Kids can make air travel … challenging. We've all been there in some way, either as the unlucky passenger seated near the squalling tot or as the parent trying - and failing - to quiet him/her.
Want to stop being that parent? Read and heed the following tips from Genevieve Pazdan, a.k.a. Mama Natural, a blogger who publishes two videos every week about parenting and healthy living:
Book flights outside of the "witching hour." With young babies, the later the hour, the more fussy they become. I learned the hard way not to book a flight in the 3 to 7 p.m. window. It is much easier to take morning flights because babies are better rested, happier and, therefore, more adaptable.
Reserve a window seat. This gives you privacy for nursing or feeding and contains a "wall" (the window) to lean against that helps with a squirmy baby. You are also in charge of the amount of light coming in through window shade, which helps when trying to get a baby to nap. An added bonus, some babies also like to look out windows … a nice diversion!
Go to gate early and see if you can be seated next to an empty seat. If the plane isn't full, most airline attendants will let you move to a seat next to an empty seat. This is a HUGE score. We brought Griffin's car seat onboard and strapped him in the empty seat between Mike and I. He fell asleep easily because he's in his own space and familiar with being in there for naps.
Bring a travel companion. If possible, be sure a husband, companion, friend or family member comes with you. This will allow you to take bathroom breaks and help you lug around all of the baby gear. In fact, I would seriously consider not traveling if you have to go alone.
Be prepared to nurse, nurse, nurse. Wear an easy-access top and bra so baby can nurse liberally throughout the flight, especially during take-off. I also brought along a pacifier, which Griffin only gets in special occasions, as another tool to help soothe him during the flight.
Bring toys. Just a few of his/her favorites that pack well and aren't horribly loud. Again, this brings some of the familiar to the foreign environment. They are also a great way to entertain baby during long flights.
Pack for the plane. Bring along a little bag filled with a few toys, a pacifier (if your baby uses one), extra diapers, wipes, changing and burp cloths, a change of clothes and an extra sweatshirt and blanket. Babies like to touch everything and put things in their mouths so the wipes are critical to keep the germs at bay. While I'm not a germaphobe, planes are filled with new exposures to the baby that could prove harmful, especially if they are not vaccinated. Extra clothes and diapers are obviously important in case there is a diaper blowout. Fun times.
Bring a baby carrier. My personal favorite is the Ergo carrier. If you don't have an extra seat for the car seat, you can use the carrier to rock your baby to sleep. I find that it worked much better than trying to create a bed on the airline tray!
If you can, wait until baby is 6 months old. We went to California when Griffin was 4 months and I found that was a tough age. He was "awake" enough to be restless and bored, but he was also young enough to be a hot mess if he missed a nap. By 6 months, babies' sleep cycles are more ingrained and they are more resilient. If they miss a nap, they can roll with it better, making for a better traveling experience all around. I even think 0-4 weeks would be better than 2-4 months because babies are still in that newborn "haze" and can sleep pretty much anywhere.
Be gentle with yourself and your baby. Despite your best efforts, sometimes babies just need to cry on a plane. Griffin went "code red" for 20 minutes on his first flight and all I could do was rock him and patiently wait for him to pass out of exhaustion. I was getting the evil eye from all those around me. I felt like a terrible mother. It was hard. But it's gonna happen. They are babies, and airplanes are very stimulating and, at times, uncomfortable places. Roll with it and try to find the humor in the situation. It will be over before you know it. BTW, on the return flight, Griffin didn't make a peep and everyone was commenting on what an angel baby I had. LOL!