How to Travel Well with Babies | Newborn - 6mo Old
I often receive text messages and DM's including questions like, "what is it like to travel with a newborn, a 2-month-old?" and so on. I wanted to write a post with a few go tricks but mostly encouragement for people traveling with their little ones of up to six months. I feel like it changes between 6-8 months quite a bit, so I'm categorizing.
First, please remember and sit with the knowledge that every baby is different. So all of my tips may not apply but if you're anything like us, I feel like Justin and I were willing to try anything that seemed reasonable at least once. It's one of the ways we as new parents learn what our babies like, what feels comfortable for us and what just-doesn't-work. The good news, you never have to try the thing again, the better news, sometimes it works wonderfully.
"I HAVE SO MUCH SH*T TO CARRY, HOW WILL I MAKE IT FROM MY CAR TO THE PLANE?"
Yes, yes you do. However, anytime I'm going somewhere that I know anyone with a baby, I borrow. Any other mom that has ever boarded a flight gets it. Borrow car seats, strollers, toys, bath gear, bath tubs, bumbos etc. Whatever might be bulky- borrow. It's okay and I promise you'll have a chance to loan these things to another mama... It's the gift that keeps giving. Once you've negated lugging ALL of the baby things with you, there are still baby things... So once you get out of the car you just wrap that baby on. They'll be great.. All of the way through security.
I wear cloth wraps through security. Ring slings have to be taken off in America which means lots of quick hand work when babe may have already fallen asleep.. and that sucks. Go pee, grab a snack all while wearing. I would always let him stretch or play at the gate for as long as I could. Good news, you now appropriately identify with all of those lucky pre-boarders. You also can gate check your stroller, if you brought it. It's great. Push them and your purse through the airport and then gate check and even better, it's waiting for you and you know it didn't get lost in the shuffle of checking gear. Praise Him!
Wrap that baby on as soon as you see that flight attendant getting comfy with her megaphone speaker... On you go. I get settled and let him out again.. Off with the wrap. Just don't try and wear it on the flight. It's too much fabric and you need that milk. I would let him play on the seats next to me until our new neighbors showed up. Once our area was filled up, I smiled so big took a glance around and said, "I apologize in advance, he usually does great but he is a baby!" BIG SMILES. People laugh, smile and offer encouragement. You can also spot out "the one." That helps you best know who to pay the least attention to. It's like we don't need to absorb the judgment, if they deem applicable...
"THERE'S A BABY ON THE FLIGHT"
Yes, there is. Lucky you. You get to sit in the presence of new life, parents growing in their relationship before your very eyes and if you're lucky you'll get to hear the sweet coo's of this little baby.
The first rule of thumb, put away your instinctual desire to care about what others might think. Listen to me when I say, babies cry. It's normal and it's fine and the people around you more often than not are actually not bothered. Every once in a while you'll get an Oscar the grump but for the most part, people want to help you. They'll move, pick up your bag, encourage you, cover their feet with the blanket that is draping off of your little one while you're trying to nurse, put your hair up and keep from crying because you almost missed your flight (oh wait, that's just me) all at the same time. Generally speaking, people actually love the babies.. but if you're an avid traveler before having a baby join you it's easy to do people's thinking for them and we just shouldn't. Most flights, I had people asking... begging... to hold Amos. "Yes, you may hold Amos."
So breathe and relax. Babies do feel your tension and the more stressed you are the more they may cry.. We don't need that, if we don't have to have it.
Starting with the wake up on the day of our flight, I aimed for timing his naps and feedings to accommodate the flight as best I could. You have to go with your gut when delays happen, because they happen. I'd encourage you to feed before they get to the point of over tired and over hungry and then supplement with the paci during actual take off or a double feeding if you have to. But if everything is on time, I'd target a feeding time for take off. If you're not a mama that nurses your very littles to sleep for naps, this is the time to make an exception. I was the same.. scheduled - self-soothing baby training - no nursing to sleep. Except for on a plane. Just sleep, little baby.
If your babe doesn't nurse for a super long time, wait until the jet actually starts going fast on the tarmac before you latch. That way they'll nurse through take off and through 10k feet. We nurse while we take off to keep their little ears from hurting. Most often when these babies/kids are screaming at take off and landing it's because of their ears. We want to prevent that. If they won't nurse or their bottle is consumed quickly, give them their paci and hold it in. Amos started eating solids at 4 months, so when that started I had an ample amount of snacks that he couldn't resist handy so that I could keep his jaw moving and keep his ears from plugging. Also, if you don't pray- it's a good time to start. God doesn't want their ears hurting either.
Midflight - if they can sleep, great! But be prepared. I kept 4 toys handy. One that rattles, one that crinkles, one that has mechanics and one random.. maybe that he could chew comfortably. I kept them hidden but available in the seat pouch and pulled one out at a time. It's okay if it drops and they play with it again. It's building their immunity. It's okay if the neighbor picks it up ten times. They'll stop when they're tired of the game. Again, let them do their own thinking.
It's okay to let someone else lift your bag overhead. You're already doing Superhero things, the bag lift isn't making more obvious. Keep what you need under your seat or in the plane pouch. Put a snack bar in there. Flights can be long when you can't move an inch so that babe stays asleep.... You might feel hungry and there's nothing worse than knowing it's 2' away but you can't have it.
Pack two blankets. Those flights get chilly for the little ones. A thicker one and a thinner one.
Once I'd start to feel my ears popping or adjusting or my head felt that first dip nearing descent, nursing (or any of the previous tricks) apply again. I'd always start nursing Amos at that point. Wake them up or wind them down if they've been playing, give them pats and breathe deep. This can be hard for babies who are very scheduled to eat just 1.5 after they ate when they usually have a 3 hour gap but they'll push through for their milkies. Nurse them until you can't any longer or until you touch down. At least that's what I did. This helps their ears for all of the same reasons. Hooray, mama's and dada's you made it!
I try and pack up as much as I can, get my wrap/carrier on and place baby in. Sometimes, call me crazy, I asked the neighbor to hold the babe while I settled us.. This helps everything feel streamlined and less crazy once I stand up to leave.
BUT WHAT ABOUT BABY JETLAG?
That's real too. For all of us. My trick of the trade after dozens upon dozens of flights every year before I had babies is to NOT do the math. When I land, that's my new time. Watches get changed as soon as I land and I no longer know what time it is elsewhere.
It's the same for my babies. I keep the pattern of his sleep... Up for an hour down for an hour or whatever it may be but it's the pattern that applies globally.
Overseas: this is a little more tricky. I did let Amos sleep a lot more when we went to Germany with him at four months old. I also was up with Justin bouncing and singing and crying during the night for the first two nights. But then it clicked and he switched.
Going back into time on our return flight, I was the "mean" mama and made Amos do his day cycles in FULL the entire flight. That means I had to wake him out of the MOST passed out state the entire flight across the pond. He was a champ. A lot of people say that you shouldn't wake a baby who is asleep on a plane, however, I wasn't trying to get home at 11 pm and be awake with the baby. It was the best choice we made. Justin thought I was a nut but when we got home, we all slept through the night. "You're welcome, honey."
WHAT DO I BRING?
Again, borrow anything bulky that you can.
Here is a list pretending nothing is able to go on loan...
- Carseat *)You can rent a car seat with your rental car.)
- Stroller (you can use an umbrella stroller if you really don't want bulk. I love our Nuna, it holds everything I don't want to carry and when they're that little his car seat just pops in and out. Easy.
- outfits per day
- I packed about 10 diapers for flight days and bought diapers or had Amazon send them upon arrival.
- 1 Bottle
- 3 Paci's
- 4 blankets
- A handful of toys (literally 5-7 toys-chewable, quiet noise toys)
- 1 Pack of Wipes Per 3 Days (ish)
- His bath soap + baby q-tips
- I always used a little towel at the bottom of a sink to keep him in place while bathing or showered holding him. He loved this for far distances.
- Nose Frida Nose Sucker + Spray... New climates can be hard for their little bodies and the spray really helped Amos. Especially when he came down with something and we didn't speak the language for meds or help.
- Hand Sanitizer ... I'm not a big germ-phobic person but flights feel different for that. Just to be safe.
- Anything else that feels normal for your story with your baby. I just tried packing only what I needed for him and not a lot extra, ever.
On my person for inflight...
- A pack of wipes
- Diaper sacks (Stinky blowouts all over clothing will make you thankful) I also took the waterproof sack from my Lulu bag and put it in his diaper bag permanently.
- Changing pad
- 10-12 diapers
- 2 paci's (lots of me sucking on the dropped one on travel days)
- 3-5 Toys
- Pack 2 spare outfits in their bag or your purse. They will have a blow out on the plane 99% of the time... just kidding it's 100% of the time.
- Baby Snacks (coconut milk creamies were my favorite)
- Teething oil
- 2 blankets (1 thick, one guaze)
- 1 wrap
BUT, KAREN, IS IT WORTH IT?
Babies can be easy to travel with. Traveling with your partner while the baby is accompanying you proves easier. The first time I flew alone with Amos I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Guess what, I survived. That said, even when complications come our way, it's always been worth it for me, for us. We love having Amos with us and it's fun that he's experiencing so much so young. I pray we're able to give that to him for the majority of our lives. Is that for me? Is that for him? I'm not sure, but it's where we're at and it's what we do and Justin and I find joy in giving Amos space to have already been on so many flights, in so many states, across the ocean in and several countries. It's humbling and life giving and makes us cry tears of gratitude to give our guy more. Any time we can give him a platform to grow from that is from deep down in our dream tank, it makes us really thankful.
I hope this feels hopeful and encouraging. It's good and worth it!!
Remember the flight crews know how to help. You can always check a stroller and car seat for free! On any airline I've ever flown, Frontier to Lufthansa.
They'll always know how to do it, don't stress.
Ask questions when you have them! Be brave.
You can always gate check these items.
Southwest Airlines offer a large back to protect everything. Some other airlines do this automatically.
Don't be afraid to ask for help, people want to help.
Sometimes we cry while we travel with babies, that's okay too. There are still a lot of hormones adjusting in those first six months, give yourself grace.
Don't pay attention to bullies. They're not as common as you think.
Ask a flight attendant to hold your baby so that you can pee.
Cheers. Go see the world. And don't let these little blessings stop you from doing the other things you love. Just let them join your story, don't write an entirely new one and lose yourself.