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Protecting your baby’s ears during a flight: A guide for new parents

Protecting your baby’s ears during a flight: A guide for new parents

It’s holiday season and the weather in the UK is making us all wish for blue skies and sunshine!  So the only way to get some sun and Vitamin Sea has to be on a plane! 

Just the idea of travelling with your baby for the first time can be daunting, and it can be made more so when you learn you need to protect your little one’s sensitive ears during a flight.
It’s no surprise some babies cry on planes when you understand that changes in air pressure can cause discomfort and pain for infants, making the experience challenging for both baby and parents.
We’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide to help you ensure your baby’s ears are protected during your journey.
So why do babies experience discomfort during a flight?
Babies’ ears are more sensitive to pressure changes than adults’ ears. During take off and landing, rapid changes in cabin pressure can cause discomfort or even pain in your baby’s ears. This happens because the Eustachian tubes, which help to equalise ear pressure, are not as developed in infants, making it harder for them to adapt to pressure changes.
Tips to protect your baby’s ears:

Feeding during take off and landing:

  • Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding: Sucking and swallowing helps to equalise the pressure in your baby’s ears. Feed your baby during takeoff and the initial descent to help prevent discomfort.
  • Dummy: If your baby uses a dummy, let them suck on it during these critical times. The sucking motion will help relieve the pressure.

Ear protection devices:

  • Ear plugs: Special ear plugs designed for babies, such as EarPlanes, can help reduce discomfort by gradually regulating the pressure.
  • Earmuffs: Noise-cancelling earmuffs can help reduce the overall noise level, as aeroplane cabin noise levels are loud, especially during take-off. This may provide some comfort, although they do not provide relief from pressure changes.

Keep baby awake during ascent and descent: Try to keep your baby awake during take off and landing. The swallowing and sucking actions are less frequent during sleep, which might make it harder for their ears to equalise pressure.

Chewing: Encourage older babies (if they can understand) to chew on something, like a small snack. Chewing actions can help open the eustachian tubes.

Hydration: Keep your baby well-hydrated. Dehydration can make it more difficult for the body to equalise pressure.

Frequent Breaks: If the flight is long, take frequent breaks to walk up and down the aisle with your baby. Movement and a change of position can help relieve ear pressure.

Preparing before the flight:

  • Check with your doctor: If your baby has a cold, ear infection, or respiratory issue, consult your doctor  before flying. They might recommend delaying the flight or providing specific advice to manage your baby’s condition during the flight.
  • Packing essentials: Pack plenty of snacks, drinks, a dummy, and toys. Having a variety of options can help keep your baby engaged and encourage the sucking and swallowing necessary to equalise ear pressure.
  • Practice makes perfect: If possible, introduce your baby to sucking on a pacifier or bottle more frequently before the flight to ensure they’re comfortable with it.

During the flight:

  • Stay calm and comforting: Your baby can sense your anxiety. Stay calm and provide comforting cuddles and reassurance. Holding and cuddling your baby can help soothe them if they’re experiencing discomfort.
  • Monitor for signs of ear pain: Watch for signs that your baby is experiencing ear pain, such as excessive crying, tugging at their ears or general fussiness. Be prepared to offer them something to suck on or try another soothing technique.

After the flight:

Check for ear issues: Once you’ve landed, watch your baby for any signs of ear discomfort that may persist. If your baby seems unusually fussy or is tugging at their ears, consult a doctor to rule out ear infections or other issues.

Travelling with a baby can be challenging, but with some preparation and these practical tips, you can help ensure your baby’s ears are protected during the flight. Safe travels and enjoy your journey with your little one!


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