Tips for Dealing With a Baby’s and Toddler’s Ears While Flying

Most of us have been in a position during a take-off or landing when we’ve heard a child crying from somewhere on the plane (or even our lap!) This crying is most likely caused from ear discomfort. The rapid pressure change within the plane means that the Eustachian tubes (the little tube that runs between the ear and throat) have to work extra hard to equalise the pressure within the middle ear and let the air out. Young children have narrower Eustachian tubes, so often they don’t function as well as an adults inner ear, which makes equalisation more difficult and pressure against the ear drum with the resulting pain more likely. Congestion and ear infections, which are so common in babies and toddlers, can complicate the situation further, though if this is the case a GP should always be consulted before flying.

I often worry that my kids are going to suffer from ear pain during a flight, and I think it’s a common concern of many parents who fly with young kids, so I thought I’d share with you some simple well known methods that can encourage a baby or toddler to swallow which helps the ears pop and relieves the pressure.

For babies you can offer a:
– Breastfeed
– Bottle; or
– Dummy/Pacifier

For toddlers no longer breastfeeding or bottle feeding you can:
– Give a drink or snack;
– A lollipop to suck on (I always keep a couple hidden away in my hand luggage for those just in case moments);  or
– Encourage them to yawn (yes I know, getting a 2 year old to yawn sounds impossible, and apparently the under 4 population are immune to contagious yawning so you may have to think up a fun game that involves yawning, and you might want to practice beforehand…)
– Purchase special flight ear plugs that help regulate the pressure.

It’s also recommended that young children are kept awake during the rapid pressure change, especially on landing which is a lengthier process than take-off. I’ve been fortunate with my kids so far and breastfeeding and sips of water have worked just fine. In fact, my 2 year old has often slept through take-off and landing!

If all else fails and your baby/toddler does cry during take-off or landing, there is method to this madness, as apparently crying is a surefire way to help open the Eustachian tubes and relieve the pressure and pain!