How to Fly with your Baby

by - Monday, November 02, 2015

This month, the Bubba is turning one! I know most people don't talk about it this way, but yeah, that's pretty easy to believe! It's been a lot of year and we certainly have learned a lot. A lot. So I am going to share some of what I've learned, so when a new mom googles "How to fly with baby" just like I did, I can contribute to the chorus of voices. Just what you needed, right?

In our Bub's first year of life, he has gone on seven trips. Most of them cross country. Like basically every parenting thing, they make it sound like a horrific, traumatizing event. It mostly comes down to your attitude and ability to roll with the punches. Other than the ear issue, the littler the baby, the easier it actually is! When they just want to sit and cuddle with you, they are perfectly content to snuggle and fly. Don't let people scare you into avoiding things you want to do- you get to author the new normal with your baby and your family.

before you go...

1. Splurge on Direct Flights or Long Layovers- You can do this, but don't make it harder on yourself to save 50 bucks, especially if you are flying with baby for the first time. Give yourself an hour or more layover if you have to have one, so you can find a changing table. Nothing needs to be suspenseful. My husband loves to buy that cheap ticket, and I don't blame him, but until you feel confident flying with baby, this is a good place to spend more.

 2. Know Your Airline- Each airline has their own policies for dealing with babies. Southwest requires you to bring a birth certificate to prove it's your baby (which makes a lot of sense, but it can be nerve-racking) Just get  on the website before you head out to make sure you know the deal.
Bonus Advice- Don't ride Frontier. I mean, I wouldn't recommend it without a baby, but with a baby, it is ROUGH. The seats are so small it is uncomfortable to fit two to a seat, and you have to pay extra to sit together, so those super cheap tickets don't look like much of a value after a while.

3. Call to Make Sure Baby is on the Ticket- It's a quick thing that can save you lots of time later. For whatever reason, some airlines (and ticket selling sites) handle lap children better than others.

4. Pack Light- Whoever told you to pack a stroller, pack n play, and a baby bath is CRAZY. Minimize your baggage, literally and figuratively. If you are going to see family, see if they can't track down a car seat to borrow- it's so much simpler to just leave yours at home. If you are going on vacation, most rental car companies will rent them out as well. You don't need it. You think a large collection of baby stuff will make you feel secure, but you can only carry what you can carry, and the less stuff, the less fuss. Ask yourself, if I don't have this, what's the worst that can happen? For a baby bath, you wash them in a sink. No pack n play? Ask the hotel for one. The less you have, the happier you will feel.

5. That Being Said, Preparation is Everything- Don't pack a lot, but pack smart. In your diaper bag, you need:

Twice the diapers you usually carry (6-8), wet bags in case you can't dispose of them (or you use cloth diapers), changing mat
Purell (for parents, avoid those germs)
2 Spare Sets of Jammies
A cover for breastfeeding (I love these ones from Covered Goods, because you can just wear it as a scarf) OR
1 bottle for every 3 hours you are traveling, with premeasured formula inside (we do 8 ounces worth in every bottle, so when we fill it with water, it's always the same, but it obviously depends on the baby's appetite) AND
Cheerios in a snack pack, or something else for baby to nibble on (you can also buy fruit in the airport)
An empty water bottle (we use this Lifefactory one, because it pours so easily even while flying, and we just refill it in airports)
Toys (depending on their age and curiosity level- some say 1 for every 15 minutes you fly, but you know your kid and how much stimulation they need.
A Baby Wrap or Carrier
Comfort Item for the Bub if he or she has one

If you have a layover, bring a carry on, and this is what you need to add:
Enough Diapers to last you a day (if you get stuck somewhere longer, you will probably leave the airport and can buy more)
A change of clothes for everyone. Someone or something will get pooped on at some point. It's a rite of passage.
A package of formula (any longer than that time's worth and you will definitely leave the airport)

We usually also carry one backpack to carry anything we need to entertain ourselves and cart electronics.That's it!

at the airport...

6. Wrap Don't Stroll- You already know my feelings on strollers, but I want to underline our travel love for wraps. For the first 5 months or so, we used the Solly wrap, which was perfect for walking around the airport and holding him snuggly while he napped on the plane. Now, we use the Baby Bjorn (which you can find used very easily), for many of the same reasons. We did the stroller thing once, but I would swear by baby-carrying because your hands are free, and with a wrap, you can just fold it up and put it in your bag when you aren't using it. While I was breastfeeding, The Boy would carry the baby most of the day so he couldn't smell his food, and it left The Baby feeling secure and gave us a little more control over timing.

7. Happy Parents, Happy Baby- I feel like I notice it so often in airports (though did anyone else notice other pregos way more when they were prego? This may be a similar phenomena), parents with a baby who look so tense. They often radiate a sort of stressed energy, which is certainly characteristic of new parents, and I don't want to shame you, but as much as you can, enjoy yourself. Whatever made your trips fun before? Still do that!
If that means buying a shiz load of candy- do it.
 Trashy magazines? Do it.
Bring your DS to play? Do it.
Read Twilight? Do it, I guess.
In the words of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, travel days are a time to treat yo self. Even if the whole thing is daunting, give yourself some little things to look forward to. Also, as long as it is a one baby to two adult ratio, you still should get breaks. Take them. Be a team and love on each other if you are with a partner. This can be hard, but you know that baby can feel your tension, so one of the best ways to make the day pleasant is to make yourself happy first.

8. Family Restrooms- Lots of airports have them, and you can change the baby together/ bring all your stuff with you. Highly recommended.

on the plane...

9. Oy, the Ears- This is what you are reading for, right? Every bit of the flying with baby experience depends on one single issue- how will their ears hold up. The terror of this lays in the fact you just can't know ahead of time. You have to roll that dice. There are a few things you can do to make it easier on them.

First, have baby tylenol on hand, in case you need to relieve some pain.

Second, take off and landing is time to suck. This is so important. If you can time feedings for these moments (or just stop a feeding once they are filled up enough not to freak out but not so full they won't eat again), you can use the sucking to relieve some pressure. Don't worry too much about flashing someone in close quarters, just chalk it up to life experience.

10.You aren't better than anyone else, but you aren't worse either-  Often, people will be very nice to you when you are pregnant or have a baby. You get to go to the head of the line. Someone will offer to help you. People make small talk or compliment your adorable spawn. It's great that we live in a world like that, but don't let yourself get used to it. It's better to be pleasantly surprised with a friendly flight attendant than to start a flight frustrated because they didn't have family boarding or because someone looked at your precious little bumpkin like the grim reaper. Just keep being kind, because they may be having an even rougher trip than you all!

I think the other side of this coin is way more common- we turn out to be baby apologists. One of the parenting memes that got passed around for a while was the parents who handed out headphones and candy to the people around them on the flight. It was a sweet gesture, but at the same time, you don't owe anyone an apology for existing or for having a baby, so don't let it add to your stress. If you are a grown adult who didn't think to bring headphones on a flight, you can't antagonize a crying baby for disrupting your peace. I think the more we as parents can come into these trips with minimal expectations for the people around them, the more we can be pleasantly surprised.

10. If you can, Change the Baby Together- If the changing table is in the back of the plane, they should let you. I would say our worst moment traveling so far was hitting turbulence while changing the Bub on our first flight together. I thought I would have a panic attack, but luckily The Boy was nearby and it turned out fine. The extra set of hands really helps, and you can feel secure one person holds the baby in place while the other does the dirty work.

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