I just counted up and in W's first year of his life he has flown on over 18 flights, thus making him a flying champion. He has clearly earned his baby wings but unfortunately has not been able to capitalize on AA advantage miles since he will not fly in his own seat until he is 2.
Over the18 flights, I have learned what works and what does not work for our little lad. And since babies change so very much with each delicate month of their lives, each flight has been quite different.
Here are a few tips that worked well for us and our baby during the first 6 months of his life.
Going through security can seem daunting to someone sans a baby but it can be quite stress free even with a baby! You are allowed to walk through with your baby either in a carrier or in your arms and you can bring pumped breast milk through security. They just used some device to check my hands but otherwise I had no trouble bringing bottles through. Note- If you are a new mama flying without your baby, you cannot bring pumped breast milk through security. They will make you throw it out [the thought of having to throw out liquid gold just gives me nightmares!] unless you have a baby with you. When I left W and pumped while away, I brought a small insulated lunch box with a few frozen freezer packs. Before the flight, I loaded my pumped milk and frozen freezer packs in the lunch box and put it in my checked luggage. Just remember to get it out immediately when you return home and put in back in the freezer or refrigerator before it thaws completely.
Fly at somewhat random times of day. The earliest flight out is often full due to all of the business travelers and the evenings are always packed in my experience. I would always choose flights closer to lunch time or early afternoon which, for most of our flights, ensured open seats would be available. *baby beds [we swear by this light weight one] and carseats fly for free!
Also, I always choose a seat in the back of the plane. I used to always sit as close to the front as possible but with a baby it is best to sit in the back. If there are open seats on your flight they are typically in the back and you will also avoid those snooty looks from passengers if your angel baby decides to sing at the top of their lungs. And for babies like my W who reallllly loved for his mama to be standing up holding him over my shoulder at all times, I had easy access to the galley [more room to bounce the babe] where the flight attendants often oogled W and told me I was doing a great job.
If you are a nursing mama bring an oversized, thin blanket [I always used these]. I also always wore my nursing tanks instead of nursing bras, that way my stomach was still covered when I released the clasps in order to nurse, and I avoided the awkward pulling up of the shirt leaving Mr. Curious in B26 NO chance at seeing anything! If you prefer to use bottles in public go for it! Just make sure you have it handy and ready to go!
During take off and landing I would always nurse W since he never took a pacifier and his little ears did great. It can be intimidating the first time you nurse in public but if you sit by the window, have your baby in position, casually drape the blanket over you then gracefully unclip your tank to nurse, there is a great chance that no one will even notice! If your baby loves the pacifier I think this would work great as well. Oh and if during take off or landing you baby is sleeping soundly, do not wake them up. Often times W would just sleep right through take off or landing and his little ears did fine.
Pack diapers, wipes and an extra set of clothes for the baby. Luckily for us we often had an open seat beside us so I would just lay that out and change W's diaper really quickly before anyone really knew what I was doing. I honestly do not know how you even begin to change a baby's diaper in the lavatory....
Another item that comes in very handy is some kind of baby carrier [love the Ergo baby]. It makes checking in, walking through the terminal, and handling bulky baggage a breeze!
Traveling during the first 6 months of little W's sweet life actually went pretty smoothly. I have mentioned that he was a fussy little guy and I truly had to stand up bouncing him all hours of the day so being able to stand up on the flight was key for me. And the white noise of the airplane helped drown out my singing voice. If/when he got fussy, I would stand up, hold him close and sing his soothing song [Silent Night] and he would often drift to sleep. My point is, what ever soothing tactics work at home for your baby will most likely work when you are inflight. So if that meant I had to stand up in front of everyone and sing Silent Night to get W to sleep, I did. By golly you do what you gotta do!
I know every baby is different but I hope these tips will help any new mamas out there. I will be back at the end of the week sharing my traveling with a baby 6 months and up tips!