Baby

FLYING WITH A 6-MONTH OLD

Oh man. Jack went on his first flight!!! Even taking out the pandemic, I think I would have been just as nervous flying with a baby. There are just so many things that can go “wrong.” From major issues to minor (but annoying) inconveniences. Not to mention, the logistics of it all.

I wanted to share some of the things that made our trip easier. But, of course, I need to put out the disclaimer that I’m not an expert. In really anything. I am personally not even a big fan of traveling and I’ve had a baby for a whopping six months with exactly two flights under our belts. I’m just sharing what helped us in case it helps you. There are other websites with travel experts who can give you tips for traveling with three under three on an overnight flight to another continent. (My blog is decidedly not that 😅.)

1. Keep your expectations low.

Of everything, I’d say this is the best piece of advice. Keep your expectations about the flight pretty low. Don’t assume your normally fantastic sleeper will nap peacefully. Don’t assume your baby will take every feed like clockwork. It’s okay if nap windows go out the, well, window. Assume a high likelihood of delays at the airport. Keeping my expectations low helped me so much. I just was ready to take anything and everything as it came and that helped me not stress about things not going “perfectly.” Because I had this mindset, I actually think the flights went perfectly. Not because they were perfect, but because I assumed they wouldn’t be perfect… which is what happened! I was grateful for any nap Jack took even though they weren’t at ideal times and any number of minutes he was able to nurse even though they weren’t his normal length. I expected him to cry so I wasn’t flustered or overly concerned when he did.

My friend who is a therapist recommended I keep an “easy breezy” attitude and, let me just say, nothing about my personality is “easy breezy.” But using that as a mantra honestly helped. Even if I was saying it in kind of a sarcastic way in a stressful moment, it helped. Like, “Oh Jack is crying and everyone is staring at me. I’m not worried or stressed at all, I am easy breezy.” Maybe one of those things where if you say it enough, it’ll be true.

2. Control what you can control.

Okay so there are a ton of things outside of your control, of course. But there are things that you can control. I was doing mental run-throughs of what the travel day would look like, which helped me take note of things that I think I’d need and what would help us most during travels. Every family’s “controlables” are going to be different, so this is where I think the visualization works best. You know your baby and you know your family. Trust your gut here and plan ahead!

Some of the controls I put into place ahead of time:

– I planned to nurse Jack whenever I felt like I could, even if he wasn’t exactly hungry, just so that I knew we could go another two or three hour stretch without him being hungry during an inconvenient time.

– I chose to travel in first class with him, which I know is a luxury. I also purchased his own seat, which again, I know is a luxury. But doing this ensured we had our own row with more space, which was important to me while traveling during a pandemic. I also personally felt like he was safest being in a carseat during the flight.

– I practiced opening and closing the travel stroller so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed doing it when the pressure was on. (This is a dumb one, but I get kind of flustered and have “performance anxiety” with these kinds of things, so practicing ahead of time and getting the muscle memory down works best for me!) Oh and I had reviewed and re-reviewed how to install his car seat properly on the plane so I would feel really confident buckling him in safely.

3. Pack light, highly curated, easy-to-carry bags.

I’m usually a “throw it in just in case” kind of packer when it comes to carry-ons. I usually don’t mind carrying something a little heavier or having a roller carry-on. But with a baby?? Nope. My priority was on making sure baby was safe and that I could easily get to things that he definitely might need.

For my own personal items, I brought a backpack so I could be hands free. I kept things super light by just packing my Macbook Air, chargers, and a pouch for my wallet/chapstick/sunglasses/masks/etc. I downloaded an e-book from the library on my phone just on the off chance I had a little free time. I also packed some jerky sticks and granola bars and gum if I found myself hungry.

For Jack’s bag, I brought my diaper bag but slipped it into this LL Bean Boat and Tote with zippered top. It ended up being the perfect combo. My diaper bag tote doesn’t zip shut, but everything is nice and organized in there. And then there was some room on the sides of the tote where I could store his teething toys in an even easier to reach location. I packed a handful of teethers I could rotate through, three burp cloths just in case, a muslin blanket, about ten diapers and a full pack of wipes. I also packed a handful of rolled up pajamas with footies because I had heard horror stories of major diaper blowouts from the change in altitude! Oh, and I also packed two gallon sized ziplocks in case anything got wet/dirty and needed to be stored in a pinch.

4. Wear something comfortable for you & baby.

This could technically fall under “control what you can control.” I thought this was not the time for cute outfits. For me personally, I wanted to wear something comfortable that I could nurse in and that I could be hot or cold in and still be relatively comfortable. I wore a comfortable pair of jeans that I could spend all day in and a pair of comfy sneakers.

For Jack, I really hate bringing him out in pajamas (I don’t know why really, like who cares other than me?? haha), but for the plane? A zippered pajama with footies was the only option. I put him in a dark navy one in case of stains. With the footies, I didn’t have to worry about shoes or socks getting kicked off and I knew he’d be nice and warm and cozy.

5. Ask for (and graciously accept) help.

Probably the hardest thing for me… Not only asking for help, but accepting it. All of the moms in my life reassured me that people would be more than willing to help me. Especially since I was traveling alone for the first leg, I knew there would be times when I’d likely need an extra set of hands. I have to say, I was skeptical. In my head, I feel like the story is that everyone hates seeing babies in the airport. But man! People came out of the woodwork to help!! I found security to be the place where I needed the most help and where I received the most help unsolicited. A TSA worker swooped in, looked me in the eye, and said, “I’ve got the car seat, I’m going to run it through the machine, you just worry about getting to the other side. I’ll meet you over there.” It was so kind and thoughtful I almost cried! And I had so many people just come up to me saying, “Do you need help?” or “Can I give you a hand?” and sometimes I needed the help and sometimes I didn’t. But when I did need the help, I would just say, “Yes, please!” and give a very, very grateful thank you at the end. I know I will be paying it forward to another new mom down the line!!!

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11 Comments

Meike

I love this post, particularly the last paragraph. Isn‘t that true for life in general – ask for help and accept it? Love this reminder! Thanks!

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Sydney

Thank you for writing about your experience. I am planning to fly with my little one in the near future and have been nervous. Sharing your experience makes me feel more comfortable and confident!

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carly

I knew there was a risk but felt comfortable taking the risk. We postponed my event in January until we felt better about the #s and it was really important to me that we not waste anymore time for Jack to meet my grandma

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Brooke

My favorite hack is to also pack a lightweight change of clothes for myself I my diaper bag. You never know when we will be soaked by spit up, poop, or wayward beverages with kids!

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Eleanor

Any additional (or different) recommendations for traveling with a 12 week old? Flying to ACK in June with my first child.

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kyle w

Heading to California from Massachusetts to visit family with my wife and my six month old in March this really helped get an understanding of how it could possibly go thank you

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Mia Revak

Did you have a specific nursing top? Trying to find something comfortable, yet discreet. I hate covers!

Reply