Why Do Babies Cry On Airplanes?

Why Do Babies Cry On Airplanes?

We’ve all been there.

Trapped in a tin can hurtling across the skies and in earshot of a relentless, screaming, baby.

And a poor mother trying her hardest to soothe said baby. 😖

So, why does flying in an airplane affect babies so much?

And if a little babe is on the horizon for you, or you already have one of your own, you may be wondering…

“What on earth can we do to soothe them?!”

Sometimes, flying is inevitable — especially across the state to visit families and friends. ✈️

That’s why we’re armed with all the facts behind why babies cry on airplanes, and also how you can keep baby as calm and content as possible. 👇

In this article: 📝

  • Why do babies cry on airplanes?
  • Is airplane noise too loud for a baby?
  • What to do if your baby cries on a plane
  • How to prepare for a flight with a baby
  • How old does a baby have to be to fly in an airplane?

Why do babies cry on airplanes?

Well, it could be for a number of reasons. 🤷‍♀️

Babies can be pretty fickle creatures, after all!

But, some of the main ones might be:

Different environment 💡

Whether they’re a newborn, or a 6-month old baby, babies get used to sounds, smells, and general environments pretty quickly.

(Which is why it’s no wonder they come out of the womb crying their little heart out — going from a warm, cozy, home to a cold, bright lights, sterile hospital room 🙃).

But, once they’re home, they quickly get used to the familiar smells and sounds of their new environment. 🤗

Take that all away and put them on a metal bird flying through the sky, and things can get a little more uncomfortable…

It’s no wonder baby has a hard time dealing with it all.

Especially when you can’t reason with them to tell them, “It won’t be too long”, or, “It’ll be all be okay.”

They don’t know that. 😬

All they know is that they’re not at home in their safe space.

Air pressure 👂

Ahh, the dreaded “ear-popping” fiasco of air travel.

Not everyone gets it, but boy, if you do, you’ll know that pain all too well. 🫠

And imagine that on poor babes’ ears!

For us adults, chewing gum, sucking sweets, or yawning every so often can quite effectively stop ears from getting blocked.

But, babies can’t always do that. 🤷‍♀️

You can encourage them to suck on their pacifier, but it may not be quite as effective.

And, of course, it’s hard for us to know whether their ears have popped or not, as they can’t tell us.

But, as it’s so common in adults and children, there’s a high chance baby might suffer from it, too, which could result in a bit of a cry (or scream).

Boredom 🥱

Especially on long-haul flights, it’s likely baby may get a bit bored (if they’re old enough to get bored, that is.)

That’s why preparing with lots of fun plane-friendly activities (without making too much mess, or annoying your neighbors), is essential to keep baby distracted from the unusual goings-on around them.

Taking baby for a little stroll up and down the plane every so often, too, can be a good way to stimulate them.

As, we know from first-hand experience ourselves how boring it can be staring at the back of the seat in front of you. 🙃

So, we can’t imagine why a baby would find it any more interesting!

Is airplane noise too loud for a baby?

As well as dealing with any air pressure pains, little babe’s ears may also be sensitive to the loud noises of the airplane’s cabin — especially during takeoff and landing.

It’s also an unfamiliar noise to them (unless they’re used to sleeping with white noise), so they might find it jarring or unsettling.

Airplane cabin noise can reach around the 100 decibels mark, and that can be even louder during takeoff.

But, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics, little babes’ ears shouldn’t be exposed to any noises above 50 decibels.

You can protect baby’s ears from these unusual noises with noise-canceling headphones, cotton balls, or small earplugs.

What to do if your baby cries on a plane

Okay, so it’s not your first rodeo.

You’re used to trying out different strategies to try and soothe your baby from their screaming fit.

But, combine that with being stuck on an airplane with hundreds of strangers… your usual tactics may not cut the mustard.

Nonetheless, a quick ‘Hangry? Sleepy? Dirty?’ check is a must.

But, they’ve just been fed, they’re fresh from a nap, and they have a clean diaper… what now? 🙃

Soothe, soothe, soothe 😌

It’s time to turn up the soothe-o-meter to high levels.

Try close contact cradling, soothing singing, rocking or patting them, until they start to calm down a bit.

Hopefully, one of these should do the trick!

Get walking 🚶‍♀️

If close a contact cuddle isn’t on baby’s wish-list this time, it’s time to take a walk and a change of scenery.

Show baby all the exciting things on the airplane, and try and distract them from their distress.

You can also distract them with the help of favorite toys, fun snacks, and other age-appropriate activities to keep them occupied.

When all that fails… 🫠

And, sometimes, despite doing everything you can to try and soothe baby, they just might fancy a good ol’ cry.

And there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them. 🙃

If this is the case, take turns with your partner (or whoever you’re traveling with) trying to soothe your baby (and preserving your sanity 😅).

Also, try and move them around the cabin enough to try and not consistently annoy your direct neighbors from the noise.

How to prepare for a flight with a baby

But, not to fear — there are some things you can do beforehand to give baby the best chance of a stress-free flight.

  • 🌄 Morning flights: These are typically more of a calm experience for passengers. Mostly, because early morning flights are generally less likely to be delayed, but also because passengers may be sleepier. It could also mean that baby senses the calmer environment, and may just nod off to sleep with the rest of the cabin (we hope!).
  • 🧸 Produce a new toy: On a flight when there’s not really much else to do, it can be a great time to introduce a new, exciting toy to your baby. The theory is, they’ll be so enamored by their new toy, they might even completely forget they’re in a strange and new environment. 😅
  • 🍉 Bring lots of snacks: An exciting variety of snacks can keep baby preoccupied with fun tastes and flavors enough to keep the cries away. But, of course, overpacking isn’t ideal for you either, as you don’t want to feel like a packhorse simply getting on a flight. Bring slightly more than enough (if snacks turn out to be the emergency saving-grace to stop babies’ cries).

🔍 Read more: 15 Tips for Flying With a Baby 👩‍✈️

How old does a baby have to be to fly in an airplane?

While there isn’t actually a set age, it’s thought to typically be safe for most healthy, full-term infants after their first few weeks.

But, experts warn against flying within the first 7 days after your baby is born.

There are also certain health and safety concerns to consider — for both mama and baby.

If you’ve had a c-section, or any complications during delivery, you’ll likely be recommended to take a longer rest period before making any travel plans.

For baby, there are a few things you should think about before deciding to take them on an airplane:

  • 🦠 Germs: As we know from the Covid-19 days, airplanes are a hotbed for germs and bacteria spreading. Little babes can be exposed to illnesses, but as their immune system is still working itself out, it’s no match for nasty viruses.
  • 💨 Breathing problems: Baby may find breathing in the low air-pressured cabin more of a struggle… especially if they were premature, or have any heart lungs, or respiratory difficulties. Again, your doc will be able to advise more on this one!
  • 👂 Popping ears: Many adults struggle with how the air pressure affects their ears, but can often be rectified by sucking on sweets, yawning, or chewing. But, baby won’t know they’ll need to do any of those things. 🤷‍♀️

In short, it’s crucial to get the go-ahead from your doc before you make any plans to fly, as well as making sure the airline is happy to fly with a newborn.

So, there you have it!

You’re all clued up on why babies can be so affected when traveling in an airplane, and also how you can soothe them.

But, you might want more support and advice from mamas who’ve been through it.

That’s where our Community comes in — join in the conversation today. 🥜


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