Traveling by Airplane with 4 Month Old

Updated on March 26, 2007
H.J. asks from Carrollton, TX
18 answers

My husband and I will be taking our almost 4 month old son on two trips in the next month. The first flight with be to Florida where we are visting some friends for 4 days. The second trip (two weeks later) will be to Cancun for 7 days. I want to be organized and as prepared as I can. I have taken our son on a 8 hour road trip four weeks ago (travel time was broken up over 2 days). He usually has a very calm sweet temper and did really well on the road trip. He just slept most of the way and wanted to eat whenever he woke up. I am breastfeeding my son who normally likes to eat every hour. I am nervous about getting thru security and how to manage the plane ride. Here are my concerns:

1. Do you need a stroller thru the airport for a 4 month old? If you recommend a stroller, would you bring the umbrella stroller or the normal large stroller that his carseat attaches to? My son loves the BabyBjorn. I could just carry him in it. I am not sure he is strong enough to sit up in the umbrella stroller. He is already very strong and has great head control but I am worried about the umbrella stroller not giving his back enough support.
Am I going to wish I had his large stroller so I can just attach his infant carrier/carseat to it when we pick up our luggage (especially when we go thru customs in the Mexican airport for our Cancun trip)? If you recommend checking the large stroller with the other luggage, do you know where I can purchase a travel cover for it so that the stroller will not get damaged?

2. Would you bring his carseat/infant carrier on the plane or just hold him/keep him in Baby Bjorn? Recently, he has started crying alot when put in his carseat anyway. I want to keep him safe but also happy for all the rest of our fellow travelors. He likes to sleep in Baby Bjorn.

3. Would you check the infant carrier/carseat with your other luggage if you recommend not bringing it on the plane? We will need the infant carrier/carseat when our friends pick us up at the airport in Florida. If you recommend checking it, where would you buy a bag to protect it from getting damaged?

4. Any advice about changing your baby on the plane. I have read online about many moms who recommend changing the baby in your lap on the plane rather than going to the dirty plane bathroom. Do you have any tips on making this successful?

5. Should I breastfeed like normal on the plane or attempt to bring a bottle? I have a nice blanket/cover for breastfeeding so I won't be exposed to the whole world. Bringing a bottle seems to require more work anyway including trying to find hot water to heat up the cold breastmilk, etc. I have heard that it is best to feed the baby when the plane takes off and when it lands to keep his ears from hurting. If I bring a bottle then, I have to find a way to prepare a 2nd bottle just before landing. And then...what do you do about the return trip. I wasn't planning on taking a breast pump with me on our trip.

Has anyone had experience breastfeeding on a plane that can offer any tips? Do you feel uncomfortable doing it with a passenger next to you, etc? My husband and I will be flying with standby tickets so we most likely will not have seats together. I will be able to have a seat reserved for my son (which will probably be next to me if they have 2 seats available side by side, great for changing that dirty diaper).

Are we crazy for trying to take a 4 month old on two trips in one month? I was hoping that the Florida trip would be a great way to work out the kinks in traveling with an infant for the first time before out trip to Mexico where we will need to go thru customs and take public transportation etc. in a foreign country. We loved to travel before our son was born and would hate to give up traveling now. I think with bringing his pack and play for him to sleep in for both trips that we can make it an easy transiton for our son. I would love to learn from your experiences about what worked best and what didn't work at all.

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answers from Dallas on

Hi Hilary, I took my daughter on an airplane trip when she was around your son's age. I too had many of your same concerns about traveling with an infant. Don't worry it is completely do-able. I will just give you my advice in order of your questions: #1 Yes absolutely bring your stroller. It makes your life easier and gives you more storage for things like your purse and carry-ons as you walk through the airport. I used an umbrella stroller, but it sounds like you and your son would prefer the larger stroller that holds the infant seat. You DON'T have to check either one - you can take both of them strait onto the plane. There they will ID them, store them under the plane, and have them ready for you when you get off (very convenient). #2 No I would not bring the carseat on the plane. I held my daughter the entire time, and she did wonderful. Plus it made me feel more secure having her in my arms. #3 As I said earlier I would take the stroller and infant seat strait through - the biggest incovenience was having to fold up the stroller to put it through the x-ray machine, but it was worth having it. #4 Cleanliness aside, airplane bathrooms are CRAMPED - very difficult to change a diaper. I recommend making sure he is dry before getting on the plane. If it is necessary to change him on the plane, definitely do it on your lap. They sell little changing pads you can lay on your lap to protect your clothes; they also sell plastic bags to dispose of diapers in. #5 I did not bother to pack bottles. Breastfeeding comforted her and put her to sleep at take off every time which made for a very easy trip. My husband and I weren't always together either, but all we had to do was ask and people would exchange seats with us. Don't worry about modesty - nobody even knew what I was doing. If you have to sit next to a stranger just tell them, "I am going to be breasfeeding my son." 90% of the time people understand. The other 10% will have to get over it - you are not their to nourish and protect them. I am going to add a #6...RELAX!!! I was very nervous about taking a trip with my daughter. Everything that could go wrong with our flights did - from delays, to flight changes, to extended layovers - and my daughter handled it the best out of everyone. Also, although this is your first time doing this, it is not the airport's. If you ever feel lost or confused as to what to do find a kind face and ask. For the most part people are sympathetic and willing to help. Take a look around, you'll find many more mothers in the airport with you. Good Luck!!



answers from Dallas on

Wow, that's alot of questions! Call me for answers...###-###-####. I was in the travel industry for 17 years and traveled with two babies from the time they were about 4 weeks old. So I've got way more experience than I do desire to type...




answers from Dallas on

You have gotten a lot of good advice, so I'll just keep mine short. I have recently travelled a lot with my baby and have used the Bjorn. I love it. New security regulations say you can wear your baby in it as you walk through security. Conversely, you cannot keep your baby in it on the flight because it is not FAA approved. So, strangely enough, the FAA thinks your baby is safer sitting in your lap than strapped in your Bjorn when turbulence hits. Have fun.



answers from Dallas on

DH is a flight attendant so we've traveled a lot.

I always liked have the stroller (and gate check it) so I didn't have to lug around my diaperbag, I could throw it under the stroller. Travel as light as you can and check your main bag so you have less to lug around, esp. if you are connecting.

A sling/Bjorn is awesome (sling esp. b/c you can nurse in it or use it as a coverup) - I often had the baby in the sling and used the stroller to carry all the stuff. I did have one flight attendant tell me the baby couldn't be in the carrier during takeoff and landing.

I see no need for an emergency bottle - there is no place you won't be able to nurse (it's actually easier than car travel in that way).

Change diaper right before you board so you can avoid diaper changes in air. I changed in the seat, practice ahead of time laying baby along your legs with his legs straddling you, lift the butt, and change!

Security - you do have to fold up the stroller and carry baby through with you, but TSA people usually help you or someone else in line will help you.

Good luck and have fun - it really is easier now than later!



answers from Dallas on

I have traveled quite a bit with both my children, but especially my first born. I am usually by myself so being prepared for everything is esential.

1. For a 4 month old child I would suggest keeping him in the Bjorn. as many have said it keeps your hands free and he is comfortable. Just be prepared to take him out to go through security.

2 & 3. I have always kept the carseat with me and checked it at the gate. Main reason for this is that IF there is a seat available they will have allow you to use this for the child. (go to the gate and ask, they usually wont know till about 20 minutes before boarding as thats when they release the available seats. Being standby its probubly not likely, but just in case). Additionally to make it easier to get through the airport get a luggage carrier (the kind you buy at Target or walmart for $10)attach the seat with bunggie cords and then you are not having to carry the thing yourself, its on wheels! For this I would suggest getting a bag for the seat. Eddie Bauer makes one that Babies R Us sells. It will seem a bit large for the infant seat, however once your child transfers to a standard/convertable model it holds it very nicely too. We have used ours for years and wether you check the seat with your luggage or Gate check it, it keeps it clean! Dont be fooled they will throw the thing everywhere and dont really care if the fabric or other parts break or get dirty.

4. I have always changed the baby in the airplane bathroom. Some airplanes have a pulldown changer and some dont, but I always take my diaper bag with sanitizer in with me. (just make sure to put all the little necessities in a small baggy for security check).

5. I would breastfeed like normal. They will more than likely move you to a window seat with the baby anyway. (I believe FAA requires it in the event of an evacuation they dont want a clogged pathway). Besides with all the security restrictions on how many fluid oz. you can take on the plane you dont want to tak ethe chance that security will make you throw out the milk anyway. Yes you are correct there is NO way of heating up the milk once you are on the plane too. As for takeoff and landing, if possible try to breast feed with the child in the bjorn. Take-off and landings are the most dangerous part of the entire flight and thats when it is most essential to have him and you strapped in. Something we always used was a pacifier or a small bottle of water. This takes care of the sucking need to pop his ears so they wont hurt. Then you only have to worry about his normal feeding schedule..

All and all it is actually easier to take a small infant on a plane than a toddler! They sleep more and dont get bored. As well we always bring our pack n play on any trip. Just remember to bring a crib sheet with you. It will be cleaner and will smell more like his own bed.

Hope this helps!

Just read the commetn from Heather G. regarding the FAA requirement not to allow the Bjorn used for take-offs and landing. I believ this to be FALSE or a misconception. I have done a search for FAA requirements and found NO mention of this at all. If you do have an attendant tell you that you cant. Remember 2 things. 1st - Your the parent, the safety of YOUR child is YOUR responsibility and right. 2nd - A child can be thrown from your arms or grasp at only 30 MPH! If something awful should happen and your son is not attached securely to you he will become a projectile! Its worth the argument and they will not likely press you further on this.



answers from Dallas on

I would use the bjorn to carry the baby throughout the airport and also on the plane, especially if that is where he's feeling most comforted. Be sure to bring a pacifier or something for him to suck on during takeoff and landing, they don't understand how to get their ears to pop, so that may bother him. I would just check the carseat in and not bother with having to lug it around. Check with the airline though...sometimes they'll let you bring it on board and put it in there storage area in the front of the plane. As far as feeding, I think you shhould be fine nursing as long as you have a good nursing cover. But I'd also bring along formula just in case. I'd premeasure the amount I'd need for individual bottles into ziplock bags. They prefer you bring it in powder form and buy the water once you get past the security check points. Good luck.

Oh, have you seen the Sit N Stroll carseat? It's great for travel.



answers from Dallas on

I flew with my 4 month old son. It was OK, but only b/c I realized that he was teething at the exact same time as the trip, so if you think that's the case, make sure you pack motrin, teething tablets, and baby ambesol.

1) My son loved the bjorn too, so I didn't bother with the stroller until he was about 10 months old (and too heavy for the bjorn.

2) I would keep him in the bjorn. More comfy for him that way. Plus, it gives your shoulders relief. I would check the carseat. You don't want a bunch of stuff to lug around the airport, especially if you aren't flying direct.

3) Southwest provides bags, otherwise, I don't bother. A bag isn't going to protect the carseat from damage anyway. It's just a clear garbage bag.

4) Buy those disposable changing sheets. Not only is the plane not very clean, but neither are the changing tables in the airport. Most (but not all) airplanes have changing tables in them. The disposable changing sheet works best. I wouldn't change him in the seat. That's not fair to those sitting around you.

5) definitely breastfeed as normal. In fact, I flew with my son right around the time that I was going to stop bfing and I intentionally prolonged it an extra 2 weeks because it is just SO MUCH easier to bf on the plane than to deal with bottles. Just keep yourself covered and no one is going to make a big deal. I never felt uncomfortable, but I always had a thin blanket to cover myself up with. Trust me, you will feel more uncomfortable if you baby is screaming than if you are bfing him. :)

No, you're not crazy for flying with him. I flew with my son to DC by myself, to Tulsa by myself 3-4 times, to Arkansas with my husband and to Georgia with my husband. I tried to get as much flying in as I could before he turned 2 and I had to start paying for him. :)

For the pack n play, did you keep the box it came in? That's the best way to check it to keep it safe. That cover that it comes in is not the most sturdy thing...

Hope that all helps!



answers from Dallas on

When I traveled with my daughter at 4 months, I did use our stroller with the infant carrier, mainly because she did not like to be in a sling or Baby Bjorn style carrier. The nice this about having them was that if it wasn't a full flight they would put me in a seat next to an empty one and let me bring the carrier on for her to sit in during the flight. You can gate check both a car seat and stroller so they are available to you when you get off the plane. I have never used a bag to check them in, but never had any damage when I gate checked them. At that age I think you will be happy to have brought the larger stroller and carrier.

As far as on the plane, my little one fell asleep in her carrier and slept most of the time when we flew. If your son like to be in the Baby Bjorn I would say bring both and see what works for you. I know it's recommended to have them in a carrier/carseat especially for take-off and landing.

I did use the changing table in the restroom, but put my travel changing pad down on it before using it. I also did change her at our seat but that was a little more difficult for me.

I did breastfeed on the plane, and never had any problems with it. I tried to make sure I was always next to a window which makes it easier to be discreet. I knew that what I was doing was best for my daughter so I really didn't let anyone make me feel uncomfortable and I think most people are pretty understanding.

Good luck and I hope you enjoy your trips!



answers from Dallas on

We took our daughter on 2 trips before she was 6 months old and were very glad we had the infant carrier/stroller combo. If you have to spend 2 hours in an airport, you will want to have a place to put the baby down. In anticipation of these trips, we actually bought a "snap 'n' go" stroller frame that the car seat snaps into. I think Baby Trend and Graco both make one. It's about $60 and is wonderful. Weighs nothing and is easy to transport in rental cars, cabs, public transportation, etc.
Yes, it was a hassle getting through security (stroller and seat have to go through separately) but the security agents were helpful. It was worth the hassle for how easy it made things on the other side of security!
We just rolled the stroller and car seat up to the door of the plane and left them to be "gate checked" and held the baby on our laps. They give you a tag and the strollers are the last thing on the plane when you leave and the first thing off when you arrive, so they are waiting for you at the doorway when you de-plane.

I was also nursing and I brought a cover so that I could nurse on take-off and landing. I also brought an "emergency" bottle. On one of the trips, I was by myself for one leg of the journey and was seated in the MIDDLE of two men. Fortunately, they were very understanding and one let me have the window seat. I used the bottle on take-off and nursed at landing (I asked the guys if they minded and both had wives who breastfed so I was feeling a little less awkward).
I have to say that nursing is way easier because it's one less thing you have to pack and carry!

As far as diaper changes, I used the airplane lavatory. I packed disposable changing pads and used them.

I would definitely check ALL of your luggage and carry a backpack style diaper bag to keep your hands free. When you're packing a spare outfit for the baby, you might also pack a spare shirt for yourself (something that will roll up small like a t-shirt). My daughter spit up on me during the flight and I was sure glad I had that spare shirt!

No, you're not crazy for taking these trips! Your baby will never be easier to travel with than he is now! Take advantage of it!



answers from Dallas on

I would definitely take the big stroller. You can take it to the plane and they will check it from there and it will be there as you get off on the other end. Make sure you label it and let the checkin agent know you are going to gate check it. We did that and were very pleased.
We had our son on our lap for a flight and would never do it again. We had a little turbulence and it scared us to death that here we were seat belted but our son had nothing to keep him safe. Take the infant seat on the plane, you'll be happy you did.
I would nurse but also have a bottle to suck on for take off and landing in case the change in pressure bothers him. We changed our son in our laps. There really isn't enough room in the bathrooms.
As for the pack in play, our hotel provided one. We just packed the sheets.
Best of luck!



answers from Dallas on

I am also a first time mom of a 4 month old son who has traveled and was a flight attendant before I became a stay at home here goes.

If your son likes the Bjorn like mine does...don't mess with the stroller. It will weigh you down and just become a carry all for everything but the baby. If you do take it, be careful in security, you will need to put in through upside down wheels first and it will get black all over it. When my son was three months we traveled and the first time I took it and regretted it and I still haven't gotten the black off. The second time that month I put him in the carrier and all was well. Just remember he has to be out of the Bjorn for take off and landing...he can be in it during flight per the FAA, but not for take off and landing. Also, you will have to take him out of it and it off of you to get through security.

If you don't mind holding him, don't mess with the infant seat. Also, if you didn't buy him a seat, you will only be allowed to take it on if there is an empty seat next to you. And as much as the agents will try, they can't always get the seat next to you to remain empty.

As for breastfeeding, if you put a coverup or blanket over you it is fine. But if you would feel better with a bottle, you can take 4 ounces per bottle of breastmilk or already mixed formula through can't take water through to mix with formula, you will have to buy that once you are through security.

As for the dirty lavs...yes they are dirty, but if you have the disposable sheet it isn't bad. Plus, if it is a full flight you will have other people on your row and I wouldn't feel comfortable changing my son in front of them on my lap. I used the lav to change my son and the disposable cloth worked great. Plus then you don't have to walk a dirty diaper down the aisle to throw away and you won't be able to give it to the flight attendant.

Other tips...just make sure your son is sucking on something for takeoff and landing, but espically landing. The sucking will help relieve the pressure in his ears, which will be the worst on landing. Also, if you can, ask for seats in the back near the engines or over the wings...there is the most vibration there and it always knocks kiddos out.

Good luck and remember over 75% of the people on the plane are parents too!!!



answers from Dallas on

Dear H.,

I have travelled several times with my baby since he was 8 weeks old. Overseas and domestic, total 7 times. Some airlines will not allow you to take the car seat on board. You should check with the airline first. I always just took his regular stroller and gate checked it. Always worked. Good thing was that I could put him to sleep in there, when he was tired.
Regarding the breastfeeding, don't think about anybody but your baby. Last time I flew to Germany my baby was 13 months old and I was still breastfeeding. I was by myself, so everybody I sat next to was a stranger and my babys legs and feet where hanging over the seat almost all the time while breastfeeding, because he is so long. Nobody said anything to me or looked at me funny and my son pulled off the breast sometimes to look at people and latched on again. I had a hard time covering up so fast, because he always pulled off the cover up blankets. (-:
I would also recommend to breastfeed during take off and landing. (-:
Let me know if you need more info.


answers from Dallas on

I am sorry I did not read all your questions but here's the skinny, call the airline make sure you can have 2 bags per ticketed person, and your carry on purse and diaper bag per person. If there is an empty seat they will allow you to use the car seat on the plane otherwise you must gate check it along with your stroller (suggested). If you each bring One suitcase and one/two carryons you can check the travel system at no cost otherwise $80 ectra PER item EACH way. If you bf ... do it on the plane dont play the airport security games they will only annoy you. have a bottle just in case you need it but otherwise bf the whole time. And if you hapen to be on a 3 seat row i am sure your hubby can sit on the other side, no one was bothered by our bfing and we were surrounded by business men (the tough sellers on public bfing) who all wanted to play with my son. We had a great flight.



answers from Dallas on

Hi H.,

My husband and I have traveled too many times to count with our now 18 month old. We started early too. To answer your questions: I didn't take the stroller through the airport. Go with the bjorn or a sling. I had a somewhat fussy kid and the sling made him feel secure and close to me and was great when we were just standing around the terminal waiting to board. Plus it gave me both hands to manage luggage. You can wear it at all times EXCEPT when going throught security.

We always just check the car seat and we didn't buy a special bag. I am sure that theoretically something could happen to it,but we have never had any issues with either the infant carrier or the convertible car seat.

I always change him in the bathroom on the plane, I'd just bring something to lay him on (now that he's older we just do a stand up change). Many big planes have mini changing tables that work pretty well. And, of course, just chenge the poopy ones! A wet diaper for a little longer than ususal is not biggie (unelss he's screaming about it).

Breastfeed like normal. I nursed up to a year and on every flight and never had any problems with it. I found most people didn't even notice I was doing it. Plus, you can't beat it to soothe a freaked out baby. And, yes, nurse on take off and landing to help his ears stay open.

I don't think your crazy, ut it may be an exhausting month! I found that travel always messed up his seeping (which wasn't that great anyhow) so that was a challenge. Other than that my son loved to go new places and still does.


If he's fussy on the plane, stick him in the Bjorn or sling and walk the aisles. The flight attendants are usually very understanding.

If you can, put the pack n play in a separate room or in a large closet. WE jsut found he slept better that way. Of course, if he currently sleeps in the same room as you it probably won't make a difference.

If you'll be gone for more than a couple of days, buy diapers and wipes when you get there. Just pack enough for the day.

Be flexible and have fun!



answers from Dallas on

I traveled to Wyoming by myself with my six week old daughter and it went a lot more smoothly than I thought it would. She didn't like the Baby Bjorn, but I had a sling and her infant seat with the stroller base that the infant seat fits into. I'm glad I had the infant seat because American Airlines bumped stand-by passengers to allow me to put my daughter in the seat next to me. She loved her infant seat and slept through most of the flight until some loud children woke her up. I changed her on the plane seat with a disposable pad. Huggies use to make some, but they're difficult to find now, so they might have stopped making them.

I didn't have the courage to breastfeed on the plane, so I had bottles with me. My daughter was okay her bottle not being heated, so I was fortunate. I breastfed her right before I went into the airport and again as soon as I arrived in WY (in the car). With the security issues now, I don't know how it works to bring liquids of that size through.

We took three more trips before she was six months and had no problems with her. It's when she started crawling and walking that it became a real challenge. We needed the stroller on our last trip (she's 31 months old now) because she wanted to run off into the crowd of people and doesn't seem to worry that we will be separated.

When my daughter was still in an infant seat, American allowed us to take the seat on all but one flight, so we were very fortunate. We bought seats once she outgrew the infant seat (by 12 months) even though she was still able to fly seated in our laps.

Good luck with your trip!



answers from Dallas on

Traveling with an infant is a piece of cake compared to traveling with a toddler.

I found a stroller to be helpful for carrying the baby and other items. You can just check it at the gate. Take whatever stroller you are comfortable with.

I used to carry my baby in my mayawrap and that worked great. Maybe yours will be happy in the baby bjorn. I don't know. It's nice to have them on you in a sling or baby carrier of some sort if they aren't going to ride in their carrier.

Take extra diapers and, if you can, try and change before you board. Of course, babies will go mid flight and in that case, changing on the lap can be easier sometiems. Take some changing mats (waterproof) to put accross your lap. You can buy disposable ones now that are great for this purpuse since they fold up real small or you can just throw them away.

Traveling with a breastfed baby is great because you don't need to take bottles, etc. I would suggest you get the window seat even if it means trading with someone once you board. I would nurse on the way up, my baby would then konk out and sleep for usually most of the flight. Nursing on the way down is also a good idea. Also, you have a right to nurse your baby so if a flight attendant tells you otherwise they are wrong. A light blanket should do the trick for covering you up if you're concerned. If you take the window seat (and most people who see you with a baby will be happy to trade), this will take care of some of the exposure issues too.

I never ran into issues nursing and I've flown a lot with my ds since he was about 5 months old. Most people don't notice or , if they do, don't say anything. They were just happy to have a sleeping/nursing baby as opposed to a screaming one next to them. Like I said,there is no airline in the US with a policy against nursing during a flight. I've found most flight crew to be very understanding with us so I hope you have a similar experience. I think they're all too afraid of a nurse-in. ;)

The best time to travel with a child is when they are still a babe in arms. It's so much easier. Trust me. My ds is a great traveler, but now that he runs runs runs it's a little more difficult. If you can book flights for around the time your baby normally naps, that can be a life saver. Even at the age of 28 months I try and do that. Everyone around us thinks he's such a good traveler because he naps. Now that he has to sit in his own seat, he even has frequent flier cards and lots of points.



answers from Dallas on

Good luck and don't all need passports now to go to Cancun.



answers from Dallas on

OMG! well, my advice(my son is 6mos & we've traveled 2/3 times with him) BABY BJORN all the way. Only b/c the stroller only takes another hand away from you that you will so desperately need. I cahanged him in the bathroom, I just POURED on some purell on the changing table, wiped it clean & still laid down my changing pad. It'll be fine. I would BF still, as long as you're well covered. Most babies do fine on take off & landing. I give my son a paci & try tp wiggle it out to make him suck extra hard during those times.

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