Ok mama, you survived your first flight with your babe!
You carried a thousand bags like a pack mule, whipped out all of your "please don't cry" moves and masked the pee stains with your casual yet reasonably stylish dark top. I'm proud of you. Go ahead and pass that baby to grandma and grab yourself a glass of wine, bowl of ice cream and/or $5 coffee.
While you nurse your nerves, I'm going to pass along a few miscellaneous tips and tricks that I've learned along the way.
1. Be nice to everyone.
This should be common knowledge, but for some reason, people lose their manners when they travel. If you see another mama pushing a stroller and wearing a sleeping babe, give her a smile. You'll be surpised how much that will mean when someone does the same for you. People will inevitably wait for the baby to finally fall asleep to attempt to strike up a conversation with you - politely smile and then relocate to an area near your gate that is less populated.
When the people next to you claim their seat, smile and say hello and introduce them to the baby if he's awake. If the doors close and there is an extra empty seat (anywhere) on the plane, tell the person next to you (with a smile) that you won't be offended if they move away from your traveling circus.
2. Be extra, extra nice to the flight attendants.
The second I board our plane, I introduce G to the flight attendants and ask their names. I address them throughout the flight as Ms. So and So and always smile and say thank you (even if I have to mouth it) when they walk by. Flight attendants are amazing and will help you with just about anything - they have stored and retrieved my back pack for me, asked then entire plane to wait for me to get my bags and baby off of the plane (I was in the front row and needed my back pack from the over head bin behind me), given G extra empty cups to play with, given me and the baby my own row, brought me entire bottles of water for emergency bottles and allowed me to stand in the aisle, galley area and bathroom holding spot so that I could rock the baby for hours on end.
I have been grateful for the help of a flight attendant after every single flight that I've flown with G. Keep that in mind when you board your flight.
People are genuinely kind. Many, many times people ask if they can help me break down my car seat and stroller when I'm trying to gate check it. Honestly, I would love the help but my stroller base is temperamental (to say the least) and explaining to someone how to do it is harder than wrestling it to the ground myself. I always smile and say thank you but explain that it's tricky and I've got it. I know they don't believe me because I look like such a hot mess, but I do.
4. Use your backpack as extra storage for overweight carry on bags.
If you pack your carry on's appropriately, there should be some room in your back pack for emergency storage. Baby stuff may be little but somehow it weighs a ton. My checked bag often clocks in over 50 lbs. The first thing I'll pull out is my make up bag and can usually get the scale to drop a few pounds. Stash that bad boy in your back pack and you're good to go without much to-do. Before I learned that I needed to bring the back pack along, we donated a baby bath tub, brand new container of rice cereal and pack of wipes to the family bathroom next to the US Air counter at the Greenville airport.
5. If you need to, get up and walk the baby around
Head to the back of the plane and bounce the baby around in the carrier. G likes to be swayed back and forth and bounced like he's going to get whip lash. Sometimes the change from sitting to standing is all the baby needs to get comfy and ready to hit the hay. Sometimes the action of standing and rocking makes you feel less trapped and more in control, letting you relax a teensy bit.
6. Use a plastic place mat from the dollar store as a play mat and then toss it
This is a tip from a reader and I love it. To save space and to avoid having to carry around a dirty blanket that you cannot use again, grab a plastic table cloth from the Dollar Store to use as a mat for your layover play session. If it's new, it should be flat packed and take up significantly less space in your carry on.
7. For the love of all things, do not try to carry on a lap top.
The last thing you need is to unload that thing in security. Just check it.
8. Relax your body
OK, let's be honest. These posts are all about being as prepared as possible so that you can diffuse situations as they arise. But they will arise. The baby will fuss, cry or "talk" at the top of his lungs. And without a doubt, you will feel the panic rise in your body at the thought of your baby terrorizing an entire plane with his Pterodactyl yells. Try, if you can, to take deep breaths and relax your body. You are either wearing or holding your baby in a very tight space and he can feel your anxiety (and so can your seat mates). Try to relax and remember that if he cries, you will be ok, you will both survive, even if just barely. You are prepared with mixed bottles (or a boob!), chewy toys, pain meds and clean diapers. You are ready, you can do this.
Of course, the one thing we can't prepare for is how the baby will do on the journey. G has thrown a fit of epic proportions at the very beginning of a 3 hour flight that involved screaming, an arched back and purple face. Many people (actually, now that I think about it, many men) turned around to stare at us. But we got through it and he fell asleep. I think the entire session lasted 3 minutes, but to me, it was an eternity. If you have to, get up and go to the bathroom. Take the baby to stare at himself in the mirror or take a minute to cry it out (both of you). No matter how bad it gets, try to remember that the plane will land and you will get off of it.
To the gloriously child/stress free travelers reading this: if you're on a flight and you hear a baby crying, try to remember that there is a mama who is more panicked, worried and stressed than you are irritated to hear that cry. I can assure you that she is doing every single thing in her power to calm her baby and address his needs, not just for you but for him.
I hope that this series helped you feel like you can tackle flying solo with an infant. I know it sounds daunting, but the more prepared you are before you board your flight, the better off you'll be. Don't stress mama, just strap on your back pack, break down that stroller and head to Grandma's!
Other Posts in the Flying With An Infant Series: