I bet you read the title of this post and thought, “Finally!”
I regret to inform you that traveling with an infant…with preparedness and grace…is not possible.
First of all, I did not make “goodie bags” for the fellow passengers. I was too busy the night before overpacking things like breast pads and tiny outfits to bother with party favors for anyone who might have to put up with my crying infant. And on that note…NEWFLASH: Infants cry.
I did, however, drop hundreds of dollars on just the right carryon luggage that would acquiesce a slew of diapers, spare pacifiers, wipes, and the 1000 other things you really NEED while traveling with a baby. I also invested in Earplanes (those earplugs that assist with pressurization, a Flyebaby (a hammock of sorts for your baby that goes between you and the drink tray), and probiotics…because our infant had been fussy, and lots of moms and random forums swore probiotics were their Godsend.
THE MORNING OF TRAVEL
We got up at 4AM for a 6:20 flight, and it was barely enough time. Dress the self, dress the baby (without really waking the baby), finish the overpacking, freak out, brush teeth, freak out, load up and leave.
Do we have everything? Yes. But seriously do we have everything? Probably not
Freak out again.
Esme, my baby girl, is an angel. She seems to be super “whatever” about this apparent “midnight adventure” I’m dragging her on. We seem to be doing okay. But once we get to the airport, things hit the fan.
THE NEW MOM AIRPORT STRUGGLE
I didn’t book my flights with Esme in mind, because we obviously didn’t know her gender or birth date, let alone her name. As a result, new boarding passes have to be printed for myself and her upon arrival at the airport, taking no less than 15 precious minutes. We go to security only to realize they’ve printed the passes wrong, and therefore need to go back to the luggage line. We are then behind a person who has NO FREAKING CLUE how to pack or RE-PACK a bag that weights 50lbs or less, and we wait, wait, wait, until 10 minutes later when I break down in tears and beg the agent to do something.
As a new mom, by the way, everything is a dire and urgent situation.
But of course, you know this.
THE SECURITY CHECK NIGHTMARE
Later on, aka 10 minutes from the plane physically departing, I “get” to make my way through security, which is virtually impossible to do with a baby. Here;s why:
- I cannot wear my baby through the security check, I have to carry her.
- This means putting my bag, also shoulder bag and ALL OF MY OTHER stuff through security.
- Sandals that buckled, which I wore because I thought, “I won’t have to take these off,” needed to be unbuckled and removed to pass security. By the way, SIR, if I could pack a weapon into a strap-on sandal, I would have made enough money selling them to not be traveling via economy jet…FYI….that aside…
- I have to remove my shoes, and put them in one bin.
- I have to find my fresh and frozen breastmilk, and put that in another bin.
- Then I have a bin for my carryon, and one for the Ergobaby carrier.
- Our flight leaves in freaking five minutes.
- They put her Wubbanub in its own bin, so it is now germ-infested and can’t be used to pacify her until I sanitize it.
- I get through security, but I also have to hold a baby, strap on my shoes, install an Ergobaby carrier on myself to get her on to the plane, and gather up all of my breastmilk and bags and the now-germy Wubbanub.
- Meanwhile, she is crying.
- The boarding agent is saying, “Last call for flight such-and-such!” (so much for the priority boarding and extra time I needed to get situated).
- I am in tears as a random stranger offers to hold my baby while I put on my shoes. I tearfully tell the rushed ticket agent to have the flight wait for me as I put the breast milk back into the over-crowded diaper bag.
- I get my baby settled in her carrier, and RUN into my flight, crying, waving goodbye to my husband who is standing helplessly outside of security, and trying to bounce-sooth the baby mid-run.
Once on the plane, I board in a chaotic and messy amble, apologizing to all the people in first class who I bump into and who glare at me as a result…the “commoner” with the screaming baby and bulky, imposing gear. I envy them silently, as I would love a free bloody Mary right about 30 minutes ago, and maybe a hot towel to wash the spit-up off my shoulder. But I’m a mom now. Traveiing economy. I’m not anything to these people besides something pitifully entertaining to watch, and they only notice me because they’re secretly hoping I don’t use their lavatory to pump or change a diaper.
I barely find my seat, and manage to pull out the “Earplanes” plugs. They are too big for my baby’s ears. Of freaking course.
I realize I will have to nurse or feed her during the takeoff, and pull out a preemptive bottle. I have to have a stranger portion out 2 oz of my breastmilk for me since my hands are full of squirmy infant, and I busy myself cleaning the baby’s pacifier with my pump wipes, which were tucked into my bra strap. Because you can’t reach pockets around an Ergobaby carrier. Or anything else for that matter.
As we took off, Esme was thankfully sleeping. I stuck a bottle in her mouth anyways, and the greatest blessing of the morning was when she started drinking the milk in her sleep, keeping her ear pressure in tact during takeoff.
She then slept the entire flight, me holding her with tired limbs and a bottle in one hand, phone in the other, bottle cap between my boobs, the Wubbanub tucked beneath one of my bra straps, and using a nursing cover as both a spit up rag and a warm blanket for her on the frigid flight.
And I texted my mom (un-advisedly) during takeoff with, “I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN.”
We have smoking rooms, we have luxury lounges…
Where the HELL are the mother’s rooms???
Airports everywhere, you have failed.
All traveling moms need a CLEAN and COMFORTABLE place to pump, nurse, change diapers, eat and hell…even nap. Where are these places???
I found myself seeking out the corners of various terminals, trying to hide my breasts from the peeping strangers and keep my baby girl’s crotch from plain view. It was damn near impossible. I mean, PLEASE…
If you’re going to designate a spot for people to get cancer, at least designate another spot for moms to raise human beings.
Our flights went well overall. Esme’s ears did not bother her, I was able to use my Flyebaby to cradle her during the long flights and I even bought an $8 glass of the worst red wine ever on my longest flight to reward myself for the entire experience.
However, DO NOT bank on those random “super nice” people who want to give you their bulkhead and first-class seats. These people are few and far between, and I personally didn’t run into any. Most passengers are too busy checking their stocks, wiping off with a warm towel and ordering their first drink. But be very grateful to strangers willing to hold your baby while you pee, touch your breast milk without cringing and put up with your elbows and baby’s feet all up in their paid-for seat space’s business. These people are as kind as they can be under the circumstances.
- A spare change of clothes for the baby AND yourself
- Diapers, wipes and ointment
- Frozen and unfrozen breast milk
- Probiotic drops, gas drops and gripe water.
- A Flyebaby. Learn how to use it before the day of chaos.
- One toy and one book to serve as distractions.
- The Flyebaby. Seriously. It’s the best thing to happen to a non-bulkhead seat.
- Two pacifiers, in Ziploc baggies.
- Disposable changing table liners.
- Breast pump and supplies (and charger!).
- Spare bottles or milk storage bags to pump into.
- Extra empty bottles (2).
- Wipes for breast pump and supplies. Try @ArmandHammer’s pacifier wipes if you think Medela’s are too expensive.
- Your carrier (one Ergobaby and/or Boba wrap).
- Phone charger.
- A nursing cover, which can be used as a rag and blanket apparently as well, taking the place of three items. But seriously, wear a shirt that zips or lets you nurse or pump easily.
- Healthy snack bars with lots of protein.
- A water bottle you can refill.
- A smaller, specific place to put your ID, money, passes etc. My mom bought me a thin belt that folds my boarding passes, ID, etc right into it, and is comfortable too.
- Your own 3-oz bottle of alcohol.
- Your business cards (to prove to people you used to be a real person).
- Hand sanitizer.
- A cushiony roll-up changing mat you can lay your baby on while waiting for long period of time, so she can spread out and relax a bit but not have to be directly on the floor.
IF YOU HAVE TO TRAVEL SOLO WITH BABY
It may go just fine. But if not, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Having to handle that much chaos by oneself is the worst.
Just do your best, TAKE ADVICE, and please…for the love of God, pump and then splurge on that $8 glass of terrible wine, because you deserve it.
And next time:
BRING A COMPANION.