In the past three months, Hadley has joined Aaron and I on SEVEN flights (one round trip to Iowa, another round trip to Seattle.) Her first trip was when she was 2.5 months old. Going into it, I was t.e.r.r.i.f.i.e.d. Having flown hundreds of times (my dad flew me every month to visit him between the ages of 7-17) I knew all about the baby screaming on the plane. Sure, I’d feel bad for babies when they’d cry, but I’d also want them to stop crying (really, nobody likes the sound of a crying baby!) Now the tables have turned, and I am traveling with a baby and attempting to see how I can keep my new baby happy with a whole day of flying….oh my! Well, long story short…Hadley has done an amazing job with traveling; she barely cried the last five minutes of our very last flight home from Iowa, which in her defense was her third flight of the day after traveling for 11+ hours. After a long day like that, we wanted to cry, too. (But it was definitely worth it, getting to visit our amazing Iowa family!)
With the following tried and true [refer back to the seven flights for Hadley] tips for getting your baby to be a happy flyer, I hope these can be of help! *Note, these tips are geared for non-walking, younger babies.
Packing/smuggling– if you’re going anywhere with your baby, you know that a car seat is a mandatory attachment. Think of it as a [heavy and bulky] family member that has to tag along everywhere you drive your child. It wasn’t until our Seattle trip that I thought, “Why don’t we stuff all of Hadley’s things in her car seat bag?” (Sidenote: we bought a car seat bag off of Amazon; a shoulder-strapped one is highly recommended!) So, I delicately folded clusters of her clothes, blankets, burp cloths, and towels and placed them in tied-off Target bags to protect her belongings. The bags also double as dirty-clothes bags for the trip back home. When we arrived to the airport, we put her car seat in its bag, then stuffed the little Target bags of her belongings in the car seat bag. This was one less suitcase, and if you’re traveling with a small child, every suitcase counts!
Carry-on the nursing pillow! The Boppy pillow has been a lifesaver when it comes to traveling. All Boppies come in a plastic bag…save it! I keep my Boppy in it until we get on the plane, then I set it on my lap, or Aaron sets it on his. Even if you are not nursing, these pillows make having a baby on your lap all the more comfortable in such a confined space. There aren’t any knees or elbows jabbing into you, the Boppy makes the perfect cushy seat/place to sleep for baby.
Pre-diapering– Change your baby right before you get on the plane! When I say right before, I mean RIGHT before. I was literally changing Hadley in the gate as we were about to board (Aaron protected her modesty, of course) to prolong the next diaper change. Changing a baby on the plane is NOT an enjoyable experience.
Flight supplies for baby– (aside from the Boppy)…diapers, wipes, one soft chewing toy, one musical/chiming toy, a favorite pacifier, a light blanket (Aiden and Anais muslin swaddle blankets are a favorite in our household,) burp cloth, bottle (if pumping or formula fed,) nursing cover (if you are nursing your baby,) and a change of clothes just in case!
Drift away to dreamland– My sister-in-law gave me the most helpful tip…feed your baby during takeoff and landing! Not only will you have a less-cranky, well-fed baby, but their ears will be able to pop from the swallowing! This is again where the nursing pillow comes in handy! Since I exclusively breastfeed Hadley, I keep her as happy as I can (in forms of distracting her, kissing her, or rubbing her head…she loves that) and just as we are almost done taxiing, I put my nursing cover on, and begin feeding her. This trick has worked every single time. She has never had cries of ear-discomfort during our flights, in fact, she goes to sleep right after she’s finished, because typically that is the response babies have after they’ve been fed.
Distract them! Maybe I owe it to teaching small children for several years, but I am a champion at distracting children, and I am now using this unique knowledge on my own baby. On our most recent flight to Seattle, Hadley woke up mid-flight from her milk-induced slumber. (I blame this on me ripping a page out of SkyMall to use as a bookmark…what was I thinking!?!) I could tell there wasn’t a chance that girl of mine would be going back to sleep, so I decided to keep her as happy and distracted as possible. Many people say, “Oh, you just have an easy baby!” While she is quite amazing, I must say, she gets restless and grouchy just like anyone else, which was very close to happening on the flight. Out came my handy little “Hungry Caterpillar” teether/rattle (that my husband sadly referred to as a “snake”—ugh!) where I lightly began singing to her, gently tapping it on her nose, teasing her with it…basically, anything I could do to get her to think about the caterpillar, and nothing else. When the caterpillar lost its novelty, I let her take a peek out my window seat, which she was actually quite captivated by the view! Lastly, we moved on to the SkyMall where she enjoyed looking at pages of random but amazing yet ridiculous items. I was able to distract my 5.5 month old the rest of the flight…victory!
Bonus Tip #1:
Where do I pump!?-During my Iowa trip, Hadley was not the easiest baby to feed (she had major G.I. issues, so she’d get too uncomfortable to nurse,) so many times I’d have to pump. Many airports have family restrooms. I would bring my pump, lock the door to the family restroom, and pump away! I surely felt bad for the people waiting, but a mamas gotta do what a mamas gotta do! If there weren’t one of those available, I would have just pumped in an airplane “lavatory” [I really wanted to say lavatory,] as most pumps have battery packs for emergencies.
Bonus Tip #2:
Ditch the diapers– (*If you do disposable diapers) Bring as many diapers as you’ll need for your flight/travel day, then purchase the diapers you’ll need for your entire trip at the nearest store. Unless you’re only traveling for a short period, it is a major space saver!
I hope that some of these tips could be helpful for you, whether you are about to travel for the first time with your baby, or if you are stashing these tips for future babies of yours!