Traveling with an infant can be a stressful experience. It is intimidating to imagine the looks other passengers might give you when your little one cries or fusses. While there is no guarantee that traveling with a baby will be easy, there are many steps a parent can take to ensure smoother travels. Having a plan ahead of time is a great way to build confidence when traveling with an infant. Below is a list of ways you can prepare for the most successful trip with your little one.
Try to schedule your flight according to your baby's sleep pattern. Babies often sleep during travel, and choosing an early morning or late evening flight might allow baby to nap for the duration of the flight. Also, when choosing your flight, try to avoid layovers as much as possible.
Decide if you want to have your baby on your lap or if you want to purchase an extra seat. Many airlines allow children under 1 year old to fly for free if the baby is on a parent's lap. If you do decide to travel with your baby on your lap, try to get bulkhead seating so you have more space for your feet. Other things to keep in mind when choosing a seat is proximity to restroom, window or aisle seat, and sitting near other mothers with babies for conversation and support.
Try to get to the airport as early as possible so you are not rushed or already stressed before your board the plane. This will give you time to change your baby's diaper if needed, eat a meal and be prepared in case of any unforeseen dilemmas.
Carry your baby in a pouch
There are many comfortable baby carriers available today that allow you to have both hands free while traveling. Wearing your baby in a carrier through the airport can make it easy to get from point A to point B. If you do not use a baby carrier, consider taking a stroller where your baby can sit comfortably while you are walking through the airport. Most airlines allow you to check the stroller at the gate when you are boarding the plane and will drop the stroller off at the gate when you exit the plane at your destination.
Make sure you have plenty of wipes, diapers and snacks for the flight or in case of a delay. Choose a bag that allows you to be as hands free and comfortable as possible (such as a backpack), with easy access to pockets. Try to pack only a few toys that you know your baby loves rather than an entire assortment. Remember that your bag will get heavy as you carry it around with you. Store snacks in airtight containers that do not take up much room.
If baby is awake, toys make for great distractions should he or she get fussy. Board books, development toys, hand puppets, and even smart phone apps or cartoons can help a baby enjoy traveling.
Many parents fear takeoff and landing as some babies experience discomfort in their ears. Nursing during this time can be a source of relief for babies experiencing discomfort. Remember to bring a nursing cover if you feel nervous about breastfeeding near a stranger. If you are not nursing, have a bottle or a pacifier ready to give your baby to relieve ear pressure during takeoff and landing.
Ask for help
If you need help, ask a flight attendant for assistance. In my experience, flight attendants and passengers have been extremely helpful and compassionate to me as I have traveled with my little one. Flight attendants are often happy to help you fill a bottle, reach for a bag, or provide you with extra water.
If you get dirty looks (and you will)
Remember, you are not alone. Besides, dirty looks never killed anyone. There are most likely other mothers and fathers traveling with their little ones. Take comfort in knowing that you are doing the best you can and the flight will not last forever. Smile back, start a conversation or make a light-hearted comment about how you hope the flight will go well. One of the ways I make light of the situation is to let people know as they sit near me, "Are you sure you want to commit?" They usually laugh and say they will be fine. I believe it communicates to them that I will do the best I can, but at the end of the day the way my baby reacts to the flight is out of my control. If all else fails, put in earplugs and turn your attention right back to your little one, who will be happy to receive the love and care you have to offer.