My friend's baby in her DIY scarf sling.

Today’s Hint: A DIY Sling for Traveling Hands-free With a Lap Baby

When my daughter was six months old, we took her on an airplane for the first time. While she didn’t disturb the passengers around us during the five-hour flight (I think the Tootsie Roll Pops we gave out helped), my little one was on my lap and I don’t remember having a free hand during the entire trip.

If only I had known about a trick for hands-free travel with a lap baby that my friend recently shared with me, a strategy that is today’s hint.

Her tip for comfortable airplane travel with an infant: Either bring a baby sling in your carry-on bag and wear it – and your baby – during the flight, or if you don’t have (or forgot) a sling, use a scarf tied over one shoulder as a DIY baby sling.

During a recent flight to the Midwest from California with her nine-week-old son and husband, my friend quickly realized once they were situated in their two seats “how difficult it was going to be to eat my lunch — or do anything — while holding the baby for four hours.”

My friend's baby in her DIY scarf sling.

My friend’s baby in her DIY scarf sling.

So, since she didn’t have a baby sling with her, she pulled a regular old scarf out of her bag, tied the two ends together and created a makeshift over-the-shoulder sling. “The scarf held baby snugly against me and he fell fast asleep while I ate my lunch, got some work done, and read,” she says.

Not only did the scarf help her baby sleep, but she says it also “worked well as a nursing cover when it was time to feed.” Others also sing the praises of scarves during airplane travel, whether as baby slings or feeding covers. “I would build my entire travel outfit around this one scarf so I didn’t have to pack an extra cover up,” wrote Keryn Means over at Walking on Travels, who also suggests bringing baby carriers in carry-on bags.

To be sure, many safety experts recommend buying a seat for your little one rather than having him or her ride on your lap. You’ll also want to make sure you’re wearing your baby so that he or she has no problem breathing. In other words, make sure your little ones’ face is visible and his or her chin is up (see the helpful diagrams over at Penniless Parenting). In addition, the trick won’t work during takeoff or landing, when you’re typically not supposed to be wearing your baby and when you’ll want to be feeding your baby anyway, as Amalah suggests over at Alpha Mom.

Still, some experts (like Dr. William Sears) do suggest wearing your newborn baby on a plane, and it’s good to know that scarves can come in handy if you’re need to use your hands in flight, or can’t afford a sling. As for my friend, she’s now a fan of a fabric sling from Hotslings that she says “stuffs easily into a purse or carry-on bag” when traveling by air. You can find more sling ideas from the ladies over at Cool Mom Picks and Rookie Mom Heather Flett has a helpful tutorial for making your own.

What are your tips for making travel with a baby easier?

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