A mother is subject to public scrutiny each and every time she steps out the front door with her little one but never so much as on an airplane.  I sat sandwiched between two mothers handling babies of about the same age in two different ways and kept my mouth shut (as suggested by my own 13 year old who said “Mom, the worst thing you could do is tell another parent how to parent! Pretty smart kid.). But oh, how I wanted to help.

The two things you need to know about flying with little ones are the left ear and the right ear. The cabin pressure can be excruciating until children learn how to clear the pressure that we do naturally on ascent and descent. But you can help!

Sucking is your primary defense, so save the bottle or breast for those crucial moments.  Feed lightly before and during the flight to make sure that they are ready to suck when the pilot says “we are starting our descent.” Long hauls are pure torture for everyone involved and then it is really a “move me, entertain me” game throughout.

What not to do is what I saw in the seat in front of me. A child about 8 months old being bottle fed throughout the flight who screamed the entire descent while her father jollied her along with a candy sucker. I will write, in detail, later about the self-soothing associations of food but for now, suffice it to say, that you do not want a child associating pain or discomfort with the stimulating effects of green food coloring and high fructose corn syrup. You may get through the moment but think about the lifetime impact of: ouch, candy, mmm, better!

The breast, bottle or sippy cup are your best friends during takeoff and landing as they will relieve some of the pressure on the ear. Older kids can chew gum.  A wee bit of planning goes a long way on the plane and if the sucking doesn’t work, here is your back up plan… Ask for two empty coffee cups into which you will stuff two very warm wads of paper towel. Cover both ears with these; make a game out of it if you have to. The warmth is soothing and keeping the pressure on the cups keeps the pressure on the ear drums until the plane lands.

When you do land, hopefully it is in a place where someone can take over for a few minutes while you have a glass of wine, may I recommend…

Bringing along your own healthy snacks will save time, money, salt bloat and sugar highs which can all contribute to a cranky kid even without the airplane, here is a snack recipe that I like for kids over one year of age. These muffins are full of healthy foods and fibre and are really tasty, plus, breaking off bits can be a 3 minute activity!

Sweet Potato Muffins

Recipe By: Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP

Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time 30 minutes

  • 1/2 cup unsalted  butter – softened
  • 1 cup cane sugar (natural brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 cups (2 medium)  sweet potato – cooked
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup milk

If you have leftover sweet potatoes they are the best to use, otherwise you will need to microwave 2 medium sweet potatoes that have been pricked with a fork for 10-15 minutes, peel and then mash them.

Preheat oven to 375F.

With an electric mixer, blend together cane sugar and butter together until fluffy, blend in mashed sweet potatoes.

Mix together flour, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda in a separate bowl.  Mix half of the dry ingredients into the sweet potato mixture.  Add only enough milk to thin batter so you can add remaining dry ingredients.  Add milk as you need it. Batter should be a very thick mixture. Fill muffin tins that have been lined with muffin papers two thirds full and bake until dry on top and fork comes out clean. (About 15-22 minutes.)

To reach Theresa directly please go to www.theresaalbert.com