My husband and I first took our son, Kaspar, on a plane ride when he was two months old. We arrived at the airport with our baggage and lots of freakouts: What if security tossed my breastmilk? (They didn't). How would we juggle the baby and our luggage? (We managed.) What if he wailed on the plane? (He did, and everyone survived). That first trip broke us in, and we ended up flying another five times before he turned one. These are my secrets for infant air-travel success:
- Two words: Umbrella stroller! I learned the hard way that hauling an SUV of a stroller through a crowded airport is a mom meltdown in the making. A cheap umbrella stroller, which I could easily wheel through the crowded airport and then check right at the gate, was a far better choice. Since it was a bargain, I didn't have to worry about it getting mangled below-deck, or somehow going missing.
- I strolled the terminal before boarding began; all the sights and sounds fascinated Kaspar (and readied him for a good, long snooze).
- Giving babies a bottle or breast at takeoff and landing—when cabin pressure changes—helps their ears pop, pain-free. Conveniently, this was also the fastest way to lull my son to sleep in departure, and to welcome him back to the waking world upon landing.
- Giving babies a cozy environment also keeps them soothed. I quickly learned to set up our 'womb' as soon as we sat down: I'd wrap him in his favorite blanket, sing a lullaby, feed him and he'd doze off. The plane's white noise and gentle vibration took care of the rest.
- I took care of my own needs in advance: wearing shoes that slipped easily on and off through security, using the restroom before boarding, and bringing plenty of snacks—and a tabloid or two— to keep me from getting restless. Because if interrupting a sleeping baby is a no-no, doing so in a metal box full of strangers is punishable by a six-foot-radius stink-eye.
- Airline staff want happy traveling babies as much as moms do. When it came to getting to the front of a long security line, procuring an extra blanket, or even an extra snack, all I had to do was ask.
Looking back, that first flight—as daunting as it might have felt at the time—was cake. Having since flown several times with a toddler (Kaspar's now 19 months), I yearn for the days when blankets and bottles were all it took to keep him occupied (read: asleep
) in-flight. If you're debating whether it's worth it to take to the skies with your new bundle of cries, go for it. Happy trails, mama!