Ok, you’ve packed, you’ve checked in and you’re waiting to fly. What have you done about baby food on a plane? For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume you’re beyond exclusive breastfeeding and are now at the point where your baby needs solid food too.

Things to consider about baby food on a plane.

Expressed milk and airline security.

If you are feeding your baby expressed milk from a bottle, it should be said that while in theory there is no problem with taking this through security, we’ve heard stories where airline security has made parents throw out their hard earned expressed milk. Obviously, this would be both heartbreaking and a huge problem if it did; speak to your specific airline in advance just confirm the policy in terms of the destination you are travelling to and from if this will be relevant to you.

Making baby formula in flight.

If you are using bottles of formula, most airlines are pretty good at letting you store it in the fridge, or heat up bottles. Just ask when you board. Be aware however that it can take a long time for the bottles to heat up, so you need to plan in advance and get the flight attendant on the job early.

If your baby is still needing sterilsed water in its formula (typical for the first six months, but not necessarily after that), you can buy water specifically for this job.  There are also bags that you can attach to the teat of the bottle too (one brand is by Closer to Nature) – turns the bag into a portable/disposable bottle.  You can also buy them on Amazon here. It’s a good option that allows you can prepare the formula in advance (doubly useful if your baby will take it at room temperature.)

Try not to worry about limits of baby formula on airlines: you would be very unlucky to have a problem with this as the rule is really that anything to do with a baby’s food or drink or medication options is exempt from the rules about liquids.  Of course, to be sure, just check with your airline in advance.

Puree stage.

If your baby is at the stage where she eats solids, but only purees, it’s best to take these with you. Many airlines will provide them, which is handy in an emergency, but if you bring your own you can decide if you’d rather give them vegetables than fruit (why do airlines mostly provide really sweet purees for babies?) and you can stick to any preferences you have about whether it’s organic, preservative-free, sugar free etc.  Yes, Sue has been on a long haul flight where the baby purees on offer did indeed have sugar in them.

Solid food stage.

Here, things get trickier.  Try to pack your own foods, and aim for things that are as non-crumbly and sticky as possible.  It’s all likely to get thrown around, so what seems a good solution at home can be a pain in a small area where it has more chance of ending up both on you (or being ground into the seat beneath you for the pleasure of the next passenger).

Good options for solid food include:

  1. Sushi rolls (because the rice sticks together).
  2. Blueberries or fruit you can dole out one at a time for entertainment.
  3. Even if you’ve moved past purees, a sachet of yoghurt, while not ‘no mess’ (what is really?) is an easy way to get food in.
  4. Crackers if your baby is eating those.
  5. Avocado, you can spoon it in for less mess.
  6. If your baby eats nuts, jars of 100% nut paste allow you to provide a protein boost that is easily spooned in.
  7. Slices of cheese.

How does an adult eat properly when a baby is on their lap?

Ideally, you, the adult will eat a really good meal before you board, as you’ll probably find it tricky to juggle, especially if you’re flying solo with your baby. (Otherwise, take turns eating.)  Also, take easy to eat snacks in case your own meal gets so cold or is too fiddly to be worth the bother. (Sushi rolls are a good “eat over a baby’s head” option. And some sneaky chocolate, while not a meal, can lift your spirits if it’s all feeling a bit hard.).

The good news, if you do manage to eat your airline’s provided meal, you’ll probably like it a whole lot more than in your pre-child days when your standards were higher.

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Aussie journalist, travel writer and founder of babieswhotravel.com 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.