On our last flight, some well-intentioned elderly traveller cooed “Oh, your son is so cute! Is this his first flight?” No, as a matter of fact, it’s his third. Or his tenth, depending on how you count layovers.
At the ripe old age of four months, Miles has already done an inordinate amount of traveling. On my first flight with him, I was terrified. What if he cries on the plane? Will he cry on the plane? What if I have to run to my gate? What if our flight is cancelled and I’m stuck in an airport? What if I drop him during turbulence?
Now, we are a bit more experienced and I find traveling through airports with him to border on pleasant. Mark and I both love to travel and family is spread far and wide, so I’m sure we’ll continue to learn as he gets older. But here are a few suggestions for traveling with very young infants.
1. Travel with your stroller.
I will never fly again without my stroller and carseat if I can help it. I only took my front-pack with me through security on our first flight and regretted it. Even content babies can grow restless in a wrap or front-pack after several hours and leaving your stroller behind leaves you with few options.
Kudos to the airlines on this point. Most of the airlines allow parents flying with an “infant in lap” to gate-check a stroller (and attached carseat) and to board with an extra bag. I have never used the extra bag allowance (more on this in a minute) but traveling with the stroller is a life-saver. Even a small baby gets heavy after three hours in a large airport! Taking my stroller through security makes traveling more pleasant for both me and Baby. He gets to wiggle around and stretch and look around while I have the freedom to juggle our stuff and navigate terminals without carrying everything and everyone.
2. Travel with your front-pack.
Always carry a front-pack or wrap with you. If, for some reason, the airline refuses to let you take your stroller through security or doesn’t return it to you at the gate (or it gets damaged!), you have a back-up. Also, Miles seems to fall asleep (sometimes) better in a front-pack than in a stroller. Having another option for a fussy baby in an airport is always nice! There’s one other key reason for carrying your front-pack, so on to #3…
3. Put Baby in the front-pack before boarding the plane.
This is my go-to system now:
- Travel through airport with Baby in stroller.
- When boarding is announced, put Baby into front-pack.
- Un-assemble travel system and fold stroller at the gate.
- Board plane with Baby in the front-pack.
- To depart, reverse the process.
This system has eased a number of issues I was experiencing. For one thing, it’s hard to juggle a baby, a bag, and a front-pack! Putting Miles into the front-pack meant that I had two less loose items to worry about as I boarded. Secondly, Miles is more secure (and safer!) when I board with him attached to me.*
4. Either nurse or provide a pacifier or bottle during take-off or landing (if Baby is awake).
Some kind mothers gave me this tip during our first flight. It has worked flawlessly. The sucking that babies do during nursing or holding a pacifier helps to equalize their ear pressure. I try to time nursing so that Miles can eat while we’re taking off and landing, but I also keep pacifiers on hand as a backup. A bottle has worked just fine also.
My only caveat is this: if your baby is sleeping, don’t wake him up. If he or she is asleep and starts to rouse or look uncomfortable, try to provide the pacifier, but don’t rouse a sleeping baby at the beginning of a flight simply to try to get him to eat or suck on a paci.
5. Maintain a calm, positive attitude.
I have had almost entirely good experiences (minus the one detailed below) with airport staff and fellow passengers. I really do feel that I’m able to set a good tone for my interactions with security, airport counter staff, and other passengers at the beginning of the interaction by smiling, staying calm, and maintaing a light-hearted attitude. Moving efficiently, but avoiding stressful rushing is key to getting through security without a crisis. Don’t panic if there is a holdup (security, for instance, generally asks to inspect my bottles of breastmilk, which takes a few extra minutes.). Also, your baby will be calmer if you keep your cool. They can sense stress!
I had originally intended to include all of my tips for traveling with an infant in a single post, but it was getting quite lengthy, so I’ll include the rest of my tips, along with a handy printable packing guide, in part 2 next week!
*The last time I flew, I had one issue with this. Miles will consistently fall asleep in his pack almost immediately, so I like to leave him in there as long as he’ll sleep (which might be the entire flight). But on our last American Airlines flight, the flight attendant asked me to unbuckle my front pack. He said that “those things” (meaning the front pack) “weren’t approved for take-off and landing”. I hope the look on my face fully conveyed my disapproval at doing anything to disturb a soundly sleeping four-month-old. I simply unbuckled the strap around my neck and did my best not to jostle Miles and the attendant seemed satisfied.
But has anyone else had issues holding Baby in a wrap or a front-pack during a flight? The was the only time an attendant has said anything to me about it, so I doubt it’s an airline or FAA policy. I feel like he’s safer inside my pack during take-off and landing because he’s secure if turbulence occurs. Any experiences with this out there?