Flying Near A Crying Baby? DEAL WITH IT! – Revisited

Today I planned to write about a very different topic, but somewhere early this morning I got side tracked by an unrelated conversation with a friend that got me thinking about flying with babies (no, I am not having a baby … I’ve already have three kids, currently aged 5, 7 and 12). As I thought about the challenges parents face flying with babies, and the annoyances passengers face when boarding a flight with a baby on board, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote back in May 2008, written while on board a flight with a screaming baby.

 

Rather than rewrite a perfectly good blog post, I have dug it out of the archives and four years later the post still resonates as if I wrote it this morning.

 

So … without further ado … Flying With Babies, For Those Of You Sitting Near A Crying Baby……Deal With It!

 

As I sit on my early morning Southwest Airlines flight from Providence (PVD) to Baltimore (BWI) I am inspired to write this while listening to a screaming baby slowly calming down and (hopefully) falling asleep. I can see this little boy’s face red and puffing, he’s been upset since the aircraft door closed; his discomfort grew as we accelerated down the runway and went into full-blown uncontrollable screaming a few seconds after our Boeing 737-700 went wheels up. What catches my attention really is not that the front of his Lightning McQueen shirt looks damp from his tears, but that there are dozens of adult passengers looking at the parents of this child with an intense sense of distain, a look of fueled anger … but why?

 

We all know that babies do what they do when they want to do it. The baby is not seeking to anger the roughly 130 people on this flight, however babies don’t know how to deal with the air pressure and the pain it causes. We’ve all had our ears pop and it hurts, now try and remember what it was like to be a little baby and unable to express your discomfort, your natural reaction was to cry. Ever flown with a mild sinus infection? Do you know the pain that causes an adult? Now be a baby and deal with this massive head pressure pain.

 

I am sure every single adult on this plane cried so loud at some point in their life that they nearly cleared out a plane/train/bus/movie theater/restaurant/grocery store. Outside of this pressurized metal tube, flying at 500+ mph (800+ kph) at 30,000 feet, you can pick up your screaming child and rock them to comfort them. In most situations you can pick your child up and walk outside, but let’s be real here, we’re sitting in a plane with the fasten seat-belt sign on, somewhere around 30,000 feet flying out over the Atlantic Ocean, crossing Long Island Sound, then back over the Atlantic Ocean. Where do these angry adults expect the parents to take this upset child?

 

If you’re on a plane and a baby is screaming I understand being frustrated. Before you start giving the ‘death stare’ towards the upset baby and the parents think about this … don’t you think the parents are more frustrated? Don’t you think the parents are trying to calm the baby down? Don’t you think if the parents could comfort the baby they would? Can you envision being in their place knowing that you have a planeload of passengers all staring at you in anger?

 

If the sounds of a baby on a plane bother you, and understandably they are irritating to listen to, go out and buy yourself a pair of decent noise canceling headsets. If the baby gets louder just adjust the volume on your iPod. Having distain for the baby and the parents gets you nowhere.

 

So my advice for all of you flyers out there when you hear a crying baby is this … DEAL WITH IT!

 

Happy Flying … and I’m watching the little guy sitting in seat 8F on his Dad’s shoulder doze off, so hopefully he’ll sleep through our arrival at BWI in 20 minutes.

Comments

  1. Steven, love your blog. Except for this post.

    Re: babies – there is a very short list of reasons for flying anywhere with a baby. It goes something like this:

    1) The grandparents are so ill they cannot travel, and they (or the baby) are fatally ill. Before one or more of them dies, they want to see the baby. (Skype is good too, though – they should try Skype).

    2) The family is relocating to a new home, too far away for driving (like, say, a military family being deployed to Germany from the States).

    3) The baby is a complete and utter genius. IQ in the 200 range. The baby has been offered a take-it-or-leave-it one-chance-only full ride to attend Princeton – and the family lives in Palau! So they have to fly the baby to New Jersey for freshman orientation and move in week.

    That’s it, pretty much it.

    Everyone not in one of these categories has no reason to get on a plane with a baby.

    p.s.: It’s not “further adieu.” It’s further ado. (I know: I should just DEAL WITH IT!)

    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ado-versus-adieu.aspx

  2. To the previous poster – I will be sure to let my in laws know that they will never see their grand kids again, outside of Skype, because it may inconvenience total strangers if my kids cry.

    Oh wait. I won’t. Because my kids have just as much right to be sitting on that plane as you do and based in that comment they are probably more pleasant to be around.

    I fly with my kids, and have since they were babies, overseas and even in business class. They are great travelers, we are lucky. But even if they weren’t? We would still fly.

  3. fyi….for those of you who do have to sit next to a sitting baby, ask if you can be reseated….you may get upgraded if there are no seats….even if there are no other seats, you may get something…i recently asked to be reseated and there were no other seats available….but the Delta flight attendant told me she could give me 5000 miles for the inconvenience…She pulled out that card reader that they use to charge drinks, asked for my FF# and voila!…5000 points!

  4. The best thing to do is give the parents, a smile and say something comforting – as they are more annoyed then you probably are.

  5. I have flown on hundreds of flights in the last two years. No one wants a crying baby on the flight, but inevitably it’s going to happen. The smart thing to do is prepare for it. Try noise cancelling headphones, or maybe ear plugs. You can buy both of these while at the airport at most major US airports. There are plenty of times it makes more sense for a family to fly with a baby than drive, and according to DOT data it’s actually safer, too.

  6. Do you know what really pisses me off? People who:
    A) Forget they were ever a kid
    B) Forget there are kids in their family who need sympathy too
    C) Don’t have an ounce of compassion
    Get your heads out of your butts. Especially you, JJ Blu. People fly for all kinds of reasons, and you don’t have the right to tell me when and how I can fly. You don’t like it? Fly a private jet.

  7. You’re clearly very biased because you have kids. I don’t. If I’m flying for work and need to dedicate my time to finishing a presentation on the plane, I should be able to without distractions. Bringing a baby that can’t behave on a flight is incredibly selfish. Our taxes already go towards putting your brats through school.

  8. Great post, Fish. As a parent, I know how difficult and embarrassing it can be to comfort a child when those around you are getting annoyed. I try very hard to remember this when others’ are dealing with their own children.

    The more I hear from a certain type of supposed adult, the more I am positive that my fear of offending them is misplaced. Those who are offended don’t warrant any further discomfort from me, or any other parent dealing with a crying child. Those who understand,,, simply understand and offer you the decency of not trying to make you feel worse.

    I guess the good thing is that generally those who have kids understand. Those who do not have kids, or never want kids are going to make the parent feel awkward/ashamed/uncomfortable will hopefully never pass along their self-centered, arrogant genes along to another generation.

    So for those who may have a crying baby on a plane, please feel free to ask the VIP next to you, who is bothered by your child, to change seats with me.

  9. Jon,

    I almost only fly alone and for work. When I fly, I usually work on my flights. The other week I needed to sleep the whole way from JFK to LHR, landing at 7:30am and needing to walk into a meeting at 9:AM for a day that didn’t stop until 11:PM. You know what … if you travel for work, be prepared. Get noise canceling headsets and ear plugs, I carry them.

    Your attitude, extremely selfish. Get yourself in check.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  10. they should make soundproof padded overhead bins for the cranky spoiled brats, (i mean the poor little angels) not really, but yeah

  11. Parents have the right to make poor decisions. For example, bringing a baby on an airplane where it will be miserable. Parents have no right, however, to subject paying passengers to their out-of-control child.

    No one can blame a child for acting like a child. But we can blame adults for acting like selfish, entitled, disrespectful children. 130 people should not have to “deal with it.” That self-serving parent should “deal with it” by finding an alternate means of transportation where they will not bother others.

  12. You’re a jerk, Jon. All kids aren’t “brats”… but I’m guessing you were as a child, since you clearly haven’t grown out of your selfish phase. Flying isn’t all for business, so suck it up.

    My parents’ taxes ad your parents’ taxes probably paid for your school. Did you think of that?

  13. Those noise-canceling headphones that you suggest will be a whole lot of good during take-off and landing when electronic items with on/off buttons are forbidden, right. Oh well it’s only the time period when the babies scream the most)

  14. The ones who think it is okay for the babies to cry the whole trip are probably also the ones who let their darlings kick my seatback even after I politely ask that they stop. I guess that my seatback is actually part of the child’s space to enjoy, and I shouldn’t be so selfish.

  15. And Chris, if my family lives in Indiana and I live in Texas, would you suggest a road trip for me and my two-year-old? Get real. And remember that the airlines are making money off of the leisure traveler too.

  16. My son pays for his seat, same as you. Usually he’s fine, but with small children you just never know. I do my best, even carry along earplugs to handout, have even offered to buy drinks/snacks one when he had a notable meltdown. Beyond that, frankly I know some of you are kid-haters and don’t feel a need to coddle YOU and won’t see you again anyhow. So the depth of my apology has it’s limits. You want a kid-free flight rent your own damn plane.

  17. What ever happened to parents giving their kids NyQuil, or Benadryl before flights??? 
    My parents gave my sisters and I that before every flight and we NEVER once bothered other “paying” passengers. 
    When I fly and see kids screaming/crying on planes, parents nowadays rarely ever do anything to correct it. They have this mentality that “their child can do no wrong.” It’s a much different generation of patenting.

  18. Vince, actually it’s me that’s kicking the back of your seat because your 300 pound a*s just reclined and hit my knees.

  19. I’m sure the teething baby that screamed all the way home from Mexico really did need to come along, not! Even better when mom sits in first class with screaming baby on lap. Had the pleasure both ways on our last transcon!

  20. hmmm… sort of an unfortunate post with many unfortunate responses to it. just the capitalized ‘DEAL WITH IT’ in the title already sets a poor tone from the blogger and makes this more confrontational than it need be.

    i think the real problem is not that a child is crying or screaming on a flight. and i work in a children’s hospital so i know angry infants and children. i think most of us (even those without children) will sympathise with parents who are at least making an effort to calm and comfort their child.

    however, at least 40% of the time, i see parents do absolutely nothing in this situation. they just seem to shut down and block it out. or even more unfortunate they just give a shrug and act as if its ok to just do nothing.

    planes are small and cramped. we can all do better to be a bit more pleasant on both sides. those without children can try to be a bit more empathetic, avoid giving a death stare, etc. and parents can try to be proactive by avoiding some types of flights when possible (red-eyes which are totally out of whack with a child’s daily routine), trying to time feedings to help with ear pain (during taxi and take-off), etc.

    its not that hard. we can all share the plane.

  21. I find the hatred towards babies expressed by some of the posts above quite astonishing. First, babies are humans, not objects. Second, families have every right to travel – and often have no option other than airplanes. Third, it’s wildly expensive travelling with family as you are paying for several tickets, so it’s not something that is done inadvisadly, on a whim. Fourth, it’s not always possible to know in advance that baby isn’t in 100% health as baby doesn’t know to tell you. I could go on. In any event, there’s little that noise cancelling headphones won’t sort out – and they work just fine for most of the flight.

    Having said that, I really don’t think that babies should be allowed in First Class, where it’s reasonable to expect people to be working, or in the first few rows of economy, where the same applies. Also, my particular anger is directed towards parents who don’t control toddlers or slightly older brats: here, it’s clearly within the parents’ remit and ability and so many parents believe it’s ok to allow little ones, who can and do know better, to disturb strangers.

  22. To Jon – What *YOU* need to get over is yourself!!!

    If you are soooo freakin’ imoprtant to your company, let them know they need to provide a private jet for you to arrive at your destination with your presentation complete and well rested just in case a family with crying baby would be on the same commercial carrier flight.

    The other option is for you to utilize your entrepreneurial spirit to start your own airline: “For Business Travel Only.”

  23. Hey Mike? Buy a private plane. Cause the last time I checked EVERY paying passenger has just as much right to be on a plane. Babies and kids do have to pay for their own seats. And if you are on an international flight with a lap baby you pay a rather large amount of taxes. My family lives in another country, so until they come up with a way to get from here to there other than a plane? I will bring my noisy kids on a plane. Except they aren’t noisy, and I can imagine a self righteous jerk like yourself probably is, and probably complains about every little thing. If you can’t take being in a public place with a child then perhaps you shouldn’t be in said public place.

    The attitude of people who expect a quiet peaceful flight always, always astounds me. You don’t pay for that. You pay to get from point A to point B with some pretzels thrown in for good measure. Unless an airline starts selling planes that are quiet you have no leg to stand on.

    And every flight I have ever been on, kids or not, I have never seen a parent not going above and beyond to assure their kids aren’t causing a scene. Why do you think we bring toys, snacks, ipads, dvd players, everything we can think of? So your delicate sensibilities aren’t affected.

  24. Also, again, unless an airline forbids kids/babies in first class then they have just as much right to be there. Bose headphones work wonders to drown out noise. Same with red eyes – we have to fly overnight to get to Europe, we have no choice in the matter, and my kids sleep the whole way. It works better than a day flight actually.

    And drugging your kids is not a good choice, particularly as some kids have the opposite reaction to Benadryl and it makes them more awake. How about instead of drugging them parents do whatever they can to occupy them and other passengers do what they can to be understanding that everyone has a bad day sometimes? And that after the flight ends, which is presumably just a few hours of your long life, you will never see those people ever again.

  25. One more thing… If I were ever to work as a flight attendant, the family will get more attention, assistance and “the extra mile” faster than the Medallion Traveler ever will.

    Why?

    Because the odds are that they are either paying for their seats out of their own pocket or are on a PCS journey moving from one military base to another.

  26. I am not a parent, but i am a pediatrician so children are who I deal with most of the day. That doesnt mean that I like to sit next to them on planes or a fancy restaurant. We all need to recognize that babies are uncontrollable. Without fail, I have never seen the parents of a screaming baby look anything but moritified that the baby is causing a fuss. Screaming baby–deal with it! Okay, thats where it ends. I have a very little tolerance for a misbehaving 4 or 5 year old. Kids can be unpredictable, but parents should know their kids. Come prepared with things that keep your child entertained. Pick flights that fit with your child’s sleep schedule. Do not let your child drink a coke (that may seem obvious, but this week I had a patient with pepsi in their bottle!). Do not fly with a sick child unless its an emergency. Smile at your seatmates. Seatmates smile back. And if the parent doesnt do anything to calm or entertain their spirited child?…deal with that too! We are all fortunate enough to have the time, money, and opportunity to be on that plane. Dont let one unruly passenger make you forget that.

  27. The issue here is mutual respect. If you are not disturbing others, it is reasonable to expect that they will not disturb you.

    Until a child is able to eat a meal in a restaurant, sit through a movie, visit a museum, etc. they are not ready to fly for hours on a plane. They will be unhappy. You will be unhappy. And you will make others unhappy.

    I remember apologizing, changing the order to takeout, and leaving a huge tip when the four-year-old was disturbing others in a restaurant. We thought he was ready. We were wrong. But at least we could leave. And we did leave.

    There is no option to leave on a plane. Until your child is ready to fly, stop acting so selfish–and self-righteous. Show others the respect they show you.

  28. Thanks for this article.

    Those looks and disdain, and comments like the ones from Mike make me wish Disney Airlines existed…

  29. Unfortunately I’ve seen too many parents who aren’t mortified that their baby is screaming…. they act oblivious.

    I have total sympathy for the parent who is trying to sooth their child, offering a bottle to help with air pressure, or a toy to distract. It is the parents who don’t bring things to keep their child busy, snacks, bottle, or pacifier. To those who have 4-5 year olds who don’t attempt to prepare the child about what to expect on a flight and then are amazed that the kiddo doesn’t know how to behave.

    To Andrea who has “never seen a parent not going above and beyond to assure their kids aren’t causing a scene,” let me remind you of the recent flight where a family with a toddler had to be removed because during take-off the kiddo was having a major meltdown that Daddy couldn’t control. It became a safety issue because the kid refused to stay in his seat, and the family didn’t bring a carseat / harness to insure child was properly restrained. Daddy’s defense? “It’s the airline’s fault that we had to turn off electronics at pushback”. At minimum, this is a Daddy who either needs educating on how to fly or parenting lesssons to understand you don’t give a 2 year old an iPad to pacify during boarding because pulling it away at pushback will certainly escalate the child’s screaming. And my sympathy level wasn’t helped when his second defense was that Mommy is in first class while he was in coach with a toddler he admitted he can’t control well under normal circumstances anyway.

  30. I understand that sometimes taking a baby on a plane makes the most sense, but they also have an obligation to make sure the kid behaves. It’s one thing if a baby is crying for a few minutes because of ears popping and the parents are trying to console the kid—I think most people can sympathize with that, but it’s another when a kid is out of control for the whole flight. Passengers shouldn’t deal with that.

    For example, I just got off a 6-hour flight where a 1 year old was kicking and screaming the entire flight. Everyone around the kid was rolling their eyes, and the parents never tried to stop. That’s a bit much.

    Once the seat-belt sign is off, if a kid is making a lot of noise, parents should take him to open area near the back of the plane so the noise doesn’t disturb everyone else. (the same way you take a crying kid out of a movie theater until they calm down)

  31. I totally agree with extending compassion to those with infants, as they can’t otherwise communicate. From a very practical standpoint, if you wish the kid to stop screaming, shooting dirty looks at the parent may make the situation worse. Stressed out parent = stressed out kid.

    On the other hand I’m fed up with parents of older kids/toddlers who don’t prepare and don’t intervene when their kids kick my seat, are noisy, or throw pretzels and crackers everywhere.

    Misbehaving kids should not be tolerated by their parents or others. Kids and babies in distress are a totally different story.

  32. Half the problem is most parents won’t pay for their child to have their own seat which makes the child even more uncontrolable. I understand it’s expensive, but everyone else paid a lot for their seats as well and they have the right to not be bothered. It’s similar to being stuck next to a “passenger of size.” Airlines really need to start family sections at the back of the plane. Require them to sit in the few rows in front of the bathrooms. Ear plugs only do so much and I have the Bose headphones but they are really uncomfortable to actually sleep in.

  33. OK … a few things …

    1) When I say a “baby crying” I am not talking about five and six year olds.

    2) When I say a “baby crying” I am not talking about those who are ill prepared and not handling their kids, although … in some cases I think stepping in is OK, without scorning the parents, such here – Upset Kid On Your Flight? You Can Kvetch or Help – http://bit.ly/Ljlnsb

    3) As the father of a kid with autism, who loves trains and airplanes, I have held off on flying with him, sticking to just trains at this time. When I first wrote this blog post my youngest was a baby, similar to every other baby. Now that he is growing, I am extremely aware of not only his attention span, but his ability (and inability) to control his own body and movements. My holding off on flying with my youngest has less to do with people around me than it does for his own personal comfort, because i know if he isn’t going to be a happy flyer, no one will be.

    4) Flying with kids with special needs is a whole different topic which I may delve into at a later date

    5) The Benadryl trick people love … keep in mind that for some kids, Benadryl winds them up and makes them the exact opposite of tired. If you suggest ‘drug your kid up’ you are being negligent and are an irresponsible parent or probably not a parent.

    6) My eldest flew a number of trans-con flights, both non-stop and connections, as a new born and as an older baby, she was fine. She flew with both her mother and myself traveling as solo parents, no problem, flew with her aunt & uncle, no problem.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  34. You can give babies some medicine to help, but it may not be enough to stop them from crying on the plane. Giving them an overdose of medication to knock them out is irresponsible from a medical perspective and could be considered a crime of abuse/neglect.

    By the way there are some children who have flown so much that they have airline elite status… Some of the folks who are saying kids shouldn’t fly would probably throw a fit if a kid got upgraded to 1st Class and they didn’t, despite the kid having flown to achieve higher status.

    I agree parents should prepare for the flight, but even with proper preparation inevitably the child may be loud / crying, so either prepare yourself to deal with it or travel in private jets.

  35. Not all babies cry on planes! Mine doesn’t. He’s 5 months and has already made 2 trips between HI and CA without making a peep. He likes to flirt with the flight attendants and then he goes to sleep. If only he was that good at home…

    Our pediatrician gave us some ear numbing drops for any pain, but so far we haven’t had to use them but we always carry them just in case. We also always purchase the baby his own seat, which I feel is important, that way he can sleep in his car seat, which is a familiar to him.

    Sometimes babies cry. I think as long as the parents are trying to calm the baby, you have to cut them a little slack. If the child is older than about 2 or 3, or the parents are negligible, then it is another story.

  36. Incase you didn’t know: Babies can not breathe through their mouth in the beginning. Babies vary in how old they are before they develop oral breathing.

    Now imagine your sinuses and ear pressure causing issues with your breathing and not being able to switch to mouth breathing. I would poop my diapers too and scream.

  37. I agree with everything Jon typed.

    Jon, you are dealing with a whole lot of people who are entitled man, and we are very much out numbered. They are mad they had the kids, and they are all to happy to spread that displeasure to you or others like you any and every where.

    It only gets worse from here…

  38. Jayson,

    The best thing I ever did with my life was have my three kids. Why would I be mad about having kids?

    If you have kids, you should want them, because you brought them here , they didn’t ask to be here.

    You’re opinion is severely skewed. If you don’t like kids and think people who have kids don’t like their kids, you may want to take it up with your folks or a therapist.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  39. Parents need to keep screaming kids off the plane. I get tired of over entitled parents who expect special treatment because they made the decision to bring the kids. Now there are politicians proposing laws to enshrine such entitlement with a law requiring airlines to seat families together with the resulting in the displacement of others. The Asian airline that is going to start special “kids” and “no kids” sections of the plane has the right idea!

  40. Eh, I think entitled adults who think that children shouldn’t be in public need to keep off planes too. It amazes me how self righteous and close minded adults can be when it comes to kids. I am not asking you to take care of my kids, to entertain them, or even to listen to them scream – because, believe it or not, kids on a plane =/= screaming in every instance – but I am asking you to not blanket judge parents and kids and give us nasty looks in the boarding area simply because we have children.

    And, the laws are actually beneficial to everyone, because then no one has to switch seats because airlines don’t sit families together or, worse, sit next to a child without their parents there. Imagine the horror of that.

  41. no problem Andrea. We over-entitled adults will save our dirty looks for when your kids start screaming. The notion that everyone will benefit from laws requiring airlines to seat families together is delusional. Just play by the rules like everyone else–seats are first come, first served. Buy early and you’ll have a wide choice of seats. Buy late and you’ll have sloppy seconds. Just like everyone else.

  42. I don’t have kids, but when faced with a situation where you are captive, such as on a plane, it’s usually better to try to help rather than heap scorn on parents who are doing their best. If I’m around a fussy child, usually I will try to catch the kid’s eye and make funny faces or otherwise distract the kid. Sometimes the novelty is enough to break the kid’s focus and the parents are more successful in calming the child.

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