Traveling Baby Part 2: Airplane

Next in my traveling baby posts is airplanes. After my major fail from Jack’s first road trip, you can imagine I was very nervous about flying with him a only few weeks later. My parents wanted us to visit and I was invited to a sorority sister’s wedding reception, so I figured it was worth a flight. When I told my mom the dates we were coming, she was sad it was only for the weekend. I was still on maternity leave, but Michael had to work and couldn’t take that much time off. Then my mom pleaded that I come up with Jack first, then Michael joins us for the weekend. So now I had to brave flying ALONE with a baby!

I was hellbent on avoiding this again at all costs.

I came up with a good plan and was hellbent on executing it properly this time. Jack is the least fussy in the morning so we picked an early flight. Jack is young enough that he doesn’t need his own seat either, so I didn’t need to worry lugging a carseat along too (my parents bought one to keep there for when we visit). I wanted to get to the gate about an hour early so didn’t have to rush but wasn’t waiting around getting anxious. I wanted plenty of time to change him, nurse him, and maybe get in a short nap if needed. Plus you know get through security and such. And I knew I needed to wear him in the Boba Wrap through the airport to keep him calm and happy. I chose the Boba over my woven wrap because I can pop him in and out easily. I was advised by my La Leche League to nurse him during takeoff and landing to help with his ear pressure. And they also told me it’s required he be out of the wrap during flight for safety, so make sure I bring a pillow or something for him to sleep on (and not kill my arms). I planned to take my time getting off and get him back in the wrap, to keep Jack calm and happy. Then walk off, hug mom and dad, then jump in the car back to their house. For the flight home, it was later in the afternoon—after Jack’s nap time—so I figured a similar protocol would work. Get there with just enough time, wear him, nurse him on the plane, hope he sleeps, and not rush getting off the plane. Plus this time I would have Michael to help.

Wear your baby through the airport! 

Then the day came. We got up early that morning, but let Jack continue to sleep. Just when I finished getting ready, he woke up and we got him ready too. There was traffic getting the airport, but we planned for that so we had plenty of time. We parked, got Jack in the wrap, got our tickets, said good-bye, and went to security. By that time Jack was asleep. I calmly went through security to my gate.

First class his first flight!

As I was waiting at the gate, they kept offering upgrades to first class for only $50….so I texted Michael and he said I could treat myself. I was so excited! I know that families travelling with infants board first anyways, but it was nice to board with first class. The minute I stepped on the plane, one flight attendant was eyeing my baby.  She offered to hold him while I got situated. I know some people might be worried about letting a stranger hold their baby, but I wasn’t too concerned. I figured she must be a mom herself and knew the troubles of travelling with a baby. And she wasn’t going to hurt him because she probably wanted to keep her job. Plus, it’s not like she could run off with him, we were stuck in a metal tube! I was nervous about how the person sitting next to me would react to a baby. It was a middle-aged man on a business trip. As he getting out his laptop, he noticed Jack. He said “Hi little guy!” So I faced Jack towards him and said “Hi, I’m Jack! I’m only 4-months-old and this is my first flight, I apologize if it doesn’t go well.” He smiled and said, “No problem Jack, I remember what 4-month-olds can be like.” I was relieved.

He met this pilots and got his wings!

Then something awesome happened! The flight attendant told me bring Jack to the cockpit to meet the pilots before the doors sealed. So I quickly brought him up there and we snapped a photo. Then they gave him his wings and a certificate. I showed them to Jack and he just tried to suck on them, but I was so excited for him!

Tired from screaming and playing with his toy.

Shortly after I got back to my seat, we began to taxi. I put Jack on the nursing pillow and began to nurse him. He was all happy until we began to pick up speed. He began to scream once we lifted up. I kept trying to latch him on, but he wasn’t having it. Five minutes later, I gave up and sat him up. He calmed down instantly and reached for his toy in the bag. Duh, he is a very alert baby. He likes action. He wasn’t mad about taking off, he was mad I wasn’t showing him the take off! He played with his toy for awhile, then made the milk face so I nursed him. Then he fell asleep and slept right through the landing. I waited there in my seat until half the plane left, then I gently woke him up. The flight attendant held him while I got my wrap on and bags together. Then we happily walked off the plane.

I was surprised to only see my mom. My dad had to run into work for a bit. My mom doesn’t like driving to Portland so we had to take the MAX home. Jack fussed a little on the train, but I just nursed him to sleep.

The rest of the trip was great, got to see friends and sorority sisters I haven’t seen in years. And Jack got lots of grandparent time. Michael joined us that Friday too.

He had a solid hour nap on the plane.

The flight home went just as well. We got to the airport with just enough time (I love that there is hardly any traffic in Oregon). I wore him through security and everything went smooth. No cheap offers on first class this time sadly. However, I decided to not take him out of the wrap this time. He was sound asleep and he needed a good nap. If the flight attendants asked me, I would of course comply. But we boarded, got comfy in our seats, and the plane took off. No one said anything. Every airline has a different policy on this so I looked up Alaska’s beforehand and they indeed to do not allow babies to be in carriers during flight. They either need to held or in a carseat in separate seat. I am not advocating breaking any airlines policies or saying the crew didn’t do their jobs. But it worked this one time, and I am glad I got away with it. Jack needed that nap. To be honest, I probably won’t do that again now that he’s older anyways.

He couldn’t just wait until we landed…

He woke up halfway through the flight, so I took him out of the wrap. He was all happy and very interested in looking out the window. Then, he farted really loud and we knew he pooped his diaper. Really kid, you couldn’t wait a little bit longer until we were back in San Jose? Some airplanes do not have changing tables, and I didn’t want to risk hauling Jack and the diaper bag all the way to the bathroom for nothing. So I changed Jack on Michael’s lap quickly. The guy next to Michael was asleep and Jack’s poop didn’t smell yet. Plus, I did it so quick I doubt anyone noticed.

He loved looking out the window!

I tried to nurse him as we descended, but once again he wasn’t having it. So I sat him up and showed him stuff out the window. Look Jack! There’s the Bay! There’s 280! Oh, there’s the Santa Cruz Mountains! Oh, right there baby, is Loma Prieta were a big earthquake came from! There’s Gilroy where all the garlic is! and etc. I’m sure I sounded like a crazy lady, but it made Jack happy. And we landed with no screaming or tears.

We got our bags and met my sister-in-law out front. It all went very well and I have no more worries about flying with a baby anymore. Hopefully he stays this good as a toddlers…

Here is my advice for flying with a baby under 6-months-old:

  • Plan for every possible scenario. Too hot, too cold, running late, running early, flight cancelled, sick baby, sick parents, tired baby, tired parents & etc. And expect that one of these WILL happen. That way you aren’t stressed out when it does happen. I didn’t panic when my mom said we had to take MAX instead because I kept that option in mind. I didn’t panic when he pooped, because I knew that the pressure might upset his tummy. 
  • But don’t over pack. Have back up things in your diaper bag or carry on, like extra diapers and clothes for sure. But don’t bring unnecessary stuff. If your bag is too full, you won’t be able to find stuff easily. And it will be a pain to lug around an airport while holding a baby. 
  • Don’t rush, leave plenty of time in case something does happen—like Bay Area traffic. No one wants to be that person running to the gate with a screaming baby. Horrible way to start or end your vacation.
  • Wear your baby. If you only remember one thing from this post, make it this. Whether it be a wrap, ring sling, soft structured carrier, buckle carrier, mei tai, or any other type—get that baby on you so you can easily move about the busy airport handsfree. 
  • Take care of your babies needs right away. Keep them comfortable as possible to avoid a meltdown.  Feed, change, play and get them down for a nap as needed, don’t delay. Would you be happy sitting in your own pee for a whole plane ride? Or told you can have food as soon as we land when you are starving? I’d sure throw a tantrum too! This is why we changed Jack’s diaper right away. 
  • Try to plan with baby’s schedule in mind.  That way there is even less chance of a meltdown. We flew around times that Jack naps so he could sleep most of the ride. It worked very well. 
  • Ask for help if you need it.  If that nice flight attendant offers to hold your baby while you sit down, let them. If the person next to you asks if you need help getting a bottle from your bag, accept it. Don’t stress yourself out doing it alone. 
  • Help baby with ear pressure. Nursing, a bottle, pacifier, or anything else they can suck during takeoff and landing is a must. Jack was content with just sucking my finger—but he sucked hard, his ears must have really popped.
  • Keep in mind every baby is different. Jack didn’t want to nurse, but was happy looking at the window. Maybe your baby will need to nurse the whole flight. Maybe your baby will scream the whole time no matter what you do.  All of this is okay, so don’t panic if your baby doesn’t cooperate. 
  • Upgrade to first class if you can afford it. And I mean only if you can afford it, don’t go broke because I told you it’s better. But it really was nicer. More room, free snacks and drinks, and just overall more relaxing with a baby. 

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