Flying With Baby: Ears

A big consideration with baby and airplanes is pressure changes. As adults we are able to “pop” our ears by yawning or chewing gum. However, babies don’t have that much control (or understanding) over their bodies. The result can be your poor sweetie screaming in pain for a wwwhhhiillleeeee. Why does this happen? And how can you help?


OK, excuse me while I geek out for a minute. My undergrad degree is in both Speech-Language Pathology AND Audiology. So here is WHY your baby may be crying..

Image from
Image from

The “pressure” we feel when a plane takes off is caused by a few factors. As the pressure changes in the cabin, your Eustachian tube swells. This keeps the pressure in your middle ear from equalizing to the cabin pressure. As the pressure builds in your middle ear, so does the pain. The goal is is to get that Eustachian tube open as quickly as possible, to keep the pain and pressure in your baby’s ear to a minimum. Note: this change in pressure happens on both take-off AND landing .. so you have to be ready to help your little one on BOTH ends of the flight.

How Do I Help?

  • One way we open the Eustachian tubes is by moving our jaw and palate. You and I can do this by chewing gum because it causes us to move our jaw and swallow. If we end up on a plane without gum, we can just continually swallow while opening and closing our mouth. For baby? Drinking! Breast or bottle feeding while take up requires them to be moving their jaw while sucking, and their palate by swallowing! So try to offer that baby a looooong sip while taking off and landing. For us this meant a cranky baby before take-off (he was hhhuuunngggrrryyy), but a happy baby during the flight! Don’t worry, the people next to you will forgive you for the screaming baby when it doesn’t last the whole flight *smile*
  • If take-off happens and the poor baby is in pain, there is something you can do once in the air or after you are on the ground. Do this at your OWN RISK. There is a chance of burns – so you need to be careful and use common sense.
    • Get two Styrofoam coffee cups, one empty and one full of steaming HOT water. You’ll also need a few napkins.
    • Dip the napkins in the hot water and ring them out COMPLETELY. You do NOT want them to drip!
    • Stuff the napkins in the bottom of the empty Styrofoam cup.
    • Place your hand over the top of the cup to make sure the steam isn’t too hot for the baby’s skin. You just want it steamy and warmer than the outside air.
    • Place the cup to the baby’s ear and hold it there, allowing the steam to do it’s magic
    • The change in temperature can cause the ear drum to relax and help with the pressure in the Eustachian tubes.


Happy flight!

❤ Tara

P.S. We were told giving baby a lollipop like these can help as well – which makes since because they are using a sucking motion and the novelty could keep them munching!

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2 responses to “Flying With Baby: Ears”

  1. Wendy Avatar

    Very interesting!

  2. Mary Alberts Avatar
    Mary Alberts

    We had to use the styrofoam cup technique with our youngest and it worked like a charm!

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