One of the common things new parents worry about before their first few flights is this: “what happens to babies ears on planes?”

As most airline passengers know, something happens when babies set foot on a moving plane. They cry. Well, at least, they often cry during takeoff and landing. It’s often just because their ears hurt. Young babies don’t yet know to “pop” their own ears to equalise (adults would do this with a yawn, or by chewing gum); the crying is simply a response to an uncomfortable physical sensation.

How do you help babies ears on planes?

If you are breastfeeding the answer is simple; stick them on the breast during the takeoff and initial descent (which is the part of landing where they’ll most feel the change in pressure) and the sucking motion will clear the ears and keep them happy. If your baby isn’t breastfed, you can obviously achieve the same thing with a bottle or a dummy (pacifier). 

If you think your child is going to be reluctant to participate in any of these feeding options (breast or bottle) at the right time, you might find it pays off to hold off feeding them before the flight, so they are a little it more enthusiastic when you need them to be. This is easy to say but can often be hard to pull off: planes sometimes get delayed on the tarmac (nooooo!) or while you are pre-boarding (the lesser of two evils if you’re travelling with a baby). Either way, timing of all this can quickly move beyond your control, so go in with the best of intentions and then be prepared to adapt.

Curious about what parents of older children do? Most tend to give lollies (aka: sweets) encourage the same sucking motion.

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Aussie journalist, travel writer and founder of Sue White has always been a traveller. When her son was born, Sue knew her travel itch would still need regular scratching. But how do you travel with a baby under one and still have a good time? Is it even possible? Where do busy new parents discover practical tips to support those first few trips? To find out, Sue and her baby son travelled both Australia and Europe doing house sits and house swaps; cat sitting and car journeys; took on 24 hours flights and short domestic jaunts; travelled with friends, solo and family members; and cycled, drove, flew and train-ed around seven countries, all before his first birthday. Learn more about Sue.