So many choices I say. Choosing the date of travel, the airline, the time, the seats…phew!
Date, well you might not have total control; but travelling bang in the middle of the work week is obviously better in terms of queues and crowds.
Many people tell me it’s best to travel at night if you have a baby along. The assumption being they will sleep through the journey. Our experience has been slightly different. For us early morning flights have always been better. We wake her up early to change, nurse/ feed etc. Then we are off to the airport. She plays around for a while. We get through check in, immigration, security with an awake baby and she will probably still be awake while we board, which is all good I tell you. She might be a bit cranky as we board and settle down; new, enclosed, crowded places are never very baby friendly. A little bit of soothing, singing and nursing during take- off and she drifts off to dreamland. And we can breathe easy.
If we travel at night, our crazy bub sometimes stays awake for most of the night while on board, and we arrive at our destination with an over- tired, whiny, pouty babe, who then quickly turns to a screeching, put- me-to-sleep-dumb- mama babe. So yes, when you really come down to it, night or day – it is up to your little one to decide the comfort of your flight/ travel.
It is believed that the least turbulence affected seats are those closest to the wing. But we, The H Family love turbulence and the feeling of free fall. So turbulence is never a criteria for us.
Bassinet seats too are not very vital to us. They are overrated as far as we are concerned, especially on flights that are less than 6 hours’ duration. We/ I honestly don’t mind a tiny human sprawled on top of me for hours at a stretch. If I’m travelling alone, I prefer a window seat, for a teeny bit of extra “wiggle room” and nursing privacy.
The Mister prefers an aisle seat- for two reasons. One, poor thing gets some extra leg- room (considering he is 8 to 9 inches taller than I am) and two, he doesn’t have to knee- scrape and excuse himself if he wants to take the bub for a mid- air walk.
If you can afford it, paying for an extra seat can be a life- saver; especially if your little one is over six months and if it is a long haul flight. For younger fliers, purchasing an extra seat for the car- seat is an excellent option.
The dreaded diaper- changing situation
Almost always, the last thing I do before boarding is change Lil’ Z’s diaper. Full or not, I change them. I do everything I can to minimize the chance of having to change one on the plane.
All things said, you can can only do so much. Coz’ when they gotta go, they gotta go!
Changing a diaper on an airplane lavatory is no mean task folks. People have told me some flights don’t have a changing table in the lavatories. A flight attendant I spoke to said it ain’t true though. She told me that it is sometimes so well camouflaged that it becomes a game of “find the hidden changing table”! So folks, if in doubt, or if you can’t seem to find one – ask the helpful attendant.
Finding the table is solving trickery no.1, next comes laying the baby. A tiny, helpless, sub 3 month old isn’t a big problem. A squirmy 9 month old can be. So, be armed with weapons of mass distraction. Please let that weapon not be your phone, unless you want to see it being sucked into the adjacent vacuum potty. I usually give my squirmy champ some tissues, or the in- flight disposable cups/ sick- bags…. and then get down to business.
If alone, this is my technique. Stuff three wet wipes in one pocket, three dry in another. Baby in one arm and diaper (at least two preferably, amazing how accidents happen when you least want them to) and changing mat in another. Please carry the bare minimum with you. Trust me when I say when there is no space in there. Your diaper bag will be a liability there, not an asset. Also, you will have to lay it on the floor. (I can see all the ladies vigorously shaking their heads)
I even worry about getting my changing mat dirty (The Mister sniggers, but I have seen some downright filthy public changing tables). If you are the type (like me), or if you travel a lot; these disposable changing mats/ pads can come in real handy. A lot of different brands are available. I have seen some Munchkin ones being sold in Doha. At Bangalore- they are available on Amazon.
Oh yeah, it’s extremely helpful if you have the “diaper removal and reapplication without removing pants” technique mastered.
Stroller- yay or nay?
Yay if you wan’t to use your stroller at your destination. For example, you are visiting family or are on a vacation and you intend to lug it around. But, if the stroller is only for your convenience at the airport, then nay it is folks. Most international airports have strollers you can use anyway. Another option is to use the duty- free shopping carts to carry you hang baggage/ changing bag.
Personally I find baby- wearing the easiest. I use a ring- sling on short trips and small airports (domestic), because it’s easier to wear and takes up very little space in my changing bag. In larger airports (Changi, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Heathrow) or if I wish to stroll (read shop) around a bit I use my SSC (Ergo, Boba). If The Mister is travelling with us, it’s even better. We switch often, or he hangs out at one place with the bub while I do my thing!
If you do insist on taking the stroller, there are some advantages. You can feed her (no need to go looking for a high chair in the airport) and change her in it. Almost all airlines allow a stroller (not part of any luggage calculations) and you can leave it at the door (as you board, you will receive it at the baggage carousel). In transits, you have to manage without though. Some people have told us their strollers were damaged in transit, but I think those are exceptions rather than rules.
Best are those nifty, collapsible (umbrella) strollers, they might allow you to stow it in the overhead compartments, subject to space availability . They are a good “in between” option for those who don’t want to baby wear, or if you are alone with very long transits or have health issues.
Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.
I barely have enough room in my changing bag, to fit Z’s clothes, diapering essentials and feeding bits and bobs ( AND some last minute duty free buys!). Carrying two dozen toys and books to keep the one year old engaged is therefore not a viable option. Food and shelter for the tiny human take precedence. Then how does one keep a hyper- alert, I-want- to- learn- everything- now baby engaged in a closed cabin filled with strangers for several hours at a a stretch?
Well, it may not be ideal, and some parents may scoff; but the only thing that can keep her engaged (for about half an hour) is a touch screen. So, if we are in a real bind, we let her loose on our iPads (which we would rarely ever do otherwise). Or we play a couple of videos she likes. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Next, we move on to everything else. I really mean everything else. To her, EVERYTHING is a toy. And if it not outright dangerous or harmful to her in any way, we let her be. We will show her who is boss when we land
I have already written about this in an earlier post. I might as well rehash it here again…
I have read a lot about nursing during take-off/ landing.
It is a absolute must or the little one’s ear will pop, a kind lady once told me. She sat next to me on one of the flights, and just as take-off was announced, she vigorously woke up her calm, sleeping baby and tried to forcibly nurse. The little one ended up crying for the next half- hour. If “ears- popping” was the worry, the mum need not have. By making her baby cry, she made sure the ears wouldn’t pop!
As a Maxillofacial Surgeon, I do know a little bit about palates and middle ears and Eustachian tubes 🙂 The weird feeling that we have in our ears when we ascend or descend, is our ears trying to equalize the pressure differences.
Opening and closing our mouths, or yawning/ swallowing (hence the candy distribution just prior to take-off) open the Eustachian tube and allows air to travel more quickly to the middle ear and equalize the pressure faster. This is a harmless adjustment that our body does.
If your baby is fast asleep, there is not need to wake her up and nurse her during take-off/ landing. Unless the baby has a previous condition that predisposes to discomfort due to middle- ear pressure changes or has an existing middle- ear infection- it is usually not that uncomfortable to the baby. In fact, if anything, it is at the point of highest descent (before landing) that it can get a wee bit uncomfortable.
There in no documented medical research/ literature that advocates nursing during take-off or landing. Moreover, if the baby is in pain or distress, she will most likely cry; and that very act will help with the pressure changes.
All said, nursing does comfort and soothe babies and the mother is more comforatable with a happy, calm baby- SO NURSE AWAY I SAY!
Well, as of now I need not worry about Zoe’s ear “popping”. She seemed to have figured it out. I have seen her open and close her mouth randomly (she learnt the trick from a fellow traveller) 🙂
Yes. I believe I’m almost done. There might be a possibility of part 3 though…
On our flights, mostly there is a lot of this
If all goes well, all the above exertions and ministrations may lead to this
And then Mama can put get her shoes off, put her legs up, put the headset on….
And have some num- nums!
Till next time..
Other baby- travel posts
(I can’t seem to insert links any other way, they just don’t work! Ugh…wordpress!!)