Even strangers who have never flown with children will tell you it’s helpful to breastfeed or give a bottle to babies during takeoff and landing to help them avoid ear pain (yes, they will). But traveling parents quickly learn that the timing doesn’t always work out for this.
With any delays in boarding for your flight or taxiing to the runway, you may be faced with a hungry baby who wants to nurse now, thankyouverymuch, and will let you and every other passenger hear about it if he’s put off for too long (stressful for both of you, and no way to start a flight). On a short flight, your baby may already have a full tummy and be snoozing blissfully as you begin your descent, leaving you with the difficult question of whether or not you should wake a sleeping baby.
This two-part post includes:
1) 5 tips to help PARENTS avoid stress from anticipating potential ear pain, and also
2) 15 tips to help your baby’s or child’s ears adjust to pressure changes (below).
Tips to Soothe Parents and Children Alike
In addition to the advice in “Preparing Toddlers and Preschoolers for the Flight” in Travels with Baby, here are some things you can do to help avoid unnecessary stress around the issue of ear pressure and pain when flying with your child.
1. Don’t sweat the takeoff.
With healthy, functioning Eustachian tubes, the ascent is not as challenging to the ears as the descent before landing, although a child unfamiliar with the sensation may be uncertain how to respond, and the added engine noise during takeoff may also frighten some children. To help rule out an upset caused by anxiety (rather than ear pain), don’t postpone breastfeeding or bottle feedings for hungry babies, show your child your own calm example throughout the takeoff, and use a soothing voice.
2. Keep everyone well hydrated.
Make sure your child (and all members of the family) stays well hydrated leading up to the flight, as this will help thin any mucus that may be present in the Eustachian tube and prevent blockages or reduce restrictions that could make it more difficult for the ears to adjust.
3. Get the doctor’s stamp of approval.
If your child has experienced allergy symptoms, a cold, or an ear infection in the last couple of weeks before your flight, there is a chance that mucus or swelling in the Eustachian tubes may make it more difficult for his ears to adjust. You may want to consult your pediatrician to make sure “all ears are in the clear” before your flight, and ask if there are any remedies she might recommend to help make sure they stay that way.
4. Remember that drinking liquids is not the only way to help ears adjust.
When your child shows no interest in breastfeeding, bottles, or sippy cups, don’t despair—and certainly don’t show anxiety if you can help it. Just move on to the other ways you can help his ears adjust as you make your descent (see the 15 tips below).
5. Embrace Mother Nature.
If your child does begin to cry, don’t panic. Remember that even crying gets the jaw moving and can help equalize ear pressure to relieve ear pain.
Fifteen Ways to Help a Child’s Ears Adjust in Flight
- Bottle feeding
- Cup feeding—even for infants
- Sucking pacifiers
- Chewing on a teething toy
- Mouthing a washcloth with an ice cube inside
- Rubbing teething gel on an a baby’s gums
- Yawning (fake it to make it)
- Using EarPlanes (for ages 1 – 10) to help regulate air pressure in the Eustachian tube
- Licking lollipops
- Chewing gum (for those old enough)
- Laughing–just give a tickle!
More posts you might like:
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
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