However, now that I know these things actually make for an enjoyable plane ride, I feel like I am obligated to share them with you. There is nothing (I repeat: nothing) more unnerving as a mother than to have your baby go into Meltdown Mode on a crowded plane. Trust me, I know. William had the teeniest meltdown that lasted approximately 5 seconds on our first flight, but in Mama time those 5 seconds felt like 5 hours and of course I felt like every. single. person. on the plane was glaring at me with repulsion. (Why is that we think everything is about us, by the way? I'm sure half of the plane didn't even hear him. I digress.)
So here are my tips for preventing Meltdown Mode while traveling:
- "Practice" before you leave - practice some naps in a carrier, Pack N Play, etc. before your big trip. William will sleep in a Moby Wrap, so we borrowed one for our trip both times. We also practiced some naps in the Pack N Play before our trip because I knew he'd be sleeping in one once we arrived in Nashville (of course, he didn't sleep well in it there, but it could have been worse if we didn't practice beforehand). Also, try to stick to their regular napping routine. For example, when it was "nap time" in the Moby, I'd walk William around in the airport and sing our nap time song, put part of the Moby over his head (not obstructing his breathing, but just enough to make it darker), and then he'd drift right off to sleep). Try to keep things as "normal" as you can.
2. Try to plan your plane trip around feeding schedules and/or throw your feeding schedule right out the window - that comment seems to contradict itself, but hear me out. We didn't actually "plan" it this way when we bought our tickets, but it worked out this way both times, and I honestly think this is why William did so well. For example, William normally eats at 7 AM, 11 AM, 3 PM, and again at 6:30 PM. Our flights just so happened to take off during a feeding time, so it worked out great that William was hungry during takeoff and/or landing times. However, even if takeoff and landing didn't line up with our "scheduled" feeding time, I would've offered him a bottle anyway. You always want to feed or offer a pacifier to your baby during takeoff/landing to prevent their ears from hurting. William is the type of baby, however; that won't eat if he's not hungry. So it worked out great that it was time to eat during takeoff/landing, otherwise he may not have taken a bottle.
3. Bring a pacifier even if your baby doesn't like it - William has never liked the pacifier, but we do have a few just in case. Most of the times, I end up holding it in his mouth because his first reaction is to spit it right out, but this really did help on the plane. There was one time when he had already eaten at takeoff, and we were getting ready to land and he wasn't hungry again so I offered the pacifier and it really helped keep him calm. Even if you think your baby won't suck on a pacifier, bring one. And even if your baby is sleeping during takeoff/landing, shove that pacifier in their mouth! :)
4. Don't be afraid to ask for help - The flight attendants are seriously so accommodating when you are traveling with a baby. They asked me if I wanted extra blankets, extra water, if I needed anything, etc. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
5. Change diapers right before you board - Even if you think your baby has an empty diaper, go ahead and change it again before you board. In case you were wondering, there are no changing tables in the airplane bathrooms (yep, I asked).
6. Take advantage of extra seating and early boarding - On one particular flight, the plane was half-empty so I took advantage and moved to a larger seat. Lucky for everyone on board (not), William had a blowout diaper and he also refuses to sit in a poopy diaper for more than 5 seconds. In order to prevent Meltdown Mode, I moved to an empty seat and was able to change William's diaper, and let him stretch his legs and play a bit.
Also, most airlines allow parents traveling with infants under the age of two to board early (like before the fancy first class people, early!). Take full advantage of this! It allowed me to get all of our luggage situated, prepare William's bottle, take out any toys/bibs/burp cloths I'd need for the flight, etc.
7. What's free/what's not free - educate yourself beforehand regarding which items are free/not free for your particular airline. This time we flew Delta, and you are allowed 1 Diaper Bag (this counts as a carry on bag for yourself, not your baby - be sure to take a big one!), 1 stroller, 1 car seat, 1 personal item, and then your checked baggage.
8. Feeding solids on the plane? No problem! - I took several of these small Ziploc Storage Containers and used them as "bowls" for William's food (he typically only eats 1/2 of a jar of baby food right now, so I didn't want the rest of it to go to waste). I also took his spoons, lots of wipes, his feeding bibs, and extra Ziploc baggies to put the used spoons in when we were done. Nathan held him, and I fed him. It worked out great and was another way to keep his ears comfortable because he was swallowing.
9. Traveling alone? Be sure to pack light! - On our flight back home, I was actually flying solo with William because Nathan flew back earlier in the week. It helped that all I took with me was the Moby Wrap, and the Diaper Bag. I consolidated everything else into my checked bag and just used the Diaper Bag for William's stuff and my wallet. It was still a lot to manage even with the diaper bag and baby, but we made it work. I took full advantage of the "Family Restrooms" in the airport. There's just way more room to spread out in there, and William could sit in the deep changing table while I used the bathroom, washed my hands, etc.
10. Breathe Deep, and Relax. Repeat. - Keep in mind that no matter how prepared you are, or how many times you've tried "practicing" naps in the carrier/Pack N Play, things will not go exactly like they do at home. Even if your baby is comfortable, dry, fed, etc. on the plane, he/she could still freak out for no apparent reason. That's OK. Just try to stay calm and remember that you don't know any of those people and you'll never have to see them again. ;)