A few weeks back, we took Isla on her first plane trip. We went all the way from Oregon to Texas to visit my family. We were very nervous about this trip, as I think most new parents are. I think our only goal was not to be “those people” on the plane–we all know who I’m talking about–which, with a little one, is a fairly lofty goal.
On the way down, I’d have to say we were very successful. We did a lot of advanced planning for the trip, packed everything very carefully, especially our carry-on to make sure we had Isla covered even if it meant we would be a little bored, checked bags to make getting around the airport easier, and made sure we gave ourselves plenty of room in our schedule to get around.
Between my husband and me, we were able to keep her calm and happy throughout the first flight. We both brought our Baby K’tan carriers and wore her in the airport and throughout our flight (with the exception of take-off and landing.) I had planned on nursing through take-off and landing, but lucky us, she ended up sleeping through both. (I credit the 4 AM wake-up call and 5 AM drive across town for having her totally zonked for most of the flight.) She nursed twice and had a little playtime in between, but overall was in a fantastic humor.
When we were deplaning, I heard someone comment, upon seeing us, “Wow. I didn’t even know there was a baby on the plane!” We smugly congratulated ourselves for being awesome. We weren’t those people after all.
A week later, Kellen had to fly back on his own to go back to work, while I stayed behind in Texas to ride out the remainder of my maternity leave. Which meant, unfortunately, I’d be flying back alone. It goes without saying that while I was feeling confident after our first flight, I was still a little worried about managing everything by myself. No worries, though, I told myself. My parents would help me get through checking our bags, and I could handle the baby from there.
The second flight was a disaster from the start. Before we even got to the airport, we had a 3-hour drive to get there, which Isla slept through most of. Knowing how my nap-boycotting baby rarely ever sleeps during the day, I knew this didn’t bode well for sleeping on the plane.
When we got to the airport, she was fine through security, but as soon as we got to the gate, she lost it. I nursed her, which settled her down only for as long as she was nursing, then she was immediately unhappy again. So I tossed her in the carrier and, along with lugging the 10 lb. diaper bag, started walking up and down the airport trying to keep Isla entertained. She finally fell asleep, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Then, I sat down in my seat on the plane, and she woke up HOWLING. I frantically tried to get on my nursing cover (which is a huge PITA in little tiny airplane seats when you’ve got a stranger next to you) and get her under the cover to nurse. Then, while she was nursing, I realized I hadn’t bothered to put my seatbelt on and needed to because we were going to start taxiing soon. I’ll let you imagine the gymnastics required to get on a seatbelt on an airplane when you’ve got one hand free and a 10 lb. baby and a nursing cover blocking your path. Now that that picture is in your head, I think I can safely tell you I accidentally hit Isla in the head with the seatbelt without too much guilt (but still a little.) That didn’t help with the crying.
On take-off, instead of continuing to nurse (which is what everyone tells you you should do through take-off and landing to keep a baby from crying), Isla promptly pulled off the breast, refused to go back on, and screamed bloody murder instead. Until we hit cruising altitude. With me trying to do everything humanly possible, short of walking up and down the aisle since we were still ascending, to get her to stop crying in between. It was miserable.
Once we hit cruising altitude, she went back to nursing, and fell asleep. For about 20 minutes. Then she was awake again and happily played for a pretty lengthy period of time. I know she nursed again and napped briefly before we started our descent. There was also a poopy diaper change somewhere in there that coincided with a patch of moderately bad turbulence. The fasten seatbelt sign went on while we were in the middle of wiping. I kept having flashbacks to the turbulence videos I watched in flight attendant training, imagining my baby bouncing around the inside of the lavatory while I’m knocked unconscious, poop flying everywhere. It was horrible. Then, on descent, I tried to preemptively begin nursing, but as soon as we started dropping, she started screaming bloody murder again and refused to nurse. She squalled pretty much until we hit the ground, when she promptly perked up and decided she was happy again.
Through deplaning, she sat smiling and cooing charmingly at the people around us, which I think won us a little goodwill. A few people made comments about how hard it is to travel with a baby, especially alone, and I felt a little better about the fact that my baby probably screamed through about a quarter of our flight. A few people still wouldn’t make eye contact with me even down at baggage claim. *sigh* Oh, well.
- Traveling with a baby is hard.
- Plan ahead.
- Pack light.
- Use the buddy system. It’s easier both to carry all of your heavy stuff and the baby AND to keep the baby calm.
- Moms really should have 2 or 3 extra sets of arms to help juggle all the baby things.
- The advice to “nurse on take-off and landing” doesn’t always work.
- Nursing covers are a PITA on planes. I wish people weren’t so boob-phobic.
- Naps are awesome.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if your baby is the one thing people bitch regarding their flight about when they finally deplane and are out of earshot of you. Blame the baby instead.
- You can always become one of “those people.” Don’t get smug.