It has been on my mind for a while to write a “Flying with a baby” post. First of all, flying with a baby was never as difficult as I imagined it would be – alone or with my husband. Of course any help is great but I managed on my own as well. Initially when I flew to Germany my mother helped me on the plane which was awesome. My son was only five weeks old. However, the flight – piece of cake.
It was just my baby and I for our second international flight when he was four months old and I was scared. (As my husband always says: “Stop being scared and stop worrying about things you don’t know. See how it works out first!”) Our flight was from Frankfurt International Airport to JFK New York which is usually a 8-9 hour ordeal. This is a long time for a four months old baby on a plane. I mean, honestly, it is never that comfortable for myself when I fly alone either. I wish I could say that he slept the entire time – unfortunately the opposite was true. He was awake for the majority of the trip and he wanted to be entertained. When he was four months old he was easily entertained with a spoon, with his favorite toy or just by people around us. He hated lying down, so the bassinet the airline offered was pretty useless. We also took a flight in the morning so he was up anyway. (A little side-note on that: We are frequent flyers by now and I find the the best time to fly with a baby is in the morning. This way the baby slept at night usually in the environment he is used to, then gets up and you drive to the airport. He is not disturbed too much in his normal rhythm which is key! Basically it has to be as comfortable for him as possible)
On my first flight alone with him I was fortunate enough to have three seats in a row for myself plus the seats with the extra legroom. This you should consider as well. Leg room is key! I kept him on my lap most of the time. Sat him on the tray table with some toys etc. He found the plastic cups they hand out on the plane the most entertaining.
When he wanted to nap he slept ON me the entire time. Not so comfortable for mommy, but the baby was quiet. As soon as he was asleep I tried putting him in the bassinet – forgetaboutit! Screaming… the whole thing. So he slept on me for two! hours.
I was worried before the flight that he would disturb other passengers and we would be “those people”. He cried at points, but it was not a problem really. People were nice, they understood. They played with him. The one time he freaked out a bit I just took him and did the whole walk up – and- down the aisle thing. Most of the time all they need is a little change of scenery and they are fine again.
There are a few things I figured out before and after flying that I would like to share:
1. Passports/Identification/Paperwork: Always keep all your paperwork handy. You have a lot of things to take in your hand luggage in the first place so make sure you do not have to go through all your stuff when it comes to checking in. I usually keep mine in a separate tiny bag in my huge bag with all the baby stuff; however, easy to reach.
2. Stroller: Do take a foldable stroller with you to the airport as soon as the baby can walk. It is a lot easier. Most airlines allow you to take the stroller up tot he gate where they will check it for you and put it on the plane free-of-charge. This makes it also easier if you have layovers. Usually you have to wait a bit for the stroller upon arrival but not long. The stroller makes it also easier if you need to store things underneath. I mean we are packed like crazy already no? Otherwise carry the baby in a baby carrier on your. (ergo baby) One more inside: I have been using my Louis Vuitton “Neverfull” most of the time but I believe a larger backpack is the key!
3. Baby’s Ears: These little guys do not know how to pop their ears on their own so the change in pressure during take-off and landing makes it hard on them. I breastfed my son during take-off and landing and he was fine. Otherwise you might want to use a pacifier or something else to chew on for the baby. Now, my son is 17 months old, I give him something to chew on. Bread, a cookie, or something to drink (always bring plenty of water!). On a little side-note: Use the aisle seat or the window seat with a baby when flying alone? Well, if you breastfeed and the baby is still tiny and does not walk around take the window seat. The aisle seat is not comfortable for you or the baby to breastfeed! If he walks already take the aisle seat for sure!)
4. Changing the diapers: The changing tables in the tiny restrooms on the plane are fine for tiny babies. With my son, not so easy. I always change him before we board, then 3-4 hours into the flight in the restroom on the plane. Key is to have a changing mat or something to put on this folding table before you put your baby on it. These folding tables are kinda nasty! Of course if you have 2-3 seats for yourself, you change the baby right there and then. Much easier.
5. Bring enough food: It is very important to have enough food. When I solely breastfed him – piece of cake. Now I pack bread, bananas, cookies, apples and a lot of water. I usually cook fresh for him as much as I can but while traveling the pre-made baby food comes in handy. Ask the stewardess to heat it up a bit, easy!
The time change was not that difficult as well. Germany/USA are 6 hours apart and my son’s sleeping cycle had been completely screwed up. We landed in NY at 8pm; however, he was a trooper. As soon as we got home he passed out after fussing a bit in the car. He slept until 10am the next day – NY time. The first day was pretty tough because he wanted to nap and was fussy but we kept him on US time and he was fine.