Baby carriers are wonderful, they free up your hands when you are out and about or just getting on with chores at home. We often get asked by reeaders how useful a sling or Baby Bjorn is on a plane, especially whether they could sit on a plane with the baby in the baby carrier.
Yes, you can sit with a baby carrier. There are some caveats for a flight, however; you cannot have the baby in the baby carrier during takeoff and landing. Depending on your build and the type of baby carrier you may need to make some adjustments to the positioning of your little one, which we discuss in more detail here.
The best thing about using a baby carrier on the flight is that it frees up your hands and you don’t need to support your baby’s weights with your arms when they are sleeping, for example. The comfort of having you so close by may be very beneficial- to those babies who are used to being in a baby’s carrier anyway- as it can reassure them in this new environment.
Basic principles of sitting with a baby carrier
You can sit with a baby carrier. Some carriers are more comfortable to sit with than others. In principle, there are couple of things you need to do to adjust to sitting with a baby carrier especially in the narrow seat of a plane… and each baby carrier is different in how to achieve comfort:
1) Adjust the position of your baby to a higher than normal position
Normally, you would have the baby so that you can just put your head down and kissed him on the head.
To sit comfortably, you want to raise the baby’s position up. Probably under your chin depending on how tall she is and how long your torso is, but still keeping the TICKs points in mind.
2) Sit down carefully, making sure not to squash baby’s legs.
For a healthy position a baby in a carrier needs to sit with wide legs, and the knees higher than the bottom; this frog position will reduce the chances of hip dysplasia by supporting the legs and hips.
In the tight confines of an economy seat on a flight: Pull up your little one’s legs even more into a frog position as you sit down. As you see from the image above, having a baby older than 6-9 months in a carrier will be more of a challenge.
A newborn, and baby before they have head control, should be carried in a fetal position, supporting the head and the natural curvature of the spine.
Note, if the person sitting next to you is a stranger, you may not be able to have the baby in the carrier, if his legs are likely to to be kicking the neighbour.
3) Get your little one used to you sitting with her in a carrier
So often, babies associate being in the carrier with constant motion. They get upset if the motion stops. In your day-to-day life, make sure you don’t take the baby carrier off the moment you sit. Keep him in the carrier when you sit down at a cafe or stop your chores at home for TV break, or example.
Practice sitting with your baby in the carrier… it will pay off.
Different baby carriers and how easy it is to sit with a baby in them?
Every person is different, we have different body proportions and therefore different carriers will suit each of us differently. Let’s have a look: Broadly speaking, there are the following major types of baby carriers:
- classic and soft structured carriers and
- baby backpacks.
The easy one, baby backpacks are not suitable for sitting on a plane. (In fact, most aren’t allowed on board due to the size of their structured frame, which is larger than the hand luggage allowance size of airlines. – read more on our guide to baby carrier on board* takes you to our article )
Wraps & Slings
Wraps and sling two are very similar in that they provide their support in the way they are tied. Wraps and slings take more mastering, but they are suitable for very young babies to toddlers (depending on the material used)
These are quite easy to adjust to sitting comfortably, both for you and the baby- bring your baby higher and tighten in that position. You also have more flexibility in tucking in your little one’s legs to avoid squashing them.
Their disadvantage is that you have more body to body contact and can, therefore, make thermal regulation more difficult, resulting in a sweaty baby and sweaty mummy or daddy.
Mei-tai, Soft Structured and Classic Baby carriers
The classic baby carrier, such as the Baby Bjorn, takes a lot of the guesswork out for parents with buckles and adjustments. Whereas soft-structured baby carriers are lightweight, foldable, comfortable, but may require a bit more learning to use.
Sitting down with any of these that has a structured (padded) waistbelt, will likely be too uncomfortable for most.
Something like a Mai-tai, with only ties, will work better for a plane, than one with a structured hip support.
Finding the right carrier for you
Babywearing, this ancient practice has grown in popularity in the West again. In Africa it never when out of practice and I am in awe of the ease with which African ladies carry their little ones!
But back to us, planning a flight: As you’ll be sitting for a long time on a long haul flight, you want to make sure you have the most comfortable carrier for you and your little one. The best thing to do is to find a place to try on different styles and sizes to see what works for you. Lots of cities have babywearing groups which offer hands-on support.
People have their favourites and when I asked for recommendations in parents’ groups I got a huge range of answers:
“People love a Tula, it doesn’t feel right on me. I love Kinderpack, yet it doesn’t fit right on others.” Donna
“The Stokke carrier for its amazing back support while front carrying and has great weight distribution and is very comfortable while back carrying.” Cery
“Lillebaby for us: It has survived multiple international trips and two kids. It doesn’t pack small and if you switch between people it’ll take some adjusting to get the fit right, but the lumbar support and the padded straps are worth it. To be able to wear your kid from infant to toddler while traveling is huge.” Sam
“We tried the Lille, Boba, Tula, Happy and Sakura Onbu. We decided on the Happy and the Sakura Onbu because the material, lack of bulk and they feel much cooler.
We don’t expect to have to wear our baby all day and will be using the stroller when feasible. And we didn’t want to have to carry or wear an extra thing while walking around the cities, and both of these fit well into our diaper backpack. The others wouldn’t fit along with diapers, changing pad and water bottle.
The other three- Lille, Boba, Tula- definitely have more cushioning and, to be honest, I felt claustrophobic in all of them. Also, the wider stiffer belts, although definitely back savers, felt uncomfortable when sitting, and I wanted to wear her on the flight and hopefully snooze a little. But of those three, for a petite person, the Tula felt most comfortable. The boba was very stiff (maybe just needed some washing to soften it.) In terms of cushioning, it was somewhere between the Happy and the Tula, but still too big to roll up into any sort of respectable portability. The sling part is also very long, so would probably work better for a taller person.
My husband really liked the Onbu. He said he could barely feel it. He is fine with the Happy. He could definitely see needing the belt for longer walks, and probably the plane too, but he likes the Onbu a lot more. He also thought the leather was cool. “ Lucy
As these examples show, finding the right carrier is very personal. How you are able to sit with your baby carrier, especially for a longer period, will be as variable by the individual too.
TIP: for safe babywearing, check out the Hip-Healthy Products from the International Hip Dyspepsia Institute
How long can you carry a baby in a carrier?
As long as you position your baby in the correct (TICKS) way- supporting the hips and the head of your baby- you can carry your little one as long as it feels comfortable for both of you. Check baby is not overheating, has clear airways, legs are comfortable as you sit down.
There is no such thing as wearing your baby too much, in fact the close contact with the parent has been shown to improve a baby’s well-being. In an unfamiliar atmosphere, surrounded by new sights and sounds, carrying the baby can give reassurance and calm anxiety.
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Can I use a baby carrier in a taxi?
Lots of countries have laxed laws about the use of seatbelts in taxis, even when they have strict laws for private cars. (We’ve compiled a list and explain in our post about babies in taxis.)
Where seatbelts are not a requirement, in theory, you can use a baby carrier. However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, because the baby carrier holds your precious little one so comfortably: Babywearing in a taxi is not safe! In case of an accident, the consequences of having your baby strapped to you are dire. (Here’s a very dramatic video that shows and explains a crash test simulation.) Due to the forces of deceleration, which effectively increases the weight of baby to that of a teen, your baby will be seriously injured in the event of a collision. The fabric and part of the baby carrier are not designed to hold anywhere near that weight.
Be safe and have a carseat for travelling by car.
Share any further hints and tips about flying with a baby carriers below in the comments section.
“Baby Carriers, Seats, & Other Equipment.” Hip Health in Baby Carriers, Baby Seats, and Other Equipment. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.