Anyone with a baby, infant or toddler who’s ever boarded an airplane has probably experienced the cold sweat, pounding heart and tensed-up back and shoulder muscles that inevitably take over as soon as you step into the airport.
Will your kid be calm, cool and collected while his little ears pop during takeoff and landing? Will she sleep during the long hours in the clouds, nestled up in the limited space in your arms? Or will your fellow passengers spend the entire flight shooting you daggers with their eyes as you rock the poor babe back and forth down the aisles (assuming the seatbelt sign is blissfully switched off)?
Every parent who has ever flown knows exactly how stressful flying with an infant can be. And while there are no guarantees that every child will be perfectly behaved on each trip, there are some tips and tricks that can help if you do choose to travel with your baby.
1. Go with the flow
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing: children fuss. So when you’re at the airport and on the plane, try to remember that every little sound they make may be amplified to you, but might actually not bother those around you. We bet that about half the passengers on your flight have been in your situation at some point, and just because you’re feeling judged doesn’t mean that you are.
2. Try to time your flights with naps
If you’re one of those lucky parents who has a rough idea of when your baby naps and you have the luxury of choosing from a few different flights, try to time it so that you’re in the air when baby should be sleeping. The longer you can get your kid to sleep, the more relaxed you’ll be, plus you can take advantage of that time to either nap or de-stress with some music or a movie.
3. Gate check your stroller
The last thing you’re going to want to do is carry your infant around the airport’s expansive terminals, large crowds and long lines. Rather than checking your stroller when you get your tickets, check it at the gate. Just make sure that your stroller complies with the airline’s stroller size guidelines, which can usually be found on the official site.
4. Pack a sling or carrier — just in case
Luggage always gets lost, delays happen and sometimes strollers can get lost too. Rather than being stuck without one unexpectedly, pack a sling or a carrier. Not only will you be utterly relieved to have it in the event that you’re without your stroller for a while, but it’s a great way for your baby to snuggle up to you and still nap.
5. Consider screen time
If you’re okay with your child watching television or a movie, now’s the time to break out an exciting new program or movie that you’ve been waiting on. Or, if you’re still on the fence about whether you want your baby’s eyes glued to the old boob tube, now may be the time to gradually introduce it. Distraction can be a lifesaver, after all.
6. Pop a new toy into your carry-on
Speaking of distraction, there’s nothing like a newish toy (or a recycled favourite that’s been in the closet for a couple of weeks) to keep babe occupied when you need a break. Pro tip: Try not to pack anything that makes a lot of noise, plays repetitive music or has lots of flashy lights. They may entertain your kid, but your fellow passengers won’t be amused.
7. Nurse during takeoff and landing
If you’re breastfeeding, consider nursing during those two key times during a flight when your child’s going to be most uncomfortable. The sucking and swallowing helps them to naturally pop their ears and relieve pressure. If you’re not nursing, bottles are usually prohibited when the seatbelt sign is on, but you could definitely pop a soother or even a finger in his or her mouth instead.
8. Buy some good will
If you’re feeling particularly antsy about how other passengers are going to react to you and your baby, you may want to hand out a treat bag. Some moms are completely against the practice while others swear by it. Either way, if you do decide to hand out little bags of goodies to those who may be affected by your kid’s cries, do so because you want to and not because you feel obligated to.
9. Monkey see, monkey do
At the end of the day, there’s only so much you can do to make your baby happy. Sometimes they just need to cry it out, and you’re just going to have to be on mommy or daddy duty until they feel better. Keep in mind that if you’re feeling particularly tense, odds are your kid will feel that anxiety too.
If you’re a nervous Nelly flyer, but your partner’s fine with it, consider letting the relaxed parent hold the baby. If that’s not an option, remember to take deep breaths, count to 10, breathe in a relaxing scent or do whatever else you can to keep calm and fly on. You’ll be at your destination before you know it, and the entire plane ride will be nothing but a distant memory either way.