Flight with formula fed, crawling baby
June 8, 2016 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm finding mixed facts and advice regarding how much prepared formula you can bring on international flights? I am flying solo with a 10 month old (first flight) next month and I'm trying to figure out if I can put water into 3 seperate bottles (4 oz each), if I can pre-mix some of the formula, and how much. I am trying to avoid making the bottles after I go through security as I will be on my own and making bottles before/during flight seems impossible especially if I have to buy chilled water. She will drink room temperature water so the only thing I can think is to fill her bottles with mixed formula or just water so that it is room temperature on the plane. I am very stressed about traveling alone for the first time so I am trying to make it easier on mylsef. We have a connecting flight that allows us 45 minutes in order to reach our international destination (the flights are 2.5 & 3 hours long), right around bed time so she will need about 4 bottles. Also, should I bring my stroller even though we dont have time on lay over, it seems if I gate check it I worry it will hold me up waiting on it, when I just need it for the destination.
posted by MamaBee223 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
could you consider buying the premade sealed bottles? we generally don't do so, but bought some for travel once. (You could dump it into the usual bottle.)
posted by typecloud at 10:27 AM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Formula is usually (always?) exempt from liquids restrictions (e.g. TSA guidelines)
posted by randomnity at 10:29 AM on June 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

You are allowed to bring formula in any amount as a carry on, but you have to inform TSA about it and they may do a special screening. TSA Guidelines provide some more detail. I've gate checked a stroller before and it's usually a pretty quick process, it tends to appear right in the jetway about halfway through the process of getting everyone off the plane. Having a stroller is also super nice for getting through an airport quickly, cause you can load it up with your stuff and walk quickly. It can also hold things while you are in the bathroom changing diapers that you might not want to put on the floor of the bathroom. I highly recommend wrapping up some toys in paper or putting a few in little containers that can be opened and closed -- each one can be worth a good ten minutes of distraction during the flights.

You're going to make it! There will be nice people on your plane who have empathy for your situation! Your flight attendant will somehow turn out to be surprisingly helpful and will love babies (lots of them do, I've found)! Random people near you in long lines will turn out to understand what traveling with infants is like and may be able to offer assistance and/or knowing looks of support! You will not sleep on your flight but that will also somehow be ok!
posted by cubby at 10:29 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just flew domestically and was able to bring several bottles with room temperature water for later mixing through security. They did pull me out of line and scan the bottles separately and whatnot, so the process took longer. As far as I know, the TSA checks are the same for international & domestic.

Bring the stroller - it is very likely that it will be out of the plane before you are, and you can move much faster with the kid in the stroller (plus being able to dump stuff in it) rather than carrying her.
posted by brainmouse at 10:30 AM on June 8, 2016

When I tried bringing water + powder formula to mix later on the plane, I was unable to bring the water. Individual TSA agents are not necessarily up on the law. This was a while ago, but I don't think TSA agents have all gotten smarter, so don't count on bringing water through security (although hopefully you'll have no problem like the above poster.) But even if you do, it's ok, there's plenty of free bottled water available on the plane.

Is your baby going to have her own seat? If you're bringing her onboard in a hand carrier to strap into her seat, you will have no problem mixing bottles for her, using bottled water that you can easily get from the flight attendants. If she's a lap infant, you can either ask the person next to you to hold her (when I flew, the people next to me were women who kept asking to hold the baby) or grab your bag and head, baby and all, down to the galley, where a flight attendant will be happy to mix it up for you. I don't think they chill that water - it comes in big bottles that don't fit in the little soda fridge shelves, generally.

Definitely gate check the stroller so you can have her in it for the transfer. They bring them up right away usually.

Good luck! It'll be fine. My baby didn't even poop the first time she flew. Easy peasy!
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:56 AM on June 8, 2016

We’ve had no trouble bringing bottles of milk and water through TSA screenings. One tip: put them in a diaper bag. For one trip, we had a bottle of water in the diaper bag and one in my husband’s carry on, and they made him throw his out even though we were together. They will pull you out of line to put the liquids through a special screening, and they will also swab your hands, but they’ve been very quick about it in our experience. There’s no limitation on the quantity allowed for a baby. You may want to print this page and take it with you if you’re worried that the agents won’t know that.

Every time we’ve gate checked our stroller it’s been waiting for us at the destination gate before we made it off the plane ourselves.

Bring your baby’s birth certificate or passport. We haven’t been asked to show ours (domestic travel), but I’ve heard of it being an issue (with the airline, not TSA) if you’re flying with a lap infant who looks like she might be over 2. And I can imagine other instances where questions might arise. Also, since you’re traveling alone internationally, you may need a letter of consent from the baby’s other parent.

We’ve had great luck flying. The white noise put our baby to sleep. I hope your travels go smoothly!
posted by Kriesa at 11:09 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're not opposed to tap water, there are restrooms and water fountains on the other side of security.

If you prefer bottled water, again, usually there are bars/restaurants on the gate-side of security. I wouldn't expect a Hudson News employee to leave the register to go digging for room temp water, but a bartender could pretty easily grab a bottle that's not yet been put in ice (for a generous tip).

If you need the stroller at your destination, go ahead and do the gate check. That stuff comes up pretty quickly, really, and you'd lose more time trying to haul a toddler sans stroller.

I did all this with a 9-mo-old on a flight from NYC about one year after 9/11. The anticipation is stressful, but you can do it!
posted by whoiam at 11:17 AM on June 8, 2016

Put water in baby bottles (e.g., not plastic water bottles from the grocery or corner store) and tell the TSA agent at the metal detector that you have water in bottles for the baby. They will screen it separately but should not need to open the bottles. I have traveled numerous times with one or two kids over the last 4.5 years and have never had a problem bringing water (or breastmilk) through security. (If you have premixed formula in the one-time use cans, those also fine, but I wouldn't mix the formula from powder in advance because of spoilage concerns. I'm a little neurotic about that, though.). I would also bring your formula pre-measured (I used to use one of these or you can buy the individual formula packets). Much easier to mix a bottle if you can just quickly uncap the bottle, dump in premeasured formula, recap, and shake.

And bring the stroller all the way to the gate. Gate checking is free and much easier on you and they'll have it unloaded really quickly when you deplane. It'll likely take you less time to get from one gate to the other if you can push the baby instead of carrying the baby.
posted by devinemissk at 11:22 AM on June 8, 2016

Infant and children's food/drinks are exempt from TSA regulations (to a reasonable limit for small children) - so you can certainly bring juice, milk, formula with you.

What we did traveling with Typechip (four times in a year, my kid has been on a lot of planes lately) was to make one bottle/cup of juice for the security line (the TSA agent did a chemical test strip on this since Typechip), and bring everything else as powder or sealed juice boxes. We also brought a refillable water bottle and filled that at a water fountain to carry water to make more formula on the plane and we just mixed bottles right there for Typechip.

You can bring the stroller all the way to the gate. We've done this several times with two sizes of strollers - they'll give you a sticker label for it, and I would also recommend putting a tag with your name/address/phone number on it as well. Gate checking is a lifesaver, even on a short layover - it means you won't have to carry your kid all through the airport when you and they are tired and possibly sore from flying and if you get delayed, you are going to want it.

The most valuable advice I can give - Be one of the last persons off the plane. It means you have time to put all your stuff together in the easiest way to carry it all and as people leave, you'll have room to maneuver and rearrange and repack bags. Then your stroller will also be there and waiting and all you'll have to do is get off, put your kid in and go straight to the bathroom to do a diaper check between flights.
posted by FritoKAL at 11:34 AM on June 8, 2016

All security did was make me taste the bottle of formula in front of them (shook it onto my wrist and licked it)
posted by biggreenplant at 11:36 AM on June 8, 2016

Beyond your question but a good thing to remember when flying with babies: the air pressure on take-off and landing is excruciating for your babe's ears. Time it so that he'll be getting bottles then so that his swallowing can counter that pressure.
posted by lois1950 at 11:37 AM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've flown a lot with Sprog, from the time she was 3 months - 3 years. The first time was by myself at age 3 months on a 3 hour flight to Florida... which I was very nervous about but overall it was fine. As others have noted, lots of sleeping. I gate checked her stroller and carseat, and brought her on the plane in a baby sling. I found a sling to be pretty helpful for keeping your hands free if you're by yourself.

I have always used pre-made formula for flights, rather than have to deal with mixing on the plane. They were all over the 100mL limit, but as others said it just takes a few extra minutes screening by the TSA. Even now, I can take those toddler fruit puree pouches (like 300 mL) as carry-on, and they just screen it separately.

Same stuff applies for international flights, as least my experience in the UK and Ireland. I've been flying there every year since the Sprog was born. Once in Heathrow in the UK, the TSA-type person made me open up and taste a random container of the pre-made formula. I got a little miffed, as then Sprog would have to drink it fairly soon or it would go off. But they got pissy and said I either taste it or they throw it all out. And since it was a 16 hour travel day, I had a LOT of little formula bottles. So I tasted it, and boy was it gross :(

In terms of the stroller, it might depend on what airport you're flying into. The first year we flew through Heathrow our massive City Mini GT was fine for gate check, but the following year they told us that it was too big for the elevator up from the tarmac, and British Airways was only accepting umbrella type strollers. Suffice to say it was annoying for a 3 hour layover in Heathrow to not have a stroller. But we had a baby sling, so it wasn't impossible.

Now we have an umbrella stroller specifically for flying through Heathrow. . It is nice in that it almost fully reclines so Sprog can rest, and we end up hanging a lot of bags of the handles.

Oh and they usually have the stroller waiting at the door of the airplane before we even get off the plane... if I've ever waited, it's only been like 2-3 minutes.
posted by starbuck43 at 11:39 AM on June 8, 2016

Fill up the baby bottles with water and use a formula dispenser to pre-measure the powder. If anyone gives you grief, tell them you boiled the water and it's all sterile. Worst case scenario, they make you dump the water and you just buy some and decant into the clean and empty bottles when you get through security. If you're not picky about bottle brands, I loved travelling with playtex drop-ins. I just kept one bag with clean nipples, and brought a bunch of drop in disposable liners. This made travelling long haul very easy. I never had an issue carrying water for formula for babies.

If you are a stroller person, definitely bring yours to the gate. It's always easy to retrieve. If you are a baby wearer, you can check your stroller at the first destination and pick it up at the bag carousel. I like travelling hands free and find the stroller cumbersome sometimes.

Usually people are really helpful and kind when you're travelling with a baby. In general, I'm always ushered to the front of the line and all staff in the airport and on the plane are normally wonderful.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 11:47 AM on June 8, 2016

Two things:

Flight attendants were more than happy to give me non-chilled water to mix formula with once I got on the plane. I bet if you ask, some stores on the post-security side (maybe somewhere like a Starbucks) might be able to provide you with some "back stock" water that has been at room temperature.

Also 'ready to feed' formula (ie: premixed, sealed, clearly labeled as formula) is certainly a thing. It is expensive, but maybe for this purpose you might be able to buy the same brand you buy in powdered formula and not worry about whether or not the plain water will get through security? A lot of them come pre-bottled, so you can just put a nipple on the bottle and feed.

You can also buy premeasured packets of formula that I found really helpful when traveling. Just open the packet, dump it in the bottle, add the water and shake.

Yes, absolutely bring the stroller, and gate check it.

It will be ok. I know its stressful, but I flew with my infant son many, many times (the first time on the very first day of the liquids ban, when he was 30 days old) and the flight attendants and other airport personnel (including the TSA) were never anything but kind and understanding.
posted by anastasiav at 12:32 PM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

When my kids were little flight attendants were more than happy to provide some warm water to mix up some formula. A kid that's sucking on a bottle is a kid that's not crying. Just make sure it's not too hot, obviously.
posted by trbrts at 12:54 PM on June 8, 2016

The reason you should use boiling water to mix formula isn't to sterilise the water, it's because formula isn't sterile. So I would use premixed if you can't get hold of boiling water. Although at ten months, can't she just have normal milk?
posted by KateViolet at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2016

If she's a lap infant, you can either ask the person next to you to hold her (when I flew, the people next to me were women who kept asking to hold the baby)

Good luck on your flight, but I just wanted to chime in to ask that you refrain from asking people next to you to hold your infant, unless they've already asked to do so. It's already awkward enough being a woman who isn't into babies - if you really need help from your seat mate and they seem willing to do so, maybe ask them to mix the formula instead?
posted by DingoMutt at 3:38 PM on June 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh and they usually have the stroller waiting at the door of the airplane before we even get off the plane... if I've ever waited, it's only been like 2-3 minutes.

Man, I want to fly with you guys. We're always one of the last ones off and we've always had to wait for them to bring the strollers up, and once at the end of a trip we waited and waited only to be told it had been taken to the baggage claim area.

With a ten month old on a multiple leg trip I would personally gate check the stroller on the first leg all the way through to your final destination and use a baby sling in between the separate flights.

The formula should be fine and yes to putting water or juice in baby bottles. At heathrow this past January they chucked our juice boxes and fruit pouches because they weren't specifically labelled or branded as kiddie or baby.
posted by romakimmy at 7:46 AM on June 9, 2016

The reason you should use boiling water to mix formula isn't to sterilise the water, it's because formula isn't sterile. So I would use premixed if you can't get hold of boiling water.

You don't need to use boiling water to mix formula. Tap water is fine. Nothing you feed your 10 month old is sterile.

Although at ten months, can't she just have normal milk?

It would probably not be harmful to give a small amount of cow's milk, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no milk for babies under the age of 12 months (because they may not be able to tolerate it well without a more mature intestinal tract, and because it can contribute to iron deficiency anemia) and those are the medical recommendations most people adhere to.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:29 AM on June 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

What FritoKAL said about filling bottles at the water fountain as an option. Probably best is to make the minimum amount of formula you think you need and then also fill a water bottle on the other side in case you need more or for "sippies". Planes are very dehydrating (low humidity) and also it is something to swallow to help equalize pressure during the flight.

Usually there is a water fountain/rest room near security on the way to your departure area. The water fountain water is usually chill, but not cold, and if you fill a big water bottle up immediately it should be room temperature by the time you need it. I recommend a cheap plastic bottle with a sport top, so you can squeeze straight from the bottle into your baby bottles.

Traveling as a single adult, I always bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it on the other side because I like to have lots of water and not a tiny cup or super expensive purchased bottle.
posted by anaelith at 7:41 AM on June 12, 2016

posted by MamaBee223 at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2016

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