THE FLYING WITH BABIES SURVIVAL GUIDE
Flying with kids of any age is trouble. Before having a child myself, I would be praying that the family getting on the plane with three young kids, making their rambunctious way down the aisle towards me, would keep right on going and sit as far away from me as possible. However since having my little girl 18 months ago, and having done 2 transatlantic journeys with her on my own, I have nothing but sympathy for any parent getting on a plane.
However there are ways that you can make your journey a little easier. Here’s my flying with babies survival guide!
Bring as little as possible as carry-on. This is especially crucial if you are travelling on your own. As you won’t be able to push your buggy straight onto the plane, you will at some point, presumably the door to the plane, have to lug your own carry-on, your baby bag, and your baby onto the plane by yourself. And you only have 2 hands. On my first trip (at 3 months old) I brought everything including the kitchen sink, and was just so overburdened with stuff that didn’t even come out of the bag. For the second trip (9 months), I packed a bit lighter and it really made a world of difference.
A SLING OR BABY CARRIER
This is really very useful for two reasons. One, you can carry baby in it when getting on and off the plane, leaving your hands free for luggage, getting tickets out etc. Two, if baby will fall asleep in it it’s an ideal way to hold her while you’re in your seat, giving you a chance to read a book in comfort. My top picks for baby carriers are the K-Tan for a soft sling (which folds up into practically nothing when not in use – perfect for travelling) and the Baby Bjorn One (£124.99, John Lewis) which is incredibly easy on your back – I can still carry my 18 month old in it.
SCARF OR BREASTFEEDING COVER
I like the Bebe au Lait from John Lewis. I was very comfortable nursing my daughter in public, and in general did not feel the need to cover myself (and her) with a breastfeeding cover as I felt it really only drew more attention and nursing tops are so well designed that it’s pretty easy to be discreet. However on a plane, in economy, you really are in pretty close quarters, so it’s a good idea just to come prepared with a large scarf or a purpose-made breastfeeding cover to keep your dignity. I’m all for nursing in public, but that doesn’t mean that the chap in 18B can get an eye-full in the process!
DISPOSABLE BOTTLES & READY-MADE FORMULA
When you’re at 20,000 feet with access to only the tiniest loos, you don’t want to be worrying about sterilising your bottles. Bringing a ready supply of pre-made formula cartons and one-time use bottles (which are pre-sterilised) is a great idea. You should be allowed to bring the formula through security (they have special equipment to scan the bottles so you don’t have to open them all and taste them).
A DUMMY. AND SPARES
I will leave the great dummy debate (which seems to be so much more of an issue here in the UK than in the US) for another day. But if your baby takes a dummy, now is most definitely the time to use it. The change in air pressure is tough on little eardrums, and sucking on the dummy really helps. If your baby doesn’t use a dummy, nursing or bottle feeding during take-off and landing also works. Just remember to bring plenty of sterilized spares, as they have a habit of getting dropped on the floor.
A QUIET BOOK
I made my little girl a quiet book before our second long flight (with Daddy, when she was 6 months old), and it was a lifesaver. These fabric books have detailed activities on each page and can keep babies and toddlers entertained for ages. You can see the tutorial I wrote for making a Quiet Book here, or if you’re less creatively inclined you can buy beautiful handmade ones on Etsy like this one.
A PRE-LOADED iPAD
Even if, like us, you are trying really hard to delay the introduction of electronics and TV into baby’s life, it’s always good to have a Plan B. The last resort. If all else fails, a colourful baby/toddler app on your iPad or tablet should distract baby long enough to give you (and your fellow passengers) a breather.
ASK FOR HELP
Last but not least – don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you are on your own. I was enormously impressed by the kindness and helpfulness of all the cabin crew and fellow passengers when I was on my own with my little girl – it really made my trips a lot easier than I was expecting.