Anyone who has travelled by airplane is probably very aware that babies can often cry (a lot!) during a flight.
So if you’re feeling anxious or worried about an upcoming flight with your baby, you’re probably interested to know why children cry on airplanes, and what exactly you can do about it.
The main reason babies cry on airplanes is due to the change in air pressure in the cabin.
Hunger, overtiredness and being too cold or uncomfortable are also reasons why your little one might cry on a flight.
Why Do Babies Cry On Airplanes?
The most common reason that babies and infants cry during airplane flights is because the cabin pressure presses down on their ears.
Without getting too technical, cabin pressure on a plane is maintained using a system that pumps air into and out of the the plane.
An adult ear is better able to equalize pressure than the sensitive ear of a baby or infant.
When a baby is exposed to this change in pressure, it presses down on their sensitive ears, which can be painful.
Do Babies Ears Hurt When Flying?
While it is a very common and perfectly normal party of flying, the change in cabin pressure and the resulting pressing down on their ear can cause some pain or discomfort to a baby.
However, the good news is this pain is only temporary and it will not cause lasting problems.
In most cases the pain will ease after several minutes once your baby’s middle ear tubes open to help facilitate air pressure equalization.
The exception to this is if your baby has an ear infection, as flying during an infection can significantly increase the pain that a child experiences.
Doctors therefore recommend that you delay flying with a baby that has an ear infection (ideally until the ear infection has completely gone).
This will not only avoid exposing your baby to pain, but it will also help avoid a potential rupture of tear of their eardrum.
As always, if in doubt it’s best to consult with a medical profession about your baby’s individual circumstances.
How to Stop a Baby From Crying When Flying?
There are several effective ways to stop a baby from crying on a plane.
These tips will also help ease an infant’s ear pressure when flying.
Give your baby a bottle or breastfeed them during take off or landing (you can nurse your baby during any part of the flight including taking off and landing).
For older babies, offer food when taking off and landing.
For older babies and toddlers, distractions such as watching cartoons or playing games on an iPad can help stop a baby from crying when flying.
For younger babies, playing with toys, singing or bouncing your baby up and down can work as a good distraction technique.
Blowing through a colorful straw or pinwheel is also an effective distraction for toddlers, especially as doing this also helps manage their ear pain.
Children, just like adults should drinks plenty of fluids when flying, so make sure your carry-on diaper bag is filled with plenty of liquids.
So encourage your little one to drink lots of water throughout the flight to help unclog their ears.
Stay Awake During Take Off And Landing
Your child will swallow more when they are awake, so it’s best to keep them up during both the take off and landing periods.
This will also prevent them waking up to find their ear’s hurting, which can be a stressful experience.
If your child is able to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen then this can help manage their ear pain during a flight.
If you plan to do this, try giving this to them 30 minutes before take off or landing so it has time to take effect.
This is the technical name for holding your nose, closing your mouth and blowing out of your nose in an attempt to make your ears “pop”.
Chewing Gum & Candy
While this is of course not suitable for younger children, from around 4 years of age it’s safe to give your child gum (preferably sugar-free versions).
Sucking on hard candy can also help ease ear pressure during the key take off and landing phases.
For children not old enough to chew gum or suck on hard candy, sucking on a pacifier can help prevent crying or discomfort when flying.
Where is the Best Place to Sit on a Plane With a Baby?
When flying with a baby or infant, many parents prefer to sit either at the back of the plan or in a bulkhead row.
The back of an airplane can be a good place to sit with a baby because it’s close to the galley (which gives you space to move around and prepare baby formula) and because it can be less busy (given most other travellers prefer to sit at the front of the plane).
As an added bonus on depending on the type of the plane and engine location, the back can be nosier, which will help mask the noise of a crying baby!
Bulkhead rows are also popular with parents because they provide more space to store diaper bags should you need a quick diaper change, a car seat (if you’re taking one on-board), and there’s no chance of anyone reclining their set in front of you.
When Is The Earliest A Baby Can Fly?
Technically speaking, you can fly with a baby as young as 2-14 days old.
Factors to consider are your airline’s policy, your baby’s health and what you’re comfortable with.
If you want to fly with a newborn, the good news is that doctors and other medical professionals state that air travel is safe for healthy, full-term infants.
If you want to fly with a very young baby that is only days or weeks old, it’s best to check with your airline about their specific policy and whether you need an approval letter or medical release.
Airline policy aside, the other thing to consider if your baby’s health.
Full-term newborns can fly after only a few days after birth, but if your baby was born prematurely, or has any heart, lung or breathing issues, then you should of course consult a health care provider before taking them on a flight.
But one key thing you must consider is that most doctors advise you wait until your baby is at least 3 months old before flying.
This is due to a baby’s developing immune system.
Planes and public transport in general can be a hotbed for spreading germs, so waiting until your baby is 3 or even 6 months old before flying will ensure their immune system is better developed and able to cope compared to the newborn phase.