7 tips for flying solo with a nursing toddler or preschooler

Motherly Collective

You might be thinking tip no.1 must surely be: don’t do it! Even since the easing of Covid-related travel restrictions, it is only recently that I felt confident enough to take a solo, short haul trip with my 3-year-old son.

One of my best friends, who lives in Geneva, was moving over 12 hours away to India in a few short weeks. Meanwhile, my fiancé had just started a new job and couldn’t get time off work at short notice. A nervous flier anyway, I had to ask myself—was I going to let fear stop me from spending quality time with one of my dearest friends? The answer was a resounding, “Hell no!”

I was surprised at how smoothly the whole process turned out, despite our flight being delayed an hour. I felt confident about nursing in public to calm any tantrum and our journey was a relatively easy one. 

7 top tips for flying with a nursing toddler

My first trip with my son wasn’t terribly long but being prepared made such a big difference. Here are the tips that helped me and might help you too.

1. Prepare your little one

Young children understand more than we may realize and they listen for a long time before they can talk themselves. So, even if your child is as young as 12 months old, talk to them in advance about their forthcoming flight  in the days ahead of your trip. You could read books about airplanes, play with toy planes and watch videos about flying in preparation for your trip. This will help both them and you to feel comfortable and confident about what is to come.

2. Dress for the occasion

Flying can be stressful, particularly if it is a new experience for you or your little one. As a nursing mama, though, you will know that having quick and easy access to your boobs is crucial for calming nerves (yours and theirs), soothing a hungry tummy and helping your babe fall asleep too. For my son’s first flight, I went for my favorite nursing-specific dress, a midi dress with concealed zips rather than layers, by Stylish Mum (follow me on Instagram to get a discount code). It kept me cool rather than hot and bothered— combined with sneakers and a side bag I felt comfortable and confident nursing my boy throughout our journey.

3. Ask for a seatbelt loop

Depending upon the age of your child and the airline that you are traveling with, you may be able to request a seatbelt loop. This is a seatbelt which loops around yours and around your child’s waist so that they can be on your lap during the flight. This makes for easy boobin’ and a calm little one too!

4. Snacks, snacks & more snacks

We all know that snacks are the way to a young child’s heart! Whether it is something that they can suck to help relieve discomfort in their ears from the fluctuating cabin pressure, or their favorite-usually-prohibited-treat, stock your hand luggage with as many snacks as you can carry to keep your little one calm and fed on your flight.

5. Hydration matters more

This one is for you both, mama. Flying is incredibly dehydrating. Hydrate well before you fly. Take an empty water bottle to fill at the airport or buy bottled water there to take on your flight. The effects of dehydration are unlikely to affect your milk supply, but they could affect your mood, leaving you feeling tired and grouchy.

6. Consider reverting back to diapers

If you are in the early days, weeks or even months of potty training, consider putting a diaper on your little one to avoid any accidents on your flight. Even though my son is potty trained, it made our flight so much smoother to not have to worry about him having an accident in a new, strange environment that is filled with stimulants which could make him forget that he needs to pee or worse—save yourself the additional worry with a diaper.

7. Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment

Even if you are usually strict with screen time or electronic devices, I would argue that there is no better way to buy yourself some breathing space if you are flying solo with a young child. Perhaps your child will be enthralled by watching the clouds for longer than anticipated, but it is unlikely to keep them occupied for a whole flight. Lightweight books are another wonderful option to slip into your carry on bag. Give yourself some respite by downloading a few of their favorite shows onto an electronic device in case there is no in-flight entertainment on your aircraft. Then sit, back, relax and enjoy the flight yourself, too.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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