I started writing this blog as I took my first train journey from Delhi to Agra on work sans baby and like all mothers I began to reminiscence about all my sojourns with Miraaya, my daughter, in the last 8 months. Now travel with an infant is not a walk in the park. For travel enthusiasts like me and my husband, and most importantly as twin city couples shuttling between Delhi and Chennai, it was but natural that our daughter would be taking a lot of flights very early in her life. Infact, the amount of air travel I did during the first 8 months of my pregnancy led me to believe that my daughter would be a pro at air travel or at the very least I secretly hoped that would be the case:). Well, in retrospect I think she did not do too badly having taken her first flight from Delhi to Chennai when she was 8 weeks old and first international flight to Rome before she was 4 months old. I still remember how pleased I was to have my daughter’s passport in hand by the time she turned two months old, sic!
Miraaya is now 8.5 months old and has taken 8-9 flights. If I was to look back and advice folks planning air travel with an infant then I must admit that it is a daunting task and perhaps best postponed till the baby is atleast 6-8 weeks old. Initially it is important to be in the comfort and safety of the home environment while the baby is adjusting to her life outside the womb as are you as a mother.
The transition from carefree DINKs who did not flinch at the thought of catching a plane and planning a holiday whether domestic or international at a moment’s notice to first time parents anxious about travelling with a hyperactive baby takes some getting used to. While travel will never be the same, the key is planning in advance. Be ready for the journey and be prepared to soothe, comfort and entertain your baby as much as possible to make this new experience delightful for her. Given below are some tips for travel with an infant which worked for me –
Optimize the time you need to spend at the Airport
First, you need to plan for the time spent at the airport before boarding the plane. Babies can get wary of new surroundings and can be very fussy if your flight interferes with a set routine like nap time or play time. It is best to plan your flights for international travel at night so that your infant can sleep through most of the flight. Jet lag can be a concern especially at the time of return to India from a long overseas flight and it will take you a couple of days to get back to your old routine. So do budget for a few sleepless nights post your vacation.
Minimize Stopovers and Look for Baby Friendly Airports
For long haul flights with a stopover, try and choose a baby friendly destination for the stop-over with the layover not being more than 3 hours. Some airports like Schipol are very baby friendly and even have a baby care area with cot beds and a facility for bathing the baby as well as sterilizing your feeding equipment. So do your research and do not shy from rescheduling your flight especially if it has a long stopover and the airport is not baby friendly.
The Stroller is your Best Friend – Pack it Up
Carrying your stroller/pram is highly recommended and you must check-in the stroller only at the time of boarding. Some airports require you to tale long walks till you reach your boarding terminal such as the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi or the Changi Airport. So it is best not to check in the stroller with your bags and use it to be mobile with the baby. Carrying a baby in your arms at the airport especially when travelling overseas can be tiring and IS NOT RECOMMENDED. You must request the airport staff at the boarding gate to give you the stroller once you disembark.
For those who want to use a baby carrier instead, please be sure that your baby is comfortable in the carrier and will not fuss at the airport. Also during security check you will need to take the baby out of the carrier for the mandatory security check procedures so you will need to be comfortable managing all this on your own.
Do not board first
You might be tempted to be the first to board the flight but beware that your flexibility to move about in the flight with a fussy infant is limited especially while people are boarding and so it might be best to board last. The plane is the only space you and your infant will be in for the next couple of hours so use the time outside the plane.
Have the feeding apparatus ready
The best part about travelling with an infant who is less than six months old is that babies at this age are not mobile. They are easily manageable as compared to an infant who is crawling or has just started walking and wants to explore every nook and corner and reach out for everything ! Furthermore if you are exclusively breastfeeding and do not mind feeding under the covers then the hassle of carrying bottles and cleaning/sterilizing aids is removed. Ofcourse if you are formula feeding then it is best to carry sterilized bottles that you will need in the flight and also have sterilizing tablets on hand in case you need to sterilize some bottles on the plane.
Hand baggage checklist
Your hand-baggage should hold enough diapers for 2 days, wipes and tissues, extra set of clothes including warm clothes for the flight and later (it is freezing in a plane), a shawl/cover, essential medication for baby, small toys (preferably not too noisy). If you are formula feeding/expressing breast milk then carry atleast 2 sets of bottles and sterilizing bags. Do check your bottles for leaks/loose covers to avoid soiling the rest of the stuff in the bag. It is best to keep the baby bag handy – so sneak it in below your seat to have access to it as required.
Book the baby bassinet in advance
Do book your baby bassinet (allowed for infants that weight upto 10 kgs) at the time of booking your air tickets. The bassinet is removed during take-off and landing so you will need to plan to hold your baby at those times and/or wake them up in case they are sleeping. In case you do not get the baby bassinet then do tell the airline staff at the time of check in that you are travelling with an infant so that they can allot you the best possible seat. Airport staff is normally sympathetic to parents with infants. Be calm and polite when requesting for better seating and do not hesitate to ask for help
Take off and landing basics
Be prepared for take-off and landing. Infant ears pop during both times and the pain can make them very uncomfortable. It is best to be feeding your baby at the time of take-off and landing. Most babies will tend to doze off after the feed and that will ensure they are rested for the first couple of hours. You can also stuff the baby’s ears with cotton to ease the pressure.
RELAX – Take a deep breath
Lastly, do not forget to relax 🙂 Parents often get hyper while tending to a cranky baby in a flight. We often get worried about the reactions of fellow passengers and our stress does transfer to the baby making the situation worse. You need to be calm and collected to help soothe and comfort your baby. Check for signs of a wet diaper or hunger frequently. Remember that this is a new experience for your baby and you need to try and make it pleasurable for your little one. Take turns while playing with your baby and do not hesitate to ask for help from the airline staff with extra blankets or help with cleaning bottles etc. Wear your smile and try and introduce your baby to a friendly neighbor on the flight.
Enjoy your travels and keep flying. Sooner or later the travel bug will bite your little one !!!