My daughter is 8 months old and has been on 4 round-trip flights. It’s a lot of flying for a baby, but we have family in two countries, on different continents, and on opposite ends of one of those countries. We’re using my maternity leave as an opportunity to see as much as our family as possible while we aren’t constrained by my limited vacation time and her daycare schedule.
My little one has been a really good flyer, but each flight has been different as she’s gotten older and her needs have changed. She’s gone from sleeping and nursing most flights to getting wiggly and needing snacks and toys.
By the next time we fly I’m sure I’ll need to add a lot more to my flight-arsenal, but these are the 6 things that have been most handy on our flights so far:
1) Keep the most important items at your feet
As much as I like to have leg room, I’ve found it’s easier to have a carry-on with diaper changing stuff, snacks, toys and wipes right at my feet. On the plane I’m always trying to anticipate my little one’s next need to avoid her getting too wound up. Having everything accessible was essential, especially when I was traveling without my husband and needed to do everything one-handed.
2) Travel light to the change table
Change tables in airplanes are the perfect size if you have a newborn but they certainly weren’t made for larger babies. Bathrooms on a flight can also be super gross so I take as little as possible with me so I can balance baby and all our supplies on the tiny table.
I purchased one of these baby changing clutches second-hand. It’s been great for everyday use, but has been especially helpful for flights since it’s small and holds just the necessities (though a small bag with diapers, wipes, diaper pad and change of clothes would work just as well). It was easy to pluck this bag out of my carry-on while holding a wiggly and smelly baby, it was still a cosy fit on the change table, but it worked.
(Also, my little one slid a lot on the tiny table and bumped her head with every vibration of the plane. I used her extra clothes and diapers – the changing pad clutch has a little pocket for this stuff – to pad the area above her head.)
3) Don’t bring an umbrella stroller
I’ve flown with Air Canada, WestJet, and Aer Lingus and all of these airlines have let us take our full sized stroller TO THE GATE. I did not know this was a thing. Check the airline’s rules before you fly. If you’re bringing a baby bed or car seat you may have to pay extra, but it might be worth it: having our full sized stroller to chuck our carry-on and jackets into while we wandered around the airport felt almost luxurious.
4) ‘Clean’ snacks may save your sanity (it saved mine)
My last flight was the first one since my daughter started eating solid foods. It sure was easier when I only had to whip out my boob and she’d be happy. I am someone who likes being clean and I knew I would be grumpy if I felt like I was covered in baby food and sticky for the majority of the flight.
Bringing dry teething cookies, freeze dried fruit (she’d eat freeze dried strawberries all day if she could) and some of those purees in pouches kept us all fairly clean and not sticky for the flight. (The internet tells me these pouches are a bit of a controversial thing to feed your baby – Too much sugar! Hidden molds! Don’t let them suck it out! Oh my. At least it’s not everyday.)
5) Save your arms: bring a baby carrier
I use my baby carriers a lot. I’m developing some tendonitis in my wrist from lifting my baby so the carrier has become essential whether I’m at home or traveling. When she was about 4 months old I figured out how to breastfeed her in our Ergo and it’s been amazingly helpful for travel. I feed her walking around the airport, standing in the aisle of the plane, really wherever it’s possible for me to be on my feet.
Since my daughter is so used to sleeping and nursing in the carrier, as soon as the seat belt light goes off I plop her in it, cover her with a muslin blanket, and walk around in the aisle a bit. She usually gets a good nap in. I use an old version of the Ergo carrier now that she’s bigger, but used the stretchy and lightweight baby K’tan when she was smaller.
6) Maybe don’t get the bulkhead
On our first long-haul flight we paid an extra $100 for bulkhead seats with the baby bassinet. That’s $100 for the 10 mins of the flight that she slept in the bassinet and the inconvenience of having to move the diaper bag up into the overhead bin for takeoff and landing (see point #1).
Each time we put her to sleep and got her into the bassinet there would be turbulence and we’d have to take her out of it (airline rules). She’d get woken up in the process and we’d have to start the go-back-to-sleep routine all over again. She ended up sleeping in our arms since for most of the flight since it was easier than going through the bassinet dance.
I might be singing a different tune if there wasn’t so much turbulence. Has anyone else had luck with the bassinet? Maybe the bulkhead is more useful for people who have little ones who like to crawl or sit on the floor? Is this even allowed? I’d be curious.
Happy flying! If you have any other tips or essentials for flying with babies, I’d love to hear. There’s a lot of flying in our future.