What Should You Know About Flying With an Infant on Lap?

Flying with a lap baby for the first time has got to be one of the top 10 stressful moments for parents. Kids are unpredictable, and as much as you try to prepare yourself, you are always facing some sort of challenge.

If you recently travel with your little one, you know how quickly expenses pile up from baby gear and essentials to plane tickets. Next thing, you are spending more than you planned to.

Moms of the world unite when a topic of "flying with an infant on lap" is mentioned. With so many pros and cons and shared experiences, this quickly became a hot topic among parents.

In this guide, you will read everything you need to know about flying with a lap baby. From safety issues, the practical tips and tricks on keeping your lap baby calm during the flight.

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Is It Safe?

flying with an infant on lap delta

The number one dilemma of flying with a lap baby is-is it safe? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made it pretty clear that flying with an infant on the lap is not recommended.

The safest option for infants and parents' sound mind is a car seat. If you have a budget for one, consider purchasing an extra seat on the plain for the car seat. After all, you don't know when you are going to need it. You just may end up purchasing one when you get off the plane, and no one wants extra costs on their vacation.

So, why exactly is flying with a lap baby allowed?

Well, mostly because considering driving, flying is slightly safer. Sure, during the turbulence, your baby will get fussy, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve on how to deal with that. But, more on that later.

The other reason is that the airlines try to keep other options available. For all kid-friendly destinations, flying with a baby on the lap can cut down on some of the expenses. Do you begin to wonder why so many families traveled more when they had babies then later on? This could be one of the reasons.

Therefore, technically, flying with lap infants is not recommended, but it does not frown upon either. If you are going through with it, here are a few safety considerations.

Safety Considerations

flying with an infant on your lap

The number one concern for parents is their child's safety. Fortunately, there are not many runway accidents, but there are still some risks to consider when flying with infants.

The injuries that could happen during a flight can leave a traumatic effect both on child and parent. You can prevent even a minor injury by putting the baby in a car seat and reducing the possibility of an accident. The travel car seats are usually installed by the window to avoid 'aisle exposure.'

You may have heard of a little component called 'a belly belt.' In some countries, airline safety requires that belly belts should be used for under two-year-old's. When you use a belly belt, your baby should be attached to you during taking off and landing.

Considering the risks of using a belly belt, we wouldn't dare use one. You could potentially end up crushing the baby, which is the risk we are now willing to take. The use of belly belts is forbidden in the US and Canada, so if an airline requires one, kindly recline and bring your car seat for the baby's safety.

Now, the next question is, what about baby carriers? Can you bring those on a flight?

Well, yes and no.

It is as much of a safety hazard as a belted belly if you like us. It has the same risk of parents crushing the baby, and it is less likely that the staff will let you use one. In our experience, they may let you use it for turbulence, but this is a million chances.

Does Flying With Lap Baby Save You Some Money?

flying with infant on lap frontier

One of the reasons we mentioned parents opt for flying with a lap baby is money. But how does this work in reality? Allow me to break it down as quickly as possible.

When it comes to the USA, domestic flights are free for lap babies. For international flights, it would cost you around 10% out of the regular price.

When you pay a seat for infants, it can range from 60% to 80% of the adult price, both for domestic and international flights.

Now, as you can see, this adds up quite the charge to your expenses. Having this in mind, you can notice that the controversial topic is sometimes the best choice for parents with lower incomes.

Rules of Flying With A Lap Infant

You need to know that a baby must be under two years old to be considered a lap infant. As soon as the second birthday rolls around, you can say goodbye to flying for free.

Babies that are two weeks old are allowed to fly on a plane. However, lap babies and children are nowhere near allowed to sit near the emergency exits.

On one of our flights, the airline had to charge us for a seat on the return flight because the baby's second birthday was around our vacay. There is little information you should be aware of if you find yourself in this kind of information.

Always check beforehand with the airline company so you can set some money aside just in case.

1. Will You Need Documentation?

flying with infant on lap united

Whenever a site says that documentation is not required for infants, I do the exact opposite. Having documentation (birth certificate, doctor's letter, passport, etc.) will always come in handy.

As much as you keep updated, you never know when the airline will change their policy.

If the baby's age is questionable, expect to be asked about the birth certificate. There were some awkward moments during boarding, and let's just say that it wasn't pleasant.

To prevent these kinds of situations, check on IATA for further info before booking your flight.


2. Tips & Tricks

Now that you have covered all the essentials regarding documentation and safety, it's time to get to the real challenge. How do you keep a baby calm during the flight? What is the proper way to hold it? What essentials do you need? Whoosh! This may seem overwhelming, but the more you know, the better your flying experience will be.

When traveling for the first time, you need to be mentally prepared. You might experience getting some glares from other passengers. Having a baby on the plane is not a joyful experience for all of them, especially for those without headphones. If your baby tends to get fussy, you will hear some whispers and comments from others, but don't let this get to you.

Every parent goes through this. Your task is focusing on finding your seat and installing a car seat if you opt for it. The baby is going to do what the baby is going to do. It is not much you can do to control its reactions when they get nervous. 

You can try to control your reaction and focus on creating a mentally sound mind that will get you through the flight. Easier said than done, but after you travel a couple of times with infants or toddlers, the Zen search becomes a routine.

Another trick for flying with lap infants is not always manageable, but it sure does help. It is to identify when your baby's witching hour is? This is the time when they are mostly tired and fussy, so you are going to want to avoid booking the flight in those hours. Typically, this is when there are not many methods that can calm a baby down, usually occurring during 5 and 11 pm

However, every baby is different; some may even not have a crazed moment but will react to certain sounds or cramps.

If so, here is a helpful video on how to calm a baby during a witching hour.


3. Sip, Sip, Hurray!

Unlike us adults, you can't explain to a baby to use methods for preventing air pressure. For take-offs and landings, a baby needs to keep sip or suck on milk or formula to relieve pressure.

Of course, not all babies are affected by it. If your baby is already asleep before take-off or landing, do not wake them up for God's love. Just let them sleep through it, waking them up will only make the matter worse.


4. Keep Them Entertained

flying with infant on lap southwest

Keeping the baby entertained at home is an entirely different situation than when you are on an airline. Their attention span is minimal, and you want to bring entertaining items to keep them distracted during the flight.

Rattle toys may be disturbing to some passengers, but if that is the only thing that seems to be working, go for it.

Like all babies, they will quickly lose interest and move on to the next toy ( maybe this time it's a noise-free one). After all, you know your options. You don't have to bring an entire toy stash, just a few of the most entertaining ones.


5. How Do You Manage A Lap Baby?

Once we are on the topic of lap baby infants, the only logical position is to hold the baby in your lap throughout the flight. Right? In theory, it is manageable, but when you put this in practice, you would see how difficult it is.

Holding a baby in your lap may be an excellent solution for shorter flights. But, just imagine how it would play out on a longer trip that lasts up to several hours. We don't have to. Been there, done that. We learned it the hard way that lap infants are a lot to handle if you plan on holding them for the long hour flight.

If you plan on nursing, whether it's for bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, you can use one of the nursing pillows as support. They won't offer that much help, but they are an excellent alternative for longer flights. You can go ahead and use a baby lounger to provide the baby with a cozy rest and some arm strain relief for you.

These alternatives can be quite helpful if you are traveling with a partner. You can always alternate between naps and take turns just like you would do at home.

Things get tougher if you are flying solo with a lap baby. In this case, we recommend you go with the car seat option. Paying a few extra dollars is nothing compared to your babies' safe trip.


6. Baby Bassinet

flying with an infant on allegiant

Another comfortable resting spot for the baby is the bassinet.

In our experience, we usually get a hold of them on international flights, though they are not rare on domestic ones either. The thing with bassinet is that they have become a hot commodity among traveling parents.

Upon booking your ticket, ask the airline to reserve one for you. Most of the time, they are glad to do so. However, that is not always the case. Usually, the first one there gets the bassinet.

You might think your 1-year old is the youngest one on the plane, but you find out that there is an even younger baby on board whose parents have booked the bassinet the night before. Your rights to the bassinet are pretty much in the blue at this point.

And this is another reason why we advise you to go in the car seat for your youngest one.

Final Words

After reading the article, we bet your choice is even harder to make now. With so many pros and cons, it can be impossible to decide what is the best option. Although we have traveled a few times with a lap baby, it is quite challenging from our experience.

There are many safety regulations to consider, and nothing can replace a sound mind when flying. We stand firm that a car seat is the best option for the child's safety. 

If you are still keen on flying with a lap baby, make sure to bring all the essentials and follow the recommended safety regulations for a secure flying experience.

We hope that you enjoyed the guide, and make sure you leave a comment below on sharing your thoughts and experience on the topic to help all the parents out there.

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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