This Grandma’s Best Tips for Flying with a Baby

StrollerThis Grandma loves Carolyn Hax’s advice – most of the time.  When responding to a mother flying with a baby, I do not think she was helpful.  Here is what she said June 20, 2014, published in the Miami Herald:

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m flying with a baby and, three weeks out, am already losing sleep. Any mantra I can use to help me choose her needs instead of others? If it helps, I have a hard time in general with crowds and feeling like I’m being evaluated by others. – B.

ANSWER: You are being judged, so dress her in her cutest comfortable thing, and take heart that you aren’t imagining things.

Kidding, sorta. Yes, people boost their own egos by scrutinizing others, new parents especially, since they’re the slowest antelopes in the herd, but here’s your mantra: Who cares. Your only duty to strangers is to care for your child as best you can. Since that’s what you owe your baby anyway, the strangers are moot points.

There’s also this: About three of four American adults are parents, per Gallup, so most fellow passengers probably know exactly how tough this is for you. When decent, informed people see how hard you’re trying, they’ll give you breaks. The non-decent and ignorant, you won’t win over so squander no sleep trying.

When it’s all behind you, please consider talking to a good therapist about your, it seems, overactive people-pleasing impulse. Most parents feel the burning stares when their kids cry or act out, but such acute dread as yours suggests public opinion comes with outsize consequences for you. Good counsel might help set you free.

“Who cares” is good advice from Carolyn Hax.  Don’t worry so much.  Once the airplane is airborne, the plane noise is louder than the baby.  However, a baby crying on the airplane will bring eyes to you, no matter what – and angry stares.  Ignore them.  Your job is the baby.  If it is a nightmare flight, it will be over in a few hours.  Ignore the rest of what Carolyn Hax said.

So, tell the parents of your grandchild the following:

Flying with a baby is anxiety ridden.  However, the nasty looks people are giving the mother are not about judging the mother’s mothering ability.  People are self absorbed and really do not care about you.  They care about themselves.  They are wondering if they are going to have to suffer a several hour flight with a screaming baby.  They are NOT scrutinizing you for your mothering ability – other than if you can keep the baby quiet.

Here are Grandma’s best tips for flying with a baby:

  1.  Know your baby.  How does your baby do in crowds?  In strange places with strange noises and smells?  With people wanting to touch and look closely at the baby?  Protect the baby by putting the baby in a stroller (that you check at the gate—good to have a stroller bag for cleanliness ) or car seat stroller to check at gate – good to have car seat bag for cleanliness  or a special stroller car seat for airplanes which is a great gift for a long distance grandma to give to the parents of the grandchild  in various forms.  Cover the baby with blankets so the baby is barely visible or some other protective cover from the public.  While waiting , move your seat away from people, or arrange the stroller so people have difficulty getting to the baby.


  1. Book a flight during the baby’s nap time or sleep time.  This is a no brainer.


  1. Book a seat near the front of the airplane.  You want easy in and out.  You will have a lot of paraphernalia.  Why have to carry everything far down the aisle.  Near the front is also near the bathroom, an area to move around, and near the flight attendants.


  1. Book an aisle seat.  Most parents book a window seat thinking they will then be invisible.  No.  In a window seat, one is a prisoner.  One cannot get up quickly to rock and quiet a baby.  Be able to get out.


  1. Book an airline that has a television or WiFi.  Bring electronics.  Bring whatever you hesitate to amuse the baby with that you would otherwise say ruins the baby’s brain.  Amusement, not education, is the goal when flying with a baby.


  1. Disinfect everything around you—the seat, the armrests, the tray.  This is a no brainer.


  1. Look for a Grandma.  Look for a smiling face.  These people are your allies.  As a grandma, I always offer to help with a baby.  I offer to hold the baby if the parent needs to go to the bathroom.  I always say that I cannot kidnap the baby on an airplane.  You should laugh at this.  If your baby is okay with strangers, hand the baby over.  Why not have a good flight.  If your baby is not okay with strangers, tell the person that and tell the person how to make friends with your baby and what your baby likes.  Remember, if I offer, I want to help.  If there are no grandmas or friendly faces, remember the flight attendants and use them.  If you need help changing the baby, ask the grandma or friendly faces or the attendants and use them.  We know how hard it is to fly with a baby.

Remember to ask anyone who is going to touch the baby to disinfect first; we will not be offended if you hand us a baby wipe with the baby.  Hand us a blanket or something to put in our lap and ask us to disinfect our seat too.  We can never be too careful about germs.  And if the baby is being difficult, use the grandma and friendly face to give those people staring dirty looks.


  1. Have the baby eat or drink during takeoff and landing.  This is a no brainer.  The baby’s ears are going to get clogged as our ears do.  We know what to do.  The baby doesn’t.


  1. Walk around with the baby.  Let the Grandma or smiling face walk around with the baby.  Again, we cannot kidnap the baby in the airborne airplane.


  1. Bring extra wipes, clothing, towels.  The flight may make the baby sick.  Be prepared.  No one, even the grandparents or smiling faces, like vomit or diarrhea.  Bring a small size Lysol spray or Febreze.  Works for when the baby poops too.


  1. Accept help graciously.  If we say we will carry your paraphernalia, we mean it.  If we ask if we can do anything, say yes.  We grandparents know.  Grandpa always offers to put luggage up, carry the car seat, carry the baby.  If you see a grandparent type, and remember we all look and act younger than our years in this generation, smile at you, do not be hesitant to smile back at us and ask for our help.  Remember, if we help you onto the airplane, we get early boarding too!

So, yes, flying with a baby is a stressful experience.  But for the number of people who are in the crowd with a scowl, there are as many, if not more, ready, willing and able to make your trip less awful than it needs to be.


  1. It is traveling with a toddler who cannot sit at all that is the horror!


So, grandmas who fly, remember the tips and help the parents of a baby.  We are helping one of our own who may be waiting at the airport for the arrival of the precious cargo.







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