Few things are as nerve wracking as prepping for the first time you get on a plane with your little one  – especially if you’re travelling alone. But the good news is that it’s rarely as bad as you think, and there’s plenty you can do to make the journey easier. We asked Jo Holt, head maternity manager at Malaak Mama & Baby Care – who also used to be cabin crew – the most common questions new mums have and for her top tips.

What do I need to check with the airline before my flight?

It is essential you have completed all travel documents, e.g. passports and visas for your baby. As a mother or father travelling alone be mindful some destinations require further documents to be signed by both parents to give consent for the child to travel. You may want to check with immigration in Dubai to confirm exactly what destinations require this. Also confirm with your airline the baggage allowance for you and your baby for each leg of your journey.

Can I breastfeed on a flight?

Yes, you can breastfeed on a flight, but if you are worried about it then you can request to be seated next to a female passenger at the check-in counter or once you have boarded the flight. Wear comfortable and practical clothing and be savvy when packing – a breastfeeding cover is not necessary, as a scarf or muslin can have the same use and also doubles up as an extra layer if the cabin air is chilly. Ensure you prepare yourself prior to feeding times; safely secure yourself and your baby in the seatbelts provided in plenty of time so you can feed your baby during taxi, takeoff and landing, as the sucking motion will ease the pressure on your baby’s ears.

Can I take expressed breast milk onto a flight? How can I keep it cool?

Yes! You are allowed to take expressed breast milk on to a flight. I would suggest you take it in a small cooler bag with ice packs and once on board the aircraft you can request for it to be stored in a chiller at 0–4 degrees celsius. Clearly label the inside and outside by placing the cooler bag in a large clear Ziplock bag to ensure it remains as sterile as possible. It is also best to have it readily available at the security check points to avoid being delayed.

Read more Genius travel products to help you survive your trip home with the kids 

Can I take pre-made formula milk onto a flight?

This is allowed, however I would not recommend the powdered formula to be pre-made as it is recommended to be prepared and consumed within one hour. Alternatively, you could take premixed liquid formula that is available in grocery stores or pharmacies as this is not required to be chilled but stored at room temperature.

How can I heat up milk once on a flight?

I would suggest you take bottles of boiled water filled with more than you require – you might be requested to drink the water out of each bottle at the security check points. Prepare the formula on board and take all items necessary, e.g. a suitable container to fill with hot water to heat the baby’s bottle prior to adding the formula. I recommend you take pre-measured powder in a formula dispenser and prepare and heat your baby’s milk yourself to ensure it is made correctly. I would strongly advise you only give your baby water you have previously boiled and a familiar brand of formula.

Do I need to book a bassinet row?

Bassinet rows tend to have a bit more space and feature bassinets in which you can lay your baby and free up your hands to eat or have a hot drink. However please do keep in mind the ratio of infants to bassinets is not always balanced. The majority of airlines have policies in place offering the bassinets to the youngest babies on board. Note, airlines also have weight restrictions for the bassinets of 11kg and should turbulence occur you will be requested to hold your baby to abide by the strict safety precautions.

Is a night flight or day flight better when travelling with a baby?

It really depends on the baby’s age and the duration of your flight. Aim to get a good rest the day before – try to avoid trips to the mall searching for the one last thing you think you need, but could do without. Arrive at the airport as soon as check-in opens, giving yourself ample time to change a nappy, feed your baby and most importantly to hydrate and refuel yourself. Ultimately travel at a time you feel the most at ease. Your baby will feed off your levels of stress and anxieties. So take on the challenge of day or night flight and pack smart: use clear Ziplock bags or recycle baby pouches/purses to separate items, making life at 40,000 feet easier.

Can I take my baby’s car seat onto the flight or do I need to check it in?

Check the current regulations with your airline. It’s often easier to just check it in, but if you want it on board with you then it may depend on the loads of passengers booked and the space available on board. With Emirates Airline for example you are permitted to take a car seat for babies and toddlers up to the age of 4 years old when they are occupying a paid seat/ticket. However, you must follow their guidelines and confirm with your airline the specific requirements for your chosen destination. Also carry a copy of the Manufacture Certificate with the design and size. 

Read more 10 ways holidays have changed since having kids 

Flying with kids tips:

  • Choose a flight with minimum stops, making the journey as smooth and fast as possible.
  • Book Careem Kids to the airport. Their cars feature Cybex Car Seats for infants and children from newborn up to 4 years and make for a safe and stress-free start to the journey.
  • Check all your luggage in and take on board only the essential items.
  • Invest in a cabin-friendly stroller especially for a long-haul flight, however it is advisable to check with your airline if they are approved. Alternatively, a baby carrier is an option to help transport your little one on the journey.
  • Ensure you have enough bottles for the duration of your journey, not just the flight time. You will need enough bottles from the time you leave your home to the time you reach the last destination. Take into account there could be a delay. A minimum of two to three spare bottles would be ideal.
  • Pack lots of healthy snacks for everyone including yourself, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Bananas, porridge and plain crackers fill little toddler tummies nicely.
  • Pack a flask of hot or cold food (I prefer vegetarian options and less coloured foods to avoid clothes being soiled), ensuring your little ones are well fed and you are not having to rely or wait on others to assist you.
  • To keep your big kiddos and little ones entertained take a “bag of tricks”, a few new toys or colouring-in activities and stickers to keep them busy.
  • In your carry-on baggage use clear bags or fabric pouches to separate all items, especially nappies, nappy wipes and creams, so you have everything visually on hand when needed.
  • Take a change of clothes for each adult and each child and at least two for a baby, if not three.
  • Most importantly stick to the same routine while travelling. Stay on UAE time if you are taking a day flight and try to plan the nap times in advance to avoid baby becoming overtired. Take on board all the creature comforts your little ones love at home. To help them sleep well take their own sheet to lie on, a favourite blanket, teddy, and even their PJs or sleeping bag for day time naps or night flights are total lifesaver. 

Read more 5 ways to re-establish little one's routine after a holiday 

3 cabin-friendly strollers

BabyZen YoYo

This cult travel stroller doesn’t come cheap, but it’s sturdy, handles beautifully, weighs just 6.2kg and folds up small enough to fit in overhead lockers. Dh2,149, Sprii.com

Baby Time

Weighing 5.8kg, this mini stroller folds up small enough to be cabin-friendly, and comes in cheap as chips at just Dh288 Souq.com

GB Pockit

A more affordable version of the BabyZen YoYo, this stroller is a world record holder for its tiny 4.3kg weight. You can take it on a flight and it’ll set you back Dh899, Babyshop.

Read more: 

The best places to go globe trekking with kids 

Flying with kids: "Did someone say security? Sorry, they’ve confused it. With a zoo..." 

The expat mum's guide to flying with a baby