When it comes to taking an infant with you on a plane, I’m sure you are looking for ways and means to make the experience for both you and your child as comfortable as possible.
That might entail taking a baby carrier with you or a stroller. A stroller you would have to check in, but what about a baby carrier?
Let’s look at the different kinds of baby carriers and what rules apply to each of them.
What is a baby carrier?
A baby carrier allows you to carry your baby on your body. This is usually achieved with the aid of a long piece of fabric, fabric sewn to form a pouch for the baby or a structured baby backpack. The main benefit of baby carriers is that they leave your hands free while your baby is securely tied to your body.
At the airport, this will mean that while your baby is safe and secure next to you, your hands are free to go through security and offer your passport and boarding pass when you get to the gate.
Which types of baby carrier count as carry on?
There are five main types of carriers that are readily available: the wrap, sling, soft-structured carrier/ buckle carrier, Mei Tai and backpack carriers.
If you have a baby carrier, there is a good chance that it will fall under one of these five categories.
If you’re looking for more information on the carrier types, check out our detailed post on the different types of baby carriers.
A wrap is simply a long piece of cloth that you wrap around your body. Your baby is on your back, your stomach or a hip and you wrap the cloth around the two of you.
This carrier is suitable for infants and toddlers. It allows you to carry your child close you to you, making it ideal for breastfeeding.
Wraps are not considered as separate carry-on luggage. In some way it can be regarded as an extra piece of clothing on the parent. Many parents report that airlines have allowed them to carry their child in a wrap through security and the boarding gate.
A sling is a long fairly wide piece of fabric that has two rings at one end. You wrap the sling around your body, across one of your shoulders and thread the loose end through the two rings. The baby’s weight secures the fabric so it doesn’t slip. This is a favored kind of carrier for mothers who breastfeed.
Slings do not count as carry-on luggage. Slings function the same as a wrap and should it prove to be a problem going through security, it can easily be folded up and put away in a handbag or other carry-on luggage.
Soft-Structured Carrier (SSC) / Buckle Carrier
Soft-structured carriers are designed to hold a baby securely. They have a little seat for the baby with straps that go over the parent’s shoulders and around the parent’s waist. These carriers are compact and foldable.
Functioning in the same manner as a wrap or a sling, a soft-structured baby carrier will most likely be treated in a similar manner and not be regarded as carry-on luggage.
Again, these carriers are really light-weight and foldable, so you can easily fold it up and stow it in your carry-on luggage should you run into a problem going through security.
The Mei Tai is a machine-sewn carrier fashioned out of a square of fabric with wide straps attached to the four corners. There are two shoulder straps and two straps tie around the parent’s waist. The square forms a pouch for the baby when the straps are tied. This type of carrier is in popular use for infants and toddlers.
The Mei Tai is similar to a structured carrier and will probably be treated in a similar manner. It is also easy to fold up in a small parcel and put away, but it’s unlikely that you will need to do that.
Backpack carriers are large items and have a solid structure with fabric that fits onto a metal or plastic frame. They are designed for older babies and toddlers. Apart from being a large item, a backpack carrier is a heavy item – they can weigh up to 8.5 pounds.
For the most part, backpack carriers don’t count as carry-on luggage, simply because they are too large. Airlines have specified the size allowance for carry-on luggage and most backpack strollers exceed those specifications. You will have to check your backpack carrier in separately.
Why take a baby carrier on a flight?
A baby carrier keeps your baby warm and secure with you while leaving your hands free to carry your luggage, hold another child’s hand and present your passport and boarding pass when required.
Once the plane has taken off, you can settle your baby in his familiar carrier where he is most likely to settle, feed happily and fall asleep. A baby carrier can save you from holding your baby for long stretches of time before, after or between flights. It can just be the thing to settle a fretting toddler.
On the flight, a wrap or a sling will provide covering when you want to breastfeed.
Whether a baby carrier counts as carry-on luggage depends on whether it is soft and foldable or has a solid frame. Soft carriers like wraps, slings and Mei Tais are not regarded as carry-on luggage that must be weighed.
Baby backpacks that have a solid structure with a metal or plastic frame would have to be checked in with other hand luggage.
Paul is a passionate dad who founded Upside Dad to share his parenting journey with other new parents. He graduated from Concordia University and worked as a test engineer for over a decade. Paul loves dad jokes and craft beer.
Learn more about Paul and Upside Dad here.