I’ve never had a fear of flying, but flying with a brand new baby – now THAT did send some very cold chills down my spine.
You see, I’m a frequent flyer – a traveler who has the art of flying down to the tee – the person who smiles knowingly at other frequent flyers when a newbie fumbles in their bag trying to retrieve a boarding pass that somehow managed to find the Bermuda triangle halfway between the security checks and the boarding gates. And, up to now, I’ve been that traveler who avoided babies like the plague. I would board the plane and walk past that first row of seats with the bassinets and sweat-browed parents preparing for take-off and smile to my travel buddy noting proudly that I had booked our seats FAR away from any little people.
Now, I’m THAT sweat-browed parent, or rather, I was that sweat-browed parent when my mom and I flew with my son to Johannesburg for a work engagement last week. I’d read enough blogs and websites to know that preparation was key when flying with a baby. Thus, the night before our flight, I managed to pack, repack and quadruple check that we had everything. Essential was packing a change of clothing for our boy, 4 nappies (they recommend one per hour of travel time – excessive, but just in case), the nappy changing paraphernalia and a bottle of expressed milk so that he could be sucking on take-off and landing (my son doesn’t take the dummy – and THAT’s a story on its own! I longingly look at parents with dummy-sucking babies all the time).
We packed the car seat (essential if not renting a car with a baby seat and free to check in when traveling with babies – as are prams and a travel cot on BA, not sure about other airlines yet) and managed to get away with well-packed hand luggage so that we were not frazzled when walking through the terminal. By arriving 2 hours before our flight (in my past life, I would whizz in 40 minutes before my flight with my boarding pass I’d printed at home and only hand-luggage – gone are those days!), we managed to be calm before and had time to do a feed in the lounge and change his nappy before boarding. I carried him in my baby carrier all the way which meant that he was asleep when we boarded the plane. I braved the “Ag nee, please don’t sit next to me” looks from fellow travelers and my mom and I sat next to each other quietly praying that my boy would stay calm. I was calmer having “Glam-Ma” by my side as my “wingman”. I left the baby carrier strapped on (keep a scarf or muslin over baby to avoid him being over-stimulated in the airport and plane or baby admirers over-exciting little one) and fastened my own seat belt – this was recommended by the crew as there are no bassinets any longer. My boy slept through his entire first flight! The next day, our return flight was more eventful with my boy crying at boarding, but after managing to breastfeed on the runway, we managed another rather peaceful flight. I did pace the aisle once doing the baby slow sway to settle him and after that, peace reigned inside the cabin again.
Moral of the story – calm mommy – calm baby. Preparation is key! DO NOT pack just before flying. Have a bottle handy or something for baby to suck on for take-off and landing but if they’re asleep, let them sleep. I’ve heard flying gets harder as they get older, but for now, at 2 months and a few days old – he is mommy’s perfect wingman!