Air Travel With an Infant

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With summer nearly upon us, it’s just about time to start planning family vacations. I love me a good family vacay. There’s nothing better than getting away from the everyday and doing something different. If you have a new wee tot in your family, though, be prepared to adjust your travel routine a bit in ways you never really expected. We traveled with both our kids when they were under six months old and had both positive and not-so-positive experiences. Today I’ll share about the plane traveling we did with Michael and how we survived, and next week I’ll share about the car traveling we did with Gracie and how we (barely) survived that one.

When Michael was born, we lived in Connecticut, far away from our family in Florida. The only way to get to see them was by plane. We talked with our doctor when Michael was about four weeks old, and she said that traveling with him by plane was not encouraged until he had all of his vaccinations and had time to build up a stronger immune system, since flying would require being locked inside an airplane for several hours with other people. She said by three months old, the baby should be fine, so when he was four months, we decided we were ready. (Please check with your own pediatrician about what he or she recommends for baby travel.)

The hardest part of air travel for me was figuring out how to get Michael through the airports on each end. What equipment would we need? We ended up bringing our car seat (which was great, because wherever we were going, we would be needing that anyway) and the stroller that went with it. Through the airports, we snapped the car seat into the stroller and rolled right on through. It was much easier than carrying him, like we thought we would have to do. We booked it through the airport without one delay using our stroller. When we got to the gate on the first flight, we didn’t know we needed a stroller tag before we boarded until we got to the gate. Then we had to stand there waiting and holding up the line while they filled out our stroller tag. It was embarrassing and I felt like “that mom.” I learned quickly that it’s best to go straight to the desk at your gate before boarding begins and request a stroller tag long before you are standing in line. Then, when you do board the plane, you can sail right through without holding up the line. Don’t forget that if you’re using a travel system with multiple parts, like we did (car seat and stroller), you’ll need a tag for each piece.

As we waited to board the plane, our main objective was to get Bean to sleep. We ideally wanted him sleeping before the flight. I gave him a full, warm bottle, and then put him in his sling (which I had carried in my diaper bag). Then, I spent the next 20 minutes or so just walking around with him, rubbing his back through the sling. The movement rocked him, and being in the sling blocked out all the noise and stimulation from the airport. He went right to sleep. When we boarded the plane, he was sleeping soundly. I kept him in the sling for as long as possible to help him sleep, but also because I felt like he was more protected from germs when he was tucked away so nicely against me. Our flight was four hours long, and because we had purposely scheduled to fly during the time of Bean’s morning nap, he pretty much slept the entire trip. When he did wake up, he was fussy and needed to be changed. There was no way I was taking him into that tiny little bathroom, and thankfully he didn’t have a poopy diaper, so Chris just stood up in the aisle to give me some extra room, and I changed him right there on the seat. I felt pretty bad about the passengers that were around, and had it been a shorter trip I probably would have just waited to change him until we got to our destination. But he was so little and he really needed a diaper change. It was one of my early lessons in motherhood: sometimes you just do what you have to do and suck it up when you get angry stares. I wasn’t going to take my newborn into that tiny, dirty airline bathroom. Period. So, I grossed some people out for a minute. And you know what? They lived, I lived, and Bean was happier.

When Bean became fidgety on the plane after he had been changed, I gave him another little bottle. It’s good for their ears to suck on something when they are flying (especially during take-off and landing), so that helped. But it also kept him busy and entertained for a bit. When he was done, I burped him and then walked him up and down the aisle a few times to give him a chance to move around a bit. When we sat back down, he got a bit fussy because he was tired and couldn’t get to sleep (he needed movement to sleep at that age), so I put him back in his sling and walked the aisle again until he fell asleep. Then we sat down.

I was afraid he would wake up during landing and cry because of the pressure, so I gave him his binky while he napped. He never did wake up, and our first flight with an infant landed without very much drama at all. Traveling with newborns and very little babies is actually not as hard as traveling when they’re between about six months and eighteen months old because when they’re little they require less to keep them entertained and they sleep more. So, if you’re debating it, there’s really only one way to find out if you’ll be successful or not: book a ticket and go! IMG_8425

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