July 02, 2015

Q: We're flying with our baby for the first time. Is there anything I can do to ease the pressure in her ears?

A: You're smart to be concerned about protecting your baby's ears. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to ear pain during takeoffs and landings because their tiny eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and keep air pressure stable in the ear, are easily compressed. Try these tips to help ease the pain:

• Breast- or bottle-feed your baby during takeoff and landing. Swallowing will open up her eustachian tubes, equalizing pressure in the inner ear.• Let your baby cry. Although it may be upsetting to you (and your fellow passengers), crying actually helps a baby's ears equalize. So while you should comfort your baby (after all, she's in pain) it's okay to let her scream it out for a few minutes.• Squirt a little saline nose spray up baby's nose, which can help thin mucus and keep her ears clear. Do this before take-off and landing. --Jan Sheehan

Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the November 2003 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009

Answered by Parents Team