Myth busted: Flying with an infant is only for the brave

Do you travel with young family members? Maybe you’ve got a family holiday booked in the new year. Or maybe your children and their young family is visiting over the Christmas period and are worried about the flight.

I recently did some long-haul flights and on each one, I had the privilege of being seated near shrieking babies. It spurred me to do some thinking and research.

  1. Lots of things can help, but nothing is guaranteed. Burping, changing, feeding, cuddling, swaddling often works, but if ears are sore or your child is colicky, it just might be a long, loud flight.
  2. Babies cry. That’s not problem behaviour, that’s just what infants do. You need not feel embarrassed or ashamed if your baby cries. All around, good-hearted people will be sympathising with you (and rejoicing that it is not them stuck with a crying infant). My experience is that people are willing to cut you a lot of slack, especially if they see that you are doing your best.
  3. The tiredness and stress of long flights do erode patience, and there are some people who are grumps. So yes, some people might be irritated by you and your child. Such is life. If you are doing your best, you are not responsible for their response. In this situation, you have a beautiful baby, and they have a bad attitude – you have the best deal by far!
  4. Doctors can prescribe things to help children sleep. I’m no expert but I have heard of very variable results. Some can have the opposite effect – winding them up and making them inconsolable. I have a friend who gave antihistamines to his children to make them drowsy and ended up spending a long and unpleasant time in an aircraft loo cleaning up a semi-conscious five-year-old who had filled his pants.
  5. Bribes are good. (Not something I would like to be quoted on very often, but we are talking about purchasing a few hours peace with few distracting treats, toys and gadgets). Space them out during the flight.
  6. Recruit the cabin crew. They sometimes have a few tricks, and even if they don’t, at least you will get to talk to an adult for a few minutes instead of just your infant.
  7. A nice idea is to pass out bags of lollies and earplugs to nearby passengers with a note, introducing yourself and apologising in advance if your child disturbs them. You shouldn’t need to, but what a nice thing to do.

And what do you do if you are an adult travelling near a loud child? Why not have a whip-around of the other passengers and purchase the parent and child an upgrade to business class? Impractical, I know, but the idea of that child disturbing six rich people up in the front of the plane rather than 50 of us commoners back in cattle class does have some appeal!


By John Cowan, The Parenting Place

Improving and equipping families to thrive.

Read more from John and The Parenting place here.