I’ve become an accidental expert of traveling with a baby. With family spread over many states along with our habit of house swapping in interesting places, I’ve travelled on 35 airplanes in the last two years with my daughter, Zinnia.
Last week, in Part One of Babies, Toddler and Planes. Oh my! I began sharing my experiences of travelling with a little one. Let’s pick up where we left off.
Once on the plane…
Keep it fun.
The week before we travel I hide a few of Zinnia’s favorite books and small toys. When she sees them again mid-flight she is thrilled to read the same story over and over (and over). If and when our books fail to interest her we turn to the Sky Mall magazine. It’s full of pictures of dogs and cats and we’ve been known to let her tear out pages to keep her happy and busy. Sometimes I will buy a few treats from the Dollar Store to bring out mid-flight: small balls, flash cards of animals, a new coloring book. And last but not least, a cup of ice from our friendly flight attendants can keep a little one happy longer than you might expect.
I do not recommend letting your toddler roam the aisles. My gut tells me that once they get the feeling of freedom, they’re not going to give it up easily (insert tantrum here). Keep them happy and safe in their seats.
Bring good snacks.
If you’re still breastfeeding, you know the power of the boobies. Mama’s milk is pretty much a cure-all for anything that ails a baby, and flying is no different. Boobies smooth out all the bumps: take-off, landing and all the in-betweens.
Of course, anything your baby is drinking will help their ears. Just keep the fluids flowing, especially during take off and landing as the swallowing helps keep their ears from building up too much pressure.
In case it’s been a while since you’ve flown, I’m sorry to tell you that they only serve cookies and pretzels on planes these days. Bring good nutritious snacks on board so that you and baby keep your cool. We love: cheese slices, crackers, apples, bananas, peas, prunes, almonds and Lara bars. I recommend avoiding sugar at all costs. Sugar and confined places are not a good match, especially for little ones.
Diapering and the lavatory.
If you’re traveling alone with your babe you might as well go into what I call “shut down mode.” That means little-to-no fluids for you until you’re about to land. You know how small those bathrooms are, right? Imagine peeing in one of those while holding your baby in your lap. Pulling up your pants with one hand…buttoning, zippering, buckling your belt. With one hand. While trying to keep your baby, your squirmy, squirmy toddler from touching anything and everything gross. All I can say is skip the beverage cart and hold your pee.
And as far as diapering goes, go ahead and start praying, hoping, wishing, begging and crossing your fingers that your little one does not have a poo. Did you know that most planes don’t even have changing tables on board? That’s right. At the most, one bathroom of the three-five on-board might have a teeny-tiny board that folds down over the seat. I once changed Zinnia’s diaper on that thing when she was just a few months old and I don’t care to repeat it. It is about the size of your seat back tray table, and just as flimsy.
On one flight when Zinnia and I were again, traveling sans Steve, I heard that familiar rumble from her diaper. I collected my things and made my way to the back of the plane and was informed by the flight attendant that there was not a changing table on board.
Me: Um, what should I do?
FA: Well you can lay her on the toilet seat.
Me: Seriously? That’s disgusting. I’d rather change her on the floor in the aisle.
FA: Well I think the seat would be cleaner.
Me: You can’t be serious. People don’t crap in the aisle.
With that, I marched back to my seat realizing I’d forgotten my changing pad. Noticing I was exasperated, the gentleman next to me asked if I was okay. I told him there wasn’t a changing table on board and he kindly suggested I change Zinnia’s diaper in the empty middle seat between us.
Thank you, kind Grandpa.
Keep calm and carry on.
Zinnia was six weeks old on her first flight. I was especially nervous because we were traveling without Steve. I expected the worst from my baby and my fellow passengers. I was worried about how her ears would handle the pressure. Would she scream? Cry? Would I? And what would I do if people hassled me for breastfeeding in public? The fears of a new Mama aren’t always rational, I’ll admit, but I’d been on plenty of flights with crying babies, and unkind travelers. Fortunately, Zinnia nursed and slept the entire two hour flight to Nana’s. And me? I, too found my zen and was able to relax as she drifted off to sleep.
Even with our apparent good-flying ju-ju (thank you, thank you airplane gods), I still have minor heart palpitations before each flight. I know that the mood of a baby or toddler can change in an instant. I don’t let myself get carried away by these thoughts though. Instead, I conjure up visions of many more easy-breezy flights in our future.
I sing my Bob Marley airplane song as I step across the threshold of every plane…Don’t worry about a thing, cuz every little thing is gonna be alright…
I swear by this song-mantra. Give it a shot. And as you hum that little tune, cross your fingers that your seat mates are kind old Grandpas that aren’t put off by a little poo.
Safe travels, good luck and enjoy the view!
Visit the official FAA site for government recommendations on flying with children.
About Lisa Coffee
I’m a crafting, gardening, homebirthing, Colorado Mama with a two year old named Zinnia and baby number two (affectionately known as Turnip) due this fall. As a family we strive to live close to the earth and her seasons and my best days are spent gardening the heck out of our quarter-acre backyard, making homemade meals and planning our family’s next big adventure. I’m especially fond of a good Mojito happy hour and I have a weakness for far-too-expensive jeans, but those luxuries sing of life before motherhood. These days, when I’m not stripping cloth diapers or cleaning up after another toddler shenanigan, I can be found barefoot in the garden, at my sewing table, or heading for the hills in the Big White Van. Join me daily, as I share snippets from the good life at littlecoffeebeans.com .