• Maria Varvoutis, MPH, CD, PCD

Plane Travel With a Baby

Before writing this post I struggled to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) as I do not, and don't know if I will ever feel like a 'traveling expert'. I was quite surprised to hear that many people wanted to hear travel tips from me as I always feel like I'm half winging it. So, without further adieu I bring you 'my mental lists that I go through before every trip and hope it works out'.

Florida sunset walk after being on several planes while moving internationally, 2021

Breastfeeding/Chest Feeding Persons Plane Wardrobe

a) Loose, warmish zip up or open sweater – great to allow for sudden changes in airplane temperature

b) Breastfeeding tank top – this is always preferred so you do not have to maneuver pulling your shirt up or down before feeding your possibly now screaming baby

c) Stretchy pants that can be easily pulled down to go to the bathroomif you have a baby on you in a carrier

d) Slip on shoes – this also helps in the security line (see security with a baby) so you don’t have to slow down and tie your shoes while working out your baby supplies

e) Extra tank in diaper bag for possible spit up and/or other explosions

f) If traveling during the colder months I also have utilized a light scarf as also a mini cover up for during feedings.

Diaper Changes on the Plane

a) Pack three+ outfits and back up socks for regardless how many legs of your trip you are going on in case of explosions of breastmilk, spit up, and/or poop.

b) Spit Up Cloths – These are perfect for cleaning up on the go and we continue to use them around our house as cleaning rags; however, on long flights with multiple legs it can get cumbersome so just bringing one surplus size of diaper wipes can solve all your clean up issues.

c) Onesie like outfits are a plus as then you don’t have to take more time by pulling pants on and off to get at the onesie snaps.

d) Bring your own diaper changing pad or this (AWESOME) waterproof blanket/changing pad/stroller blanket

e) Bring a wet/dry bag (or this) to store dirty clothes in on one side, and your clean clothes in the other. I swear this was a game changer for me when I started doing this. No more scrounging for where my clothes were in the diaper bag.

f) And of course diapers - aim for 2 for every hour you are in the air

Security With a Baby

a) You will not have to go through the screening, but rather will be patted down and fingerprint checked (bomb check).

b) They will want to go through everything in your bag possibly. I have it happen a lot with the diaper bag, especially if you have snacks, etc. in there.

c) They may make you take your baby off you (if in carrier) even if he/she/they is sleeping in the carrier.

a. I have had some international flights where they did not care. It depends on the city/country.

d) They may take your stroller wheels off, etc. to go through security depending on your stroller.

a. I would recommend gate checking your stroller upon check in if you have short connection flights as I have missed several flights from them taking a while to pull my stroller up from cargo; however, for long haul flights the stroller (and car seat) is SO helpful for when you have long connections and need a back/hand break.

In order to not just berate you with lists I have also supplied the very true anecdote which I have re-introduced as a tutorial for you.

“Did you pack the pacifier?” [baby screaming]

“Of course, I did.” [rummaging through bag, pacifier falls on the ground]

Myself and my second child at 2 months old traveling to Canada, 2018

You are in the middle of your flight. Now what? You can pull out one of these handy bags and ask the stewardess if they can sanitize your pacifier. OR, if you’re like me and forgot to buy these before the trip you may end up doing things I would not encourage through this blog (but may happen).

You could also trouble shoot the incident by:

a) Feed the baby to see if their ears are bothering them (see wardrobe on the plane)

b) Change the baby’s diaper (see diaper changes on the plane)

c) Whip out your trusty baby carrier and start jaunting around the airplane. The stewardess station is your place of solace. Try to make friends as soon as possible.

d) Distract the baby with one of my most loved baby toys to date (for the last 5 years)

e) Read through these short, sweet books as long as your baby will allow it—hint—they pack down easily and cannot be destroyed

Your baby still isn’t calming down?

Well, tools and toys can only go so far on a plane, but what I can tell you is that You.Will.Make.It. I have had way more planes than I care to admit where I have counted down the hours to when we will be landing. I have sat on tar mats for upwards of three hours as they ‘fix the plane’ (cue baby screaming). I have pulled out my boobs in front of lots of unexpecting eyes to calm my baby down in the only language that suited that moment (more on this in another post, I was not as comfortable with this with my 1st child). I am not telling you these things to scare you, to make it seem like I am all-knowing guru with this. In fact, as stated earlier, I 100% put off this article because I really, really do not feel like an expert about this. Traveling is freaking hard and can be even harder with a baby. It IS doable though and that is why I continued with writing down these lists and 'tips' for hopefully a smoother flight and travel for you and your baby in the coming months and years. [1]

Please know that before you immediately head to Google to book your next trip that traveling with your baby and/or multiple kids is much different than traveling without kids. I know that everyone tells you this, but it’s really true. You may no longer be doing late night eating and drinking, or other single/pre-kids adventures. However, everyone is different and ‘you-do-you’. All cultures are different too and I love experiencing some of that with late night dining when we are in Europe.

Other Tips

a) You may now be traveling with MANY bags. Be mentally prepared for this.

b) Babies generally sleep easily on planes as the airplane supplies free white noise! In case you do not feel like this may be enough, you can also bring this mini sound machine for plane rides as well.

Many people in the foreign service arena always swear by using their car seats on the plane for long haul flights. I have never done this so I cannot vouch for it, but it is possible!

c) Eat/drink off a tray on a different table other than the one in front of you in case your baby grabs and/or topples over something on your table.

d) If in doubt, bring the carrier.

e) Try to make friends with the person sitting next to you. I have learned it is better to address this from the beginning rather than the end. It helps alleviate stress on your end as well if you know that your row companion is comfortable with what is going on throughout the flight.

I will be continuing to talk through some travel woes and stories about eating and sleeping in different cities, states, and countries for several posts now. Feel free to follow along!

Your doula,


[1] There are lots of tips for those traveling with toddlers, but I don’t usually doula for parents with a toddler.

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