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 challenges.

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.

Whether you should or shouldn't do it, I have prepared an article discussing the pros and cons as well as first-hand safety tips when flying with an infant on lap.

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Parent Dilemma

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) advises that flying with an infant on the lap is not recommended.

So what can you do? Well, as you would with toddlers, restraining them in their car seat is the best option. However, before that, make sure the car seat is FAA approved and safe for aircraft. We are all aware of the costs when purchasing a separate seat, but would a few more dollars make a difference if your baby's safety was in danger?

After all, you don't know when you are going to need it. You may end up purchasing one when you get off the plane, and no one wants extra costs on their vacation.

When Is the Right Time to Fly With a Baby?

flying with an infant on your lap

Most parents are completely in the blue when it comes to the appropriate age for airplane trips. Hey, I don't blame you; we were all beginners once. I had to check at least ten times with my pediatrician before our flight to ensure the baby could handle the air pressure, crowds, and extended flight hours.

But, before we get down to the mental and physical preparations, let's cover the technicalities you should know:

Most airlines will allow infants on the plane. In my experience, they allow babies no younger than two-weeks old to fly on an airplane. However, I would recommend you to call ahead and check as it may not apply to all airlines.

Another bonus info for parents struggling financially is that babies can fly for free until they turn two-years!

Now that sounds tempting. Well, this is one of the reasons parents decide to fly with a lap infant. It drastically cuts the budget! When you pay a seat for infants, it can range from 60% to 80% of the adult price, both for domestic and international flights.

You are bound to take a risk when flying with a lap infant. But, you know what's even worse? Coming unprepared! You clicked on this guide to get some useful tips for your first baby travel, not to see if you should or shouldn't do it. After all, you will be the one deciding, but it's essential to do it right.

Tips and Tricks on Flying With a Lap Baby

flying with infant on lap frontier

1. Will You Need Documentation?

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 its 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 say that it wasn't pleasant. To prevent these kinds of situations, check on IATA for further info before booking your flight.

2. You Boarded on the Plane. Now What?

You passed the security check, checked your luggage (or a car seat), made sure you packed everything, and you and your little nugget are on your way to find the seat. The hard part is over. Or is it? The real challenge isn't dealing with technicalities or choosing a place for vacation. Trouble arises when you come utterly unprepared for flying with a lap infant.

For this reason, you need to pay attention to the following part of the article. I will discuss some things you should or shouldn't do when flying with a lap baby and sneak in a few tricks.

3. Mental Preparation Saves The Day

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 response and focus on creating a mentally sound mind to 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.

4. When Should You Book a Flight?

Okay, hands down, this is my favorite tip I like to give to new parents. Let me ask you something, is there a time of the day when your baby is exceptionally fussy? Whether it's from the lack of sleep or cramps, you know that when that period arrives, you do everything in your power to calm the baby down.

Did you have a mental picture of that situation yet? Good! Because you are going to book a flight opposite to the baby's witching hour.

Identifying it is pretty straightforward. This is when they are mostly tired and fussy, so you will 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 between 5 and 11 pm.

For some parents, this method is not always manageable, but it sure does help. If the witching hour does occur during the flight, take a look at this helpful video.

5. Sipping Away During Landings

flying with infant on lap united

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 stress.

However, I often experienced problems during landings and not so much for take-offs. If the little one is not hungry at the moment, a pacifier works wonders as well.

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 the love of God! Just let them sleep through it; waking them up will only make the matter worse.

6. How Do You Keep a Lap Baby Entertained?

Here is where most parents struggle. It's all fun and games up until your little one wakes up, and you have to offer them your undivided attention for the rest of the flight. But, before you reach for those offline games on your tablet, there are a few old-fashioned methods that keep the baby entertained.

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.

I wouldn't say I like to bring many toys on the flight, especially when I know my baby will lose interest after a few minutes.

What I like to do is buy several new toys. Why is that, you wonder? Check it out, and if you open a new toy in front of the baby, I guarantee you they will love it! It's like a Christmas party on an airplane! This works wonders for toddlers, but a rattling toy or two will do just fine for infants. They may bother some passengers! If that seems to be the only thing that's working, go for it.

You could also bring some educational books or stickers. I always like to get an item that they are familiar with if the "new-present" strategy does not work.

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.

7. Should the Baby Stay in Your Lap the Entire Flight?

flying with infant on lap southwest

Before we answer this question, I would quickly like to add another tip before you board the plane if you own a wrap or a baby sling carrier-use it! It turned out to be a life-saver when I was passing through security. You don't want to carry the baby and deal with the luggage simultaneously, especially if you are flying solo.

The wrap will bring them comfort and make them feel secure while your hands are free and you can deal with other stuff. Just make sure you don't get a wrap that has any metal accessories to it. They won't let you pass through security, and then you will go back to the old scenario-holding the baby the entire time.

Now that we got that section covered, let's discuss how you can hold the baby during the flight.

The only logical position is to hold the baby in your lap throughout the flight. Right? It is manageable in theory, but you would see how difficult it is when you put this into practice.

Holding a baby in your lap may be an excellent solution for shorter flights.

But, imagine how it would play out on a more extended 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.

8. Boppy to the Rescue

If some of you aren't familiar with this life-saving pillow, it's about time you get to know the wonders of it! A boppy is a C-shaped pillow that offers numerous benefits and comfort for the infant.

This was a must-have of mine when I was traveling with my newborn. I never leave to the airport without it and here is how you can use it:

Breastfeeding

If you can't hold the baby in your lap the entire flight, especially during breastfeeding, then you can use a boppy pillow. It will offer the necessary support for the little one and you as well.

Since it's C-shaped, wrap one part of it around your waist while the other is reserved for the baby. 

Resting Aid

Boppy pillows can also be used during the baby's resting hours - NOT SLEEPING! Never use it for sleeping. It's helpful for lap infants when they are awake but don't need to be held. Don't, under any circumstance, leave them asleep on the boppy while you doze off also.

Sure, a boppy pillow is quite bulky sometimes, but if you want to fly with a lap infant, you have to make some compromise.

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 more challenging 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.

Boppy Original Nursing Pillow and Positioner, Notebook Black and Gold, Cotton Blend Fabric with...*
  • VERSATILE AWAKE-TIME SUPPORT: Feeding (0+ months), propping (3+ months), tummy time (6+ months) and sitting (9+ months): For baby’s awake time only. Not for sleep
  • CREATED FOR COMFORT: Designed by a mom, the Boppy Pillow provides to your arms and back by lifting your baby to a more ergonomic position when breastfeeding or bottle feeding
  • YOU HAVE OPTIONS: Works for multiple feeding styles—cradle, cross cradle, football hold, bottle feeding
  • REMOVABLE SLIPCOVER: Comes dressed in a removable, breathable pillow cover with an easy-on covered zipper design
  • EASY CARE, MACHINE WASHABLE: The Boppy Pillow and slipcover are machine washable because messes happen

Final Words

As a parent, it's quite hard separating right from wrong. Sometimes you need to try these things out and learn if it works for you or not. Experiences are individual, and what works for me might not work with you.

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.

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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