Travel with baby Part One: Preparing to fly

Just when I’ve sort of started getting the hang of keeping a tiny human fed, clean, entertained and relatively rested on a daily basis, the time has come to do it all on a transatlantic flight. God help me. I mean it.

This Thursday, I am taking my five-and-a-half-month-old baby and a pared back selection of our belongings on a journey from London Gatwick to Piarco Trinidad.

Since I wanted to make the most of being on “maternity leave” by visiting Trinidad for a month, I will be conducting this feat sans husband.

So, with gritted teeth and a deep breath, I’m giving it my best attempt to being something that does not come naturally to me: organised.

I’ve broken the planning down into the essential categories. If you’ve traveled by airplane with a baby, I’d love it if you threw your two-pence in.

Although Talitha is mostly breastfed, I still need to top up with a couple of ounces here and there of either expressed breast milk or formula so I needed to think this one through. The sources I read online and a couple of people I spoke to had differing opinions about whether you’re allowed to take liquids used for infant feeding through security.

I thought I’d clear this conundrum with Virgin Atlantic. They say I can either take 100ml of breast milk or formula aboard or bring powder and the crew will provide the hot water. I’m still unclear whether this just refers to security but it hardly matters – taking cartons wouldn’t be practical for us since I only need two ounces at a time. So, I can exhale, that bit’s settled.

But there’s another aspect of feeding that I haven’t worked out yet. I’m envisioning Talitha popping off, letting my giant boob splay on to the embarrassed business man sitting next to me, no warning given. With a baby who (quite rightly) refuses to have her head covered and melons that need holding, I’ve still not worked out a way that lets me feed efficiently while discreetly. I’m locked into lactivism by default. So, sorry in advance, fictional business man.

I got my act together and booked a bassinet. Phew! Not that I’m seriously expecting Talitha to sleep in there, especially not during a daytime flight. Though that would be really, really cool if it did happen. C’mon, baby. I figured it would mean sitting by the bulkheads, which offers more space. It also gives me somewhere to put her down when I need to – I don’t know – do anything that will be a lot easier two-handed.

Getting serious about catching z’s, though, I’ve got two thoughts on that. I’ve got two options for getting her to take nap (unless the plane engine proves magical) walking up and down the aisle with her in the Ergobaby carrier (I’m hoping this will also make the airport time less stressful) or feeding her A LOT. The second will only work if she’s plum knackered. See above about the distracted while breastfeeding thing.

To be honest, this is the bit I’m most nervous about. I keep telling myself not to worry about it because it might not even present a problem. I just really hope she’ll sleep enough not to be grumpy.

The kid will be wearing disposables on the plane. Not enough room in the hand luggage for bulky cloth. Ah well.

We’ll also be doing vests and sleepsuits all the way. I want her to be as comfortable as possible to increase chances of sleep. Dressing her simply will also make the inevitable puke/saliva/poo/pee/my food changes a little less annoying. Also, to me, a sleepsuit just shouts “Baby!” so I’m hoping she’ll be so cute that even grumpy fictional businessmen will be inclined to think nicely of us.

And on the topic of changing… I’m prepared for LOTS of it. Just in case. Four of everything and a gazillion nappies set for lift off.

Just in case…
Umm, I figure this includes packets of Calpol, a sippy cup for water in case things go horribly wrong when we land in a tropical climate and my breasts just aren’t doing it (I know this is probably unnecessary) and a few toys and a book to make me feel like I’m being proactive in entertaining her. I’ve heard vomit bags do the trick though.

So have I forgotten anything? What would you make sure to have when taking a baby on an 8-hour flight?

Image: Ivan Bandura

mother • freelance writer • home educator • #revillagingpodcast • breastfeeding counsellor • no dig farm • Trini in Cornwall [she/her]

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  • Hi, I have made a transatlantic ( london- vancouver 10 hr) flight 5 times now with our first son, at 10 weeks, at 9 months( on my own) and aged 2. And to be honest they have all gone far better than feared and he never slept on the flight at 10 weeks or at 9 months. Make friends with the cabin staff, when I flew on my own they were more than happy to mind him when I needed to use the bathroom. Take minimal supplies when actually doing nappy changes as there is next to no room once you are trying to change a nappy in the bathroom – if its just wet, there is enough room if you have a bulk head seat to do it there on the floor, at least there was on BA flights. Re liquids, if you bring expressed milk or made up formula through security they will ask you to taste it. Use the sling, smile at your neighbours and so long as you are clearly doing all you can to keep her happy other passengers are usually supportive and helpful. I found regular feeding and changes helped both keep baby happy and helped pass the time. Have changes of clothes not just for baby but for yourself, a lesson another friend of mine learnt the hard way when her little one threw up all over her, she ended up with matching outfits for baby and her made by cabin crew from pillow covers! We used the bassinet more to store all our things in rather than son as he refused to go in it and have them to hand. Have a great flight and time with family. 
    Roz – Kath C’s sister in law

  • I did an 18 hour (yes, 18!) flight with Ben when he was 3.5 months and back again when he was 4.5 months. You sound like you have thought of most things. I found that the take off and landing really upset him and he wanted to suck but due to the stupid extension seat belt that he had to wear he could not physically reach my boob. So, even though he would not take a dummy unaided I did wish that I’d had one with me to hold in his mouth and hopefully give some comfort from the horrid ear thing.

    Hope you have a fantastic time, see you next year! x

    • Eighteen hours at that age. Respect to you! I’m taking a dummy but I think I’ll have a bottle ready just in case as she’s not a fan of the dummy. At any rate, if I’m able to reach to feed her in the car seat (sadly, I am) then I may well be able to reach her with her strapped to my lap. That’ll be a sight for my fictional businessman co-passenger anyway. See you in January! x

  • I found (as with most situations) that my boobs were my most valuable tool on a five hour flight with a baby who hates sitting still and not being on the move. Arlo pretty much fed for the whole flight (and that was when he was 11 months old). At one point I walked up and down the aisle with him in the sling to send him off, but at times that can be difficult to do as the drinks trolleys etc are going up and down the aisle. I do think the white noise of the engines helps a bit. Hopefully Talitha will surprise you.

    • When breasts are not the answer then you’re in trouble! Eleven months is reckoned to be smack in the most difficult age range for flying with a child. Well done! I’ll mind the drinks trolleys. Thanks, I hope so too!

  • Most of all try to be as relaxed as possible as Talitha will pick up on it, if you are stressed. Also, accept all help offered to you at the airport. People are usually really friendly and helpful, if you travel with a baby. As I told you, I was so afraid of flying with Amy, but she was good as gold and slept from take-off to landing – the boob did the job LOL x

  • Adele, organized! *impressed* 😛 Gone are the days of chucking it all in the suitcase eh?! 😛

    Right, my advice, do NOT give baby Calpol during flight, unless she IS ill, as in showing symptoms that are listed on the bottle. I’ve heard of people trying to keep their little ones quiet while flying by practically drugging them, even a little amount is dangerous. If she gets ill, or shows signs of becoming ill, give her less than the required dose and do so with the help of someone else. Reason being, (forgive me for adding to any worry), that if anything happens up there, you are not close to anywhere that can provide what you need in an emergency.

    Try to feed her before you leave at good time, so that her next feed coincides with take off time! 😀 Take two jumpers, super warm and light, for fluctuating temps, even during the day.

    There is a way to rub her neck to her chest to help her swallow. There should be a video somewhere demonstrating. Make lots of friends to help! And keep probably light spare clothing for yourself. :D:D:D Talitha is too cute for any fictional businessman to become grumpy.

    Between you and my friend, I’m learning ALOT about babies, and I am glad to be able to share stuff I learnt back and forth! The general consensus is that younger babies are better behaved on planes than older ones, so don’t panic! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • Yeah, I’m not into using unnecessary medication. Besides, Calpol doesn’t have that effect on Talitha. I have, however, run into times when she’s genuinely needed pain relief (coming down with a cold) and I’ve not had anything. So I need it for that purpose.

      Thanks for the other suggestions. I’d forgotten about the rubbing thing. 

  • make sure that she is scking on something when you are taking off and landing so that her ears don’t get clogged. Make sure and have a cooler more breatheable change of clothes ready for when you land as the heat will be unpleasent for her at first. Buy a bottle of water in duty free as a spre water supply. Best of luck ! will say a wee prayer for you guys.Looking foward to seeing you all. Xxxxxx  

  • How very brave of you! If you can do post how your trip went you have landed. My mom and family in TT have not meet my son yet, well except on lil sis. I’m so afraid of the journey! I’ve vowed I’ll not visit home unitll he can speak, thinking that I will be able to rationalise with him. He has not special toy of comforter, he only wants me when he’s not 100%, so therein lies the problem.

    As she’s still little take favourite toy and other items that can keep her occupied when she’s not feeding. If she has a comforters pack it now so you don’t forget. For yourself dress comfy and don’t forget your fligth socks and chewing gum help with the air pressure. Most of all have fun! Looking fwd to your pics. I’ve not been home since I was 5mths pregnant with Angelo :0)

    How are liking your Ergobaby?

    • Oh I bet your family’s dying to meet him! Yes, they say it’s better to fly once they’re old enough to be interested in the experience. 

      I haven’t quite got the knack of my ergo but I’m sure I soon will.