To be clear, the safest way for babies and small children to fly is secured in their FAA approved car seat. Unfortunately this almost always requires purchasing a seat for them, which negates the awesomeness of the budget-friendly "infant in arms" option. One child under the age of 2 can fly free when seated in the lap of a paying adult (for international flights you just pay taxes and fees, usually about 10% of the adult fare). Cheap? YES! Safe? Not exactly...
The chances of being in a major plane crash is very very minuscule, and you can argue that baby being in a carseat wouldn't exactly make much of a difference in that case. But, the chance of experiencing unexpected or severe turbulence is pretty substantial. If baby is sitting or sleeping soundly on your lap and you don't have them properly secured when you hit sudden turbulence, they're going to be flying right on up to that overhead compartment with a bang. Terrifying, right?
Before our most recent trip I researched our options and came across a great product that helps you fly safer with your lap child - Baby B'Air Infant Flight Vest. While not approved for taxi, takeoff, or landing (the same as baby carriers - they are simply not tested and approved to withstand the force that crashing at great speed would create), it will make the cruising part of your trip safer because it is a harness that straps right onto your seatbelt.
Flight attendants are quick to run up to you and make you take baby out of the carrier during taxi, takeoff, and landing, but to be honest, we had our twins strapped in with these harnesses and they didn't mention taking them out - so we kept them in! So, on top of us holding them as tight as possible in our arms (which is not sufficient in a speedy crash - no one is strong enough, no matter how much you love your little ones), they were also strapped to our seat belts, so I felt much safer!
During the cruising aspect, they came in handy as well. I was much more comfortable than if I had the baby in a carrier (though the latter is a great tool when it comes to fussy baby needing a nap!!). With the Baby B'Air vest baby could sit or lay on my lap in either direction, and when it came time to eat I laid baby in the empty seat next to me, vest strapped in to that seat belt, but I kept one hand on her. So she was safe and I was free to feed myself and my toddler! Hoorah!!
So, in a nutshell... if you have the budget go ahead and buy your little one a seat and bring the FAA approved car seat. But if you're like us and desperate to save money anywhere possible, take baby as an "infant in arms" and bring along the Baby B'Air Flight Vest! They come in 2 sizes: Infant fits heads up to 16.5" - infant to about 8 months; Toddler fits heads 16-19.5" - 8 months to 2 years). You can find them on Amazon and Baby B'Air's website.
And for older children who have their own seat, check out the CARES harness (at least 1 year old, 22-44 pounds, up to 40" tall) - it'll keep them safer and in their seat!
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!