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The question

Is it true, when flying with a baby, that you have to hold the infant in a particular way? I've heard that nursing while the cabin pressure changes helps, and holding the baby close in a sling can be comfortable.

The answer

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It's a rite of parenthood: worrying about the first school bus ride, the first sleepover and the first airplane trip.

On my daughter's inaugural flight at three months, I recall trying to latch her - without giving the neighbours a peep show - as the plane prepared for takeoff. Even in the confines of economy class, success! And then the airplane taxied and taxied. By the time we were lifting into the air, she was well fed and back in my arms. A lot of stress for me, but not a lot of crying for her.

So first, relax. It won't be as bad as you think. (The real challenge, you'll later discover, is keeping a wriggling, almost-two-but-can-still-travel-free toddler on your lap.)

Second, while the sling is a great idea for the airport, for safety reasons you'll need to remove it during takeoff, landing or whenever the seatbelt sign is on. Once you've boarded, a flight attendant will explain the proper "burping" or "nursing" positions required during those times, says Robert Palmer, manager of public relations for WestJet.

"We absolutely encourage moms to nurse their children on board, especially during takeoff and landing when the pressure changes occur," he says. Babies obviously can't pop a wad of chewing gum, so nursing, bottle-feeding, a soother or even letting the baby suck your finger helps reduce discomfort, says Mia Lang, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta. "That swallowing action will help to take away some of the pressure that causes the pain in the ears."

The long, slow descent tends to be the worst time for suffering passengers, big and small, she notes. But if your wee one really starts hollering while you're circling your destination, at least you'll know the end is in sight.

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Karan Smith is a former editor of Globe Travel.

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