Air travel: Two words that evoke dread in parents of babies and young children. But whether you’re crossing the Atlantic or choosing a quick flight over a long road trip, many moms and dads are braving the friendly skies with their little ones. The good news is that babies often find plane rides soothing, and there is a chance your child will sleep a good portion of the flight. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to expect an infant to make it through a trip without a single whimper, sob or scream. So before you find yourself in the preboard line at the airport, get familiar with these simple strategies for soothing your crying baby on a plane.
Keep your baby’s schedule as normal as possible.
A successful plane ride begins with taking steps to prevent scenarios that will likely result in an inconsolable infant. To avoid meltdowns, do your best to keep your baby’s schedule as normal as possible while traveling. While it may be tempting to delay a nap with the hopes that your child will sleep on the plane or hold off on feeding in order to occupy a child with snacks and meals during your flight, boarding a plane with a hungry or over-tired baby will be a disservice to both of you.
Determine why your baby is crying.
Babies cry for the same reasons in the air as they do on land — they are tired, hungry, in some kind of discomfort or simply bored. This means the same strategies that work when you are trying to soothe your crying baby at 4 p.m. in your living room will help you manage your child on a plane. You just need to modify those strategies to accommodate the cramped conditions of a 747.
Feed your baby during takeoff and landing.
It’s common to have a crying baby on your hands during takeoff and landing when the pressure in the cabin changes. Babies don’t know how to voluntarily swallow and may find the ear discomfort painful and scary. Both nursing and bottle feeding are great ways to help your baby relieve the pressure. If your little one won’t eat, try a pacifier and hope for the best. It takes about 20 minutes for the plane to reach cruising altitude, so do your best to get through it, and cross your fingers for a smoother ride ahead.
Pack your baby’s security items.
Do not (We repeat: Do not) forget your baby’s binky, lovey, blankie or favorite stuffed animal. Pack these items in a carry-on that is not stowed in the overhead compartment — you’ll want them to be easily accessible if your baby starts to cry.
Bounce your baby.
Once the fasten seatbelt sign is off, soothe your crying baby by bouncing him as you walk up and down the plane’s aisle. If you can’t stand up, try putting the baby over your shoulder and bouncing him. Hopefully, your crying baby will be a sleeping baby in no time.
Distract and delight a crying baby with new items.
Air travel can get boring, and sometimes a crying baby just needs to be distracted. Surprise your baby with a new toy or book. Bring one or two items that you can pull out of your carry-on as needed. And don’t forget to take advantage of everything that is new and exciting on the plane. Try paging through the in-flight magazine with your little one. Make a game out of pointing and naming the objects in the pictures.
Carry on more food, diapers and clothing than you think you’ll need.
Breastmilk, formula and baby food are not subject to the TSA’s 3.4-ounce container rule that other liquids are. Bring more than you think you’ll need so you can offer your crying baby a meal or snack. Extra diapers and clothing also are helpful to have in your carry-on — a wet baby is never a happy baby so be prepared in case of accidents.
Don’t stress or worry about other passengers.
No one wants to be the parent of an infant who won’t stop screaming on a plane, but babies, crying or otherwise, are a fact of life. It may not be the most pleasant air travel experience, but most passengers will sympathize with you — some may even offer help. While it’s not necessarily, if worrying about others is going to cause you anxiety, consider buying a large container of foam earplugs and offering them to surrounding passengers. For the passengers who are less kind, do your best to ignore them. The best thing you can do to soothe your crying baby on a plane is stay calm. The more stressed out you become, the less likely your baby will be easily consoled.