with infant in arms.
  • Have copy of birth certificate for age verification, even if your baby is obviously still fresh and under the age of two.  
  • When you are checking in, ask if there are seats open on the plane. If there are, you should be able to bring your car seat with you on board the plane, despite not paying for a seat.  It's safer for the baby to be in their car seat should, heaven forbid, anything go wrong.  Again, this is my Southwest experience, but I assume other airlines would follow suit, though I'm not sure how it would work with assigned seating. 
  • First, put your baby in your carrier before you get to security.  Liam prefers to face out, and since he'll smile at a wall if he thought it looked funny, he always wins over the TSA workers.  You can't not smile at a smiling baby.  It's a fact.  Plus if you put a bib on your baby that says something like "Captain Adorable," you're golden. 
  • Time to scan your million belongings.  First, I trust you aren't silly enough to wear a belt or any jewelry or have anything in your pockets.  Send your shoes through the machine first so you can put them back on while they are scanning everything else.
  • Remove your car seat from your stroller and send it upside down through x-ray machine.
  • Collapse stroller to go through x-ray machine.
  • Put any milk in its own baggie to be scanned separately.  Ice is fine too.  They’ll take it/you aside and either just put it in a little box that has lasers or they may open the bottle, hold a swab above it and then test the swab.  If you can nurse in public, by all means, do this, so that you don't have to deal with warming bottles, etc. 
  • After you get all of your junk gear onto the belt, you’ll go through standard metal detector.  After you walk through, hold your hands out so they can swab them to make sure you didn't, you know, make any bombs that day.  
  • Wear extra deodorant because you will be sweating by the time you do all of this lifting and hoisting while wearing an extra 15-20 pounds strapped to your body.
At the gate & boarding
  • For the love of pete, bring your own car seat and stroller.  I know you can rent them, but seriously, just bring yours.  They make bags you can put them in (we have one, but when traveling solo, I didn't bag it.  And it was fine.  I knew I was going to be moving slowly enough already, the last thing that I needed was to be trying to unzip a huge bag and fold it back up to store it) so they don't get dirty if you're checking it.  You also don’t need to take your base-learn how to install it in the car without it.  Yes, it takes 10 extra seconds. 
  • While waiting to board, get your gate-check tags from the gate agent for car seat and stroller.  They have to put the tag on themselves.  When you board, collapse your stroller and leave it and your car seat (detached from the stroller - obviously, if your stroller is collapsed) at the bottom of the jet way. It'll be waiting for you when you land.  In fact, on every flight, it was waiting open and ready to go for us, which was kind of huge.   
  • Most airlines will let families board before the masses do. 
  • Seats towards the rear of the plane will have more white noise, if your baby digs that when sleeping (which hopefully they do the whollllle flight!).  With Southwest's open seating, I literally beelined for the last row in the plane.  I figure that's half as many people to annoy if the baby does in fact scream the entire trip.  
  • Get into your seat and wipe down every surface you can with antibacterial wipes.  Liam's favorite toy on the airplane was the armrest.  He loved it.  You should have seen his face when he realized there were TWO.  

 In flight
  • I made the above ear plugs to hand out to our neighbors if things got loud.  We never had to hand out a single pair on any of our flights.  Thankfully Liam didn't have any problems with his ears. 
  • My mom-in-law got us this crazy contraption called the Flyebaby.  We did use it on a flight, and it actually rocked...see picture below.  Liam gets antsy sitting in my arms for too long, so this was a good change of scenery, and limited the amount of things he could touch. It also doubles as a high chair, which is handy if you'll be eating at someone's house or want to feed your baby in a hotel room.  [I can't remember why Liam wasn't wearing pants in the picture below, other than he prefers to be as naked as possible.  There were no diaper emergencies!]
  • There wasn’t a changing table in the bathroom on one of our flights so try to change baby's diaper right before you board!  Also, as appalled with myself as I was, I had to be that mom who changed her baby on her lap on the plane.  Thank sweet Jesus we had a whole row to ourselves and it wasn't a rank dirty diaper, but he needed to be changed before he fell asleep for the night and we had crazy turbulence.  I asked the flight attendant if I could use the bathroom to change him, and they said to stay seated because of the fasten seat belt sign.  Ack.  
  • This is a little mundane, but I definitely recommend putting little ones in footed pants (or a sleeper).  The last thing you want to be doing is tracking down socks that have been kicked off of little feet.
Those were the most important things for us...did I miss anything?


  1. this is a great list! a couple things i will say after having just flown internationally with my 5-week old: our stroller got pretty banged up when they checked it for us. no consequential damage but it went from looking brand new to well worn. we filed a complaint but there isn't much they can do for us. Also, I've seen the strollers waiting at the gate when coming off the plane but Air France didn't do that for us. We had to find the stroller and carseat in the oversized baggage part of baggage claim..,just some things to keep in mind.
    i will definitely check out that Flyebaby for our next flight. Also on international flights they sometimes offer parents flying with infants a seat at the bulkhead where they can hook a bassinet for the baby to sleep in. And theres more (leg) room for all of baby's (and mom's) stuff! Definitely a big help!

  2. Thanks for this. We fly in a month (Southwest). I had no idea about any of the check in stuff... guess I will be calling them tomorrow...

  3. Dang. I'm bookmarking this for future reference!

  4. Love this post! We will be flying with our little one about 2 months after he is born, so I'll definitely be looking back at this!


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