FLYING WITH A BABY!
How exciting! Scary? Sure…but time to get out of your bubble and get on the plane. You can do it! I did, and this is how it went (goes).
I can say I’m getting more and more experienced in this department, and after readers expressed interest on @ColorfulPregnancy in wanting to know more about flying with a newborn and/or baby, I figured I’d share my experience(s) on here! I will be updating this blog post as I continue to fly) and even road trip, which these days is pretty darn often.
I fly for work, for training, for pleasure, and most times with the baby attached! Sometimes with my husband, mother or by myself. Either way it is good to know what to expect, especially when you’ve never done it and are getting major anxiety about it!
I know my first time flying alone after baby was born at 3 months old was just horrid to me. I had my pump at hand and mini cooler for all the frozen pumped milk plus a heart full of guilt for leaving my baby behind with my mother and husband. Looking back, the situation couldn’t be more perfect, but to me it felt like the end of the world. If you want to read on: Leaving baby for the first time, Pumping and More click here.
Flying without the baby and being away for the first time is even harder than flying with the baby, emotionally speaking. Logistically speaking, the latter is obviously the bigger challenge, especially if by yourself. Flying with another grown human makes everyone’s life easier, but it is also possible to do it alone. Not easy, but totally doable. My one advice: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask for doors to be open, for assistance with bags, closing stroller, whatever you need. I learned real quick by not asking and suffering. Don’t be like me, ASK! Please are quick to help when asked, otherwise they just look dumb and don’t know if they should ask.
One of the nicest things someone did for me was take my HUGE purse/diaper bag and asked me where my seat was, and that she would drop off my purse there so I could focus on the baby. That woman was amazing, she clearly knew the struggle.
Believe it or not, the tinier they are, the easier it tends to be. Newborns don’t do a whole lot. They eat, they sleep, they poop. Sure they cry, but they seem to like to do it mostly at night when you’re trying to sleep. When you’re on the move with a tiny infant, they tend to mostly sleep and chill. You’re the one fussing, not them! The good news is airlines are used to this and are quite accommodating. You’ll be surprised how much people are willing to help you when you have a baby on your arm, or better yet, a baby carriage/stroller.
Extra points if your baby is adorable and wears a bow that sticks to her head because she’s bald, is what I’ve learned. Make them look extra adorable so no one hates them even if they are throwing a fit for no reason.
Don’t worry about the dirty looks – anyone traveling with a baby will either get smiles or dirty looks, or maybe both! Smile to your face and mean mugging to your back as they shiver in fear that your crying baby might ruin their flight. Well, that’s their worry, not yours. You’re just trying to survive this flight, so RULE #1, forget about everyone and only worry about your baby’s comfort. If your baby is as comfy as possible, chances are everyone will be happy, and all they will hear out of the baby are coos. Everyone loves cooing sounds.
FLYING WITH A NEWBORN (Under 4 Months)
For the flight: If you breastfeed, you’re in luck. All you really need are your boobs, wipes, diapers and a change of clothes (for you and the baby, just in case). You never know when the little suckers will blowout on you but spit up is always a guarantee for me. If you’re uncomfortable feeding baby in public, wear a scarf always. You can drape it over your breast, or use a breastfeeding cover, which babies typically dislike and fight with. Wear button down shirts or ones that are easy to layer or wide/boat neck. That’s your style now, learn to maximize it.
If you don’t breastfeed, obviously you need your bottles and pumped breastmilk/formula. The good news is you can carry as much liquid as necessary through security as long as it FOR THE BABY. You have a 16 oz bottle of water? Is it FOR THE BABY? YES TSA OFFICER, IT’S FOR THE BABY. Clear. Just like that. As well as any given amount of breastmilk. ANY. They can’t argue with you. It’s the law. So premeasure your formula and bring as much liquid as needed to shake things up on flight.
Mind you, I don’t doubt that some TSA agents will try to harass you, but it hasn’t happened to me. I mostly have frozen milk when I travel in the cooler with ice, but make sure it’s ice packs that don’t turn into water. They might give you hell over that and I’ve heard from some friends that they had to dump milk because the ice pack was inappropriate.
Also, it pays off accustoming your baby to take a bottle at room temperature so you’re not running around trying to warm it up. If you must, run under hot water in the bathroom, but it’s one extra step that you might be able to skip if they just take the darn bottle as is.
Always have something to wipe the baby’s mouth with, because drool, spit up are inevitable. Especially as they start teething – I use a lightweight cloth diaper-like material blanket if you will, and also drape it over baby’s eyes to shield from too much light.
She loves to sleep under a breathable blanket, since birth. I blame my mother for this but it also helps her to self soothe, so….sure.
Best way to travel besides using the car seat:
I LOVED using a breastfeeding pillow like the boppy, especially when they are still newborn. They fit right around your waist and at perfect height for the boob or to nap, especially if you didn’t buy an extra seat for the car seat. Boppy pillow is the way to go in flight, is say for the first 4 months at least.
FLYING WITH OLDER INFANTS (5-6 Months)
Flying with an infant after 5 months means one thing for mom (and/or dad)… You’re busy. But this is also one of the more rewarding and fun times to travel with your baby. They’re alert, you can usually figure out what they need (hungry, dirty, gas, sleepy) and when they need it, and they’re still quite easily distracted. Bring their favorite toy(s) that are also portable. Alexandra loves her wubbanut giraffe (a pacifier attached to a stuffed animal) that she likes to bite on. You start realizing the things they really like after 3 months, as they become more interactive, so being those on board with you. Kids are incredibly resilient and they do go with the flow as needed. We get way more stressed than they do.
Again, if you didn’t buy the baby their own seat, get ready to tag team with your spouse, otherwise it’s just you. I recently did 2 flights alone with her, back to back and Let me tell you, not easy! At some point, you turn to the person(s) next to you and apologize in advance for any kicking, headbudding or craziness that may happen with the baby. It is what it is, and hopefully they are understanding. If not, tough luck, you can fly with an infant up to 2 years old on your lap, so, you can do this. Babies are pretty unpredictable, and air pressure changes can mess with their ears, bellies, and mood, so…buckle up and see what happens!
By the way, people always say to nurse baby on takeoff and landing, or have then suck on the paci to help relieve ear pressure, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way. If they are fussy, they will be, and sometimes they’re asleep (we hope) or simply not complying with the plan, so if you’re able to, do it, otherwise do your typical soothing techniques and they should be fine. If they are already snacking, it helps to give them a cookie, or suck on a piece of fruit as well. Just something to keep their jaws moving (hopefully not crying).
I recommend gate checking the stroller (and car seat where applicable) always, because you can use it as a mode of transportation and carry your own crap under the car seat. You’ll probably overpack even if I tell you all you need is diapers, wipes and a couple of toys, so use the stroller to carry your stuff and don’t break your back.
Airlines are typically great in the sense they will let you bring in the car seat upon seat availability even if you didn’t buy a seat for the baby. Southwest is notorious for slowing this, mostly because they offer open seating, and you can board the plane after the first group goes in so you’re basically guaranteed a seat together with your family. When I can, I fly Southwest with baby because that option is helpful, especially as they get bigger when they fall asleep.
I just cane back from an 8 hour flight from Hawaii to Houston and Alexandra was spread across my and her dad’s lap because there were no open seats next to us. It does get more interesting as they grow! By the way, most car seats nowadays can be easily be strapped to the back of any car even without the base, so yes you need it, to transport to/from hotel or home. The stroller will be optional but I never leave it behind. As I mentioned, you need it, for all that “extra” stuff you’re bringing that you so totally need.
Exposing them to nastiness on the plane, stranger’s coughs, and what not. Short of not licking doorknobs, you can’t do much more. Kids touch things around them, so you can try to wipe their hands as much as possible and not let them lick the bottoms of our shoes, but anytime you leave the house, you’re “in danger” of them picking something up. I’d say wipe the seat belt buckle, the tray tables and airplane seat safety pamphlets and you should be good. Save your worries and try to enjoy this little trip as much as you can. They will do what they will do!
What about diapers?
I’ve become a master of changing her on my lap, but I have super long legs and realize this may not be possible for lots of mom’s and dads! Airplane changing tables are hard and awkward, as you can imagine by the size of air Lola even bathrooms. It basically sucks, but it needs to be done, especially on long flights.
Always try to change baby right before boarding, and then right after landing. If the flight is longer than 3 hours, you’ll likely need to change them mid-flight, so bring a travel pad to lie them on, you’ll figure it out, it’s not impossible. I always have a clean diaper under the soiled one just in case. Alexandra mostly sprays her dad during changes, not me. Haha. (famous last words!)
Last but not least: ENJOY your family time! We recently went to Hawaii and had a great time despite the 8 hour flight. Don’t be scared, just GO!
Enjoy!! Apparently it gets a lot worse when they are toddlers, so flying with them as babies is a breeze in comparison. I’m not above leashes when we get to that stage, but until then, this is how I roll. I hope it helps you and your little ones.
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