Thursday, September 29, 2016

How to Fly With a Newborn

Everett was four and a half weeks old when we took him on the airplane for the first time - and it was a long trip - from Scotland back to Colorado for the summer. Prior to flying, I read a lot of blog posts with advice on flying with babies: what to do with them, what to pack for them, how to pop their ears....for the most part, it was helpful but the thing about babies is that they're always changing! I'm putting together my own set of tips for flying with babies, but at different stages. First up: newborns.

As a new mom, the thought of flying with my tiny baby was incredibly nerve wracking. At four and a half weeks, we were still figuring each other out and I didn't quite feel back to normal yet. Luckily, it also turned out to be the easiest time to fly with a baby. Every flight we've taken with him since then has been a little more challenging than that first one. In my experience, if you can get your newborn on a long flight, you will be able to catch up on hours of lost sleep. The sound of the plane put Ev right to sleep and he slept the whole way except for waking up a few times to eat. A few tips:

Before the Flight:
Book the bassinet, if there's one available, which there usually is on most long-haul flights. They're in the front row of each section and come down from the wall. Everett slept in this for the whole flight from London to Denver and only woke up once to eat. It's a lifesaver to have your hands free. And you get more legroom, being in the front. Which is good because inevitably, you will have a million things scattered around for the baby.

Dress your baby is something that is easy to get on and off for changing him/her. Changing a diaper in the tiny airplane bathroom is hard enough - you don't want to be fiddling with socks, shoes, pants and a jacket on the baby as well. I always put Everett in pajamas, preferably with a zipper so there aren't a million snaps to do up. (Also, have you seen these little outfits? My aunt gave Everett one - they're super easy for travel if you don't mind dressing your baby in a sack!)

On Packing the Diaper Bag:
I always struggle with trying to be prepared for everything but not bringing tons of stuff to dig through if you need to find a diaper. Usually what I do is have a larger carry on bag that I aim to not open but is there in case I need it. This bag has an extra change of clothes for me and usually two for Everett, plus extra diapers. In the actual diaper bag which I would always have close by is: diapers (I usually bring one diaper for every 4 hours of travel, plus two or three extra), wipes, a burp cloth, a blanket, pacifier (and clip, which is a lifesaver for planes), bottles if you are bottle feeding or nursing cover if you are breast feeding. And that's it. Really tiny babies don't need toys or things to keep them entertained (unless they have a little stuffed animal that they always sleep with) - they just need their parents. You will probably never have to bring so few things for a baby on a plane as you do for newborns, so enjoy it.

In the Airport:
Allow plenty of time. It's terrible to be rushed with a baby for one, and it also takes longer to get through security because you'll have to fold up the stroller, remove all the liquids from your carry on, do everything with one hand....Plus, families with babies and kids get to board early. Take advantage of this!!! I plan to for the next ten years because it's the best thing ever.

Consider wearing the baby. We found it easier (if we didn't need to bring his stroller wherever we were going) to have Everett in a carrier in the airport. This way you have two hands and you don't need to take them out of the carrier (as you do with the stroller) when going through security - plus, no stroller to collapse.

Rearrange everything in your bag so that it's accessible to you on the plane. I always buy water and snacks in the airport and then make sure that I can reach them with one hand.

Change the baby's diaper one last time before boarding. It's terrible to do it on the plane, in such close quarters.

On the Plane:
Feed during takeoff and landing. This is a tip I picked up from the internet world. When the baby is sucking and swallowing milk, it helps their ears pop. The only time I haven't done this for Everett is if he's sleeping during takeoff or landing.

Don't panic. Ryan and I were so worried that Everett would cry and bother someone. Which, looking back, is funny because his little newborn cry was so much quieter than his cry now! The truth is that babies cry and {usually/hopefully} people are patient and understanding. And if they aren't, there's nothing you can do anyway! In my experience though, people have been very nice and helpful. One time, when Everett was six weeks old, I didn't allow enough time at the airport and we were the last people to board the plane. Everett was starving because I hadn't had time to feed him prior to boarding and I was trying to wait until we got him on the plane (for his ears). As we walked down the aisle to our seats, Ev was SCREAMING. Of course, our row was close to the back and we had to keep stopping to wait for people to put their bags in the overhead bins. I was desperately trying to calm him down but nothing but milk would solve the problem. But the people we passed on the way to our seats were very sweet. They said "awww" or asked how old he was and one woman offered to help me carry the diaper bag. We finally collapsed into our seats, I fed him quickly and he immediately stopped crying and then slept for the rest of the flight. I didn't do this at the time, but my best advice in that situation is to stay calm. Babies can tell when their mothers are nervous and that just makes them cry harder.

And a tip for mamas traveling alone: take any help you can get. People will offer to help you, whether it's holding the baby or carrying a bag for you. Take them up on it. I first traveled alone with Everett when he was about three months and everyone - from the TSA agents at security to the flight attendants to the other passengers - were always helpful.

Also - the best advice I ever received on traveling with a baby is this: it will end. Even if it's the worst flight of your life, no matter how long it is - an hour or a whole day of travel - eventually it will be over.