Flying With a Baby? Plan. Relax. Never Apologize for it.
Yes, I fly with my baby. No, you're not getting a loot bag from me. Sorry, not sorry.
As a parent who flies often with her baby – and two other children when they were babies – I have never once given out treats to my fellow passengers as a way of apologizing for our very presence on an aircraft. When a couple did this a few years ago, giving out cute little bags with candy and earplugs to those who might hear their babies squawk during the flight, it made national news in the States. Ugh, I thought, and rolled my eyes in a way my preteen daughter can only aspire to.
I thought, and hoped, that this story would quietly disappear, but no, it’s definitely a phenomenon, and I still get asked by new parents about to take their new flight if it is a good idea. It isn’t. Rather than apologize, I would prefer to have a plan for taking a baby on a plane in order to make things easier on myself, my baby and my fellow passengers (notice they are my last consideration, and should be yours too).
Before I really get into this, I’ll make a confession: Despite being a mother of three, when I’m flying solo, the last thing I want to see on a plane is a baby, especially a miserable one. No one likes a crying baby on a plane, just like no one likes a sweaty unwashed seatmate, the strange dude who takes off his shoes to let his gnarly smelly feet free, or that person who falls asleep on takeoff and snores loudly for the entire flight. But life is life, and we have to deal with each other as best we can.
Plan to win!
Flying is hell for everyone, so naturally it is going to be a crappy experience for your baby too. So expect the worst, but plan for the best.
My general strategy is to book a window seat, take a nice soft blanket with me to snuggle into with baby, and then nurse for the whole flight. I end up at my destination sore, but basking in the glow as people tell me how angelic my baby is, or comment that they didn’t even know there was a baby sat in front of them. This works until it doesn’t.
I also travel with snacks: high-value snacks, because a Baby Mum-Mum isn’t going to distract your baby if he’s bored out of his tiny mind and the damned seatbelt sign has not gone off once so you can’t go walk the aisles to break the monotony. Buy the expensive baby treats you never usually bother with and keep a stash in your purse. Also take toys. Much loved toys, or a new toy that’ll keep their interest.
Be sure you have everything you need, double the number of diapers you think you’ll need, and a spare outfit for them, and a spare shirt for you in case you get puked on mid-flight. Travel pro that I am, I forgot a change of clothes for my 10-month-old on a flight home from Denver last month, and had to blow $40 on an official Raptors onesie at Pearson Airport because it was the only baby clothing on sale anywhere and he had s--- through everything just as we got off the plane.
Courtesy Lola Augustine Brown
Walk on that plane like you own it, because you bought a ticket too, dammit, and you have every right to be on there with your child. Greet the flight attendants, and know that they may well be happy to help you with the baby when you need a break (yes, even if he is crying), and that they can be your greatest ally if things do get a bit weird with another passenger.
“You can’t let the fear of your baby crying rule your life.”
Greet your seatmate too, as 99% of the time I’ve travelled people have been kind and sweet about me traveling with my kids. I’ve had plenty of people offer to hold the baby for a while, play peekaboo, and generally be lovely. Very occasionally I’ve had a non-friendly seatmate, and I try to respect that, and not take offence when they ask to move to another seat (I just spread out and enjoy the space when they do).
If you are able to move about the plane then don’t be afraid to take a little stroll if baby is restless. On many a flight I’ve hung out at the back with the crew for a while as they make a fuss over the baby, and hold him while I use the loo or whatever. On some flights, the crew may also be able to warm a bottle for you – ask, if that’s something you need.
Should your baby lose it on the plane, try to stay calm. Know that if someone is giving you the evil eye or muttering under their breath they are a complete a------, and the majority of the plane is most likely sympathetic to you at that moment; many have been in your shoes. As long as you are trying to deal with your crying baby, and not ignoring the situation or making it worse, then there is nothing more you can do.
I feel fortunate that my babies have only had a few meltdowns on planes despite how often I fly, or maybe because it is so often I guess they may be used to it. But it has happened, and once my daughter cried most of the flight from Gatwick to Vancouver, and of course I felt terrible. But you get over it, and you can’t let the fear of your baby crying rule your life. So travel on, enjoy, and make no apologies.
(This article was first published on July 29, 2016)