Essentials For Flying With Baby

I was 18 when I got my first passport and international stamp. I wouldn’t get my next stamp for another 6 years. My daughter on the other hand, had her passport picture taken when she was less than a week old. Imagine two people shaking a tambourine in her face to try and keep her eyes open long enough for the picture. Girl was not havin’ it.

We currently live overseas in Japan, and now at the ripe old age of 7 months, Baby Girl has been on 3 trips, 1 to Singapore, and 2 back to the States, and a grand total of 14 different planes. She was 2 months, 3 months, and 7 months for each trip.

Our trips always include multiple car rides, a cab, a bus, multiple planes, lots of waiting around time, and no fewer than 20-30 hours from Destination A to Destination B. Once upon a time before I had a baby, I always brought a full carry-on. Now, for the life of me I can’t tell you what I ever had in it. Hubs puts my noise canceling headphones (if you travel a lot, buy these. Trust me, you won’t regret it) in his bag but other than that, my carry on is now her needed items.

Our goal is to still travel light while making sure all her needs are met and our sanity is still intact by the end. So, from a bit of experience, many that made me feel like the worst mom on the planet, here are the things I’ll now never start the journey without:

1) Extra clothes for baby 

An obvious must. But when I say extra, I mean extras for your extras. I found this especially necessary at the 2 and 3-month age. She was still having big, unpredictable blowouts at this point and there could be multiples in a day. I didn’t feel the extra extras were as necessary on her 7-month-old trip; just extra clothes did the trick.

2) Extra clothes for you 

Seriously, don’t skip this. We get so caught up in getting the babies things ready we forget what may be crucial for us. Last I checked the duty free wasn’t selling t-shirts. So unless you want to smell like puke for 8 hours straight, throw it in.

3) Diapers/Wipes 

Duh. We plan for one diaper every 2 hours. Better to have too many than not enough. Wipes, always go for the soft packs. They take up way less space than a bulky plastic container.

4) Scented Plastic Bags 

For when the inevitable poopocalypse happens. Sure you’ll wash the clothes out, but that stink lingers. I’m not a fan of smelling poop or throwing away clothes so these bags are the perfect answer.

5) Food   

I was breastfeeding for my daughter’s first two trips making this a breeze. Just pop the girls out and my girl was happy. A good tip is to feed your baby while the plane takes off and is landing, it should hopefully help baby’s ears.

Breastfeeding lasted about 4 months for us, so she was on formula for our more recent trip and it is much trickier and requires much more planning. Like I mentioned, our overseas trips are typically anywhere from 20-30 hours from one destination to the next so that’s a lot of food to plan for. Our baby eats every 3-4 hours during the day and no longer wakes up to eat at night, so that’s what we planned for, plus one or two extra servings just in case. You know your kiddo best, so plan out those servings.

The biggest kicker though is knowing where you are going to be getting your warm water from for the formula. We were not prepared and ended up with a screaming baby until we got to the airport and asked a restaurant for warm water. We have since smartened up and now have a thermos already filled with warm water we bring with us. Most airports are good with it when you let them know it’s for the baby. (On the actual airplane, the flight attendants can provide the warm water.) On this last trip we also threw in a couple baby foods (so also a wipe down bib and spoon). Of course, don’t forget the bottles or sippys!

5) Changing Pad 

I’m no germophobe, and we are in full support of our girl one day putting some dirt in her mouth and building up that immunity! But I’ve been in a lot of airports, and those changing stations almost never seem to be nice and clean and most are actually pretty hard. So for the sake of your little one’s health and comfort this is a must have.

6) Carrier 

Confession: I never thought I’d be a baby wearer and there was no way in hell I was going to spend the $100+ for one. BUUUUT my co-worker ended up giving me her old one and if I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t hesitate to dish out the cash. I’m not saying it’ll work this way for everyone’s kiddo but putting my baby girl in it would almost instantly put her to sleep. I also loved being able to have both my hands available, which is super important and necessary to me when traveling.

7) Stroller  

But not your big bulky one, an easy cheap umbrella stroller does the trick. In Japan they make you check your stroller when you check the rest of your bags, there is no gate check for it. Japan is amazing though, and provides a stroller for you while you’re in the airport. I have since learned that not all U.S. airports have strollers for you (probably since you’re allowed to gate check them).

For short airline trips your stroller may not be as necessary if your kiddo is happy in a carrier. For longer trips though, you’re inevitably waiting around at some point. Imagine trying to eat while wearing your babe and then picking crumbs out of her hair. Yup, that was me, and since I’m not a monkey I don’t think I’ll be winning any mother of year awards for that one.

8) Blanket 

Overseas trips means we are at some point traveling over our nighttime. We request the bulkhead seats so she can have a bassinet that the airline provides. On the airlines we’ve been on so far, the baby is good to go in the bassinet if they’re 10 kilos (22 lbs.) or under. Since you’re trying to get baby to sleep in a place that’s foreign, bringing their favorite blanket can help to provide that comfort and familiarity of home.

9) Toys 

Not at all necessary at the 3 month mark but a lifesaver at the 7 month mark. We brought two small toys that she loves but can also easily be shoved into the bag and not take up much space. Bottom line, they helped keep her entertained and happy. Tip: Don’t bring anything too noisy or that can make noise on its own!

10) Burp Cloth 

‘Cause she’s a baby, and babies spit up. Pretty straight forward, huh? When I’m wearing her in the carrier I put a burp cloth on my chest too. Helps save my clothes and hers.

11) Your Patience and Sense of Humor 

No matter how much planning you do, there’s likely to be some unpredicted moments. I would always feel so bad and start to stress if my babe was crying on the plane until someone gave me the best advice; “you’re never going to see those people again”. Babies cry, it’s what they do, because that’s how they communicate their needs and emotions. It’s unrealistic to expect your little one to never shed a tear during the adventure, so do your best to roll with the punches and laugh off the puke that just went all over the both of you right as you’re boarding.

If you encounter the person who rolls their eyes and mumbles constantly under their breath because there’s a baby on their plane ride, screw ‘em. You will never see that person again. Your energy needs to be directed toward caring for your kiddo, not worrying about a grown adult’s desires. In all honesty though, we’ve only had this encounter once on all of our plane rides. By and large, people have been kind, understanding, and even helpful.

Does traveling with a baby require more planning and energy? Absolutely. Is the idea maybe even a bit daunting? Sure. To us though, the idea of not continuing to travel, to see family and friends, and explore new places seems more daunting. Admittedly, our experience thus far has been with a non-mobile little one. But, we have some trips planned for later this year when she should definitely be walking; and I can’t wait to update you with the new lessons we learn from our inevitable parenting failures.

• K

Advertisements

The Best Piece of Baby Wisdom I was Never Given

D6

Before I became a mom, I was offered all kinds of baby advice. Some of it I found helpful, other things not so much. I felt comfortable picking and choosing between the gems and the rocks because I was fairly confident in my ability to parent well. I mean, people do this everyday, right?

 After I became a mom, I was offered even more baby advice. And, again, I was happy to use what was applicable and throw out what didn’t appeal to me. This process worked just fine with my first child and I vividly remember wondering why people made parenting through babyhood so complicated. To me, it all seemed very natural. I simply followed my intuition and, before I knew it, a sweet and spirited little toddler emerged before my very eyes.  So, naturally, I planned to follow the same process when my son was born.

And then he turned my world upside down.

He was colicky. He wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t eat. He screamed every second his skin was not touching mine. He was sick constantly. He was miserable. I was miserable. And suddenly, that intuition I had been so proud of disappeared overnight.

I flailed alone, trying to just get through each day. I questioned every single decision I made and wondered why I was such a terrible parent this time around. I remember wondering if I just couldn’t cope with having two children. And I even asked my husband if he thought I was suffering from postpartum depression. There had to be a reason why I could not make him happy. And I was convinced that it was my fault.

I simultaneously craved advice from anyone who would offer it on the off chance that they had the magic cure, while also shuddering in fear at the potential judgement being passed. When you get to that point of desperation, you have already tried every trick in the book. So in my grumpy, anxiety-ridden state, I was also frustrated when none of the advice I was given offered any real hope.

I felt ashamed and embarrassed when people I loved would make simple suggestions that insinuated his “bad” behaviors had been “allowed” to flourish. And in fairness to them, they were confused too. For the most part, such comments came from people with average kids who followed the baby book “rules”. They never had to question the axiom of putting a baby to sleep drowsy but awake. They never struggled to get their kid to shut out external stimuli enough to even allow sleep to come. It was never a question that their baby would eat exactly when and how much he was supposed to eat. So a baby like mine was… well, a mystery.

That is, until I came to a very simple realization: He is his own, unique, self. 

Simple enough, right? But the implications were profound and immediately provided a sense of comfort I had been lacking for an entire year.

I should have seen it all along. From the moment my first child was born, I was amazed at how much personality she had. It’s remarkable, really, how little it has deviated from my initial impressions. Even little propensities, like her distaste for sleeping under blankets, have been evident from very early on. Watching her grow put a new spin on the nature vs. nurture debate for me and I began to recognize that while genes influence a large percentage of one’s personality, nurturing those traits in a positive manner ultimately forms the final makeup of a person.

So why couldn’t that apply to my son, as well? I’m convinced that it does and that it explains a lot of our early struggles. Undoubtedly, there were some medical issues that complicated things but, for the most part, I was simply trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I was searching for answers in places that didn’t take his needs or personality into account. In my attempt to make my baby “normal”, I was actively ignoring the personality traits that would make it impossible to follow conventional baby wisdom. And in doing so, I prolonged the suffering for us both.

No one would argue the fact that no two adults are the same, so why do we continue pushing the narrative that all babies fit into the confined “rules” we have set forth as a society? Some people are reserved. Some are outgoing. Some are night owls, while others prefer to rise with the sun. It would be ridiculous to expect us all to operate by the same guiding principles, yet this is the expectation we have for our children. Why is that?

It still boggles my mind how simple, yet elusive, this idea seems to be. In all the overwhelming pieces of advice thrown at me by family, friends, and doctors, I was never once told that he simply might not be wired to sit quietly by himself, to sleep with regularity, to digest new foods easily. And it certainly wasn’t proposed that I follow his lead to figure out what would work best for the both of us.

In this age of smart phones and Google, when we have the answers to everything at our fingertips, we have come to expect that all our problems are black and white. We rarely take the time to consider nuance and outliers to the point that we neglect to examine them entirely. Maybe it’s time we acknowledge that we don’t actually have all the answers and that our babies are worth listening to. It’s humbling to realize that an infant can communicate better than you can listen.

At the end of the day, I don’t have all the answers. But I do know one thing: I know my son is exactly the person he was born to be. He is an independent, strong-willed, intense little boy. And I find great beauty in that. Someday, he may be be a CEO, a philanthropist, an entrepreneur, or a diplomat. Whatever he does, he will make his presence known, just as he has done from the very beginning. Hopefully, he just does it with less screaming.

So if you are a struggling Mama, like me, know this: You have done nothing wrong. When all else fails, put down the baby books, tune out Grandma’s endless stream of advice, and remember that your intuition is still in there somewhere. Listen to it. And listen to your baby. He is his own little person that was never meant to conform to conventional wisdom. Your struggles won’t disappear overnight. There may not be any easy answers. You may still come out of that first year feeling traumatized and broken. But at least you know you will be able to pick up the pieces and recognize your beautiful baby for exactly who he is, not for who anyone else says he should be.

 

  • C

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**