Your Baby’s First Flight
Flying with an infant, particularly on your own, can seem like a harrowing experience. There are so many things to remember, and so many opportunities for disaster. However, with a little preparation you and baby can have a great time getting from one place to another.
Find out if your local airport allows for an escort to accompany you to the gate. Having an extra pair of hands to help you get through check-in, security, and up to the gate can definitely help relieve some of the anxiety of going the rest of the way alone. If an escort is not an option, make sure you can handle all of your baggage and baby yourself before you leave.
Since you are travelling alone, it is imperative that you have the proper documentation (passports, birth certificates, etc.) You may need a notarized letter from baby’s other parent authorizing you to travel with your child, particularly if you are going out of the country. It’s always best to contact the airport authority first to make sure you are prepared.
All of your carry-on items should be safe to carry, and note that new laws now allow medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml) and do not need to be in the zip-top bag, but you must declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint (see the TSA website for more information). Even though you don’t have to, it still may be easier to pack all your items in a clear plastic bag within your carry on bags for getting through security more quickly.
At the Gate
If you have a stroller, you can actually check it at the gate and take it right to the plane entrance. Fold up the stroller before you leave it, as baggage checkers will not be gentle. When you arrive on the other side your stroller will be waiting for you.
On the Plane
If your airline offers early boarding for those who need more time, take the opportunity to get on the plane and get settled in before other passengers get on. Although it will cost you more, you’ll both be more comfortable if you both have a seat, particularly if the flight is a long one.
Babies have difficulty equalizing air pressure while taking off and landing, so your primary concern is to keep them comfortable during these times. If baby is congested (stuffy nose) it can be worse, so pack some decongestant if baby is old enough to take it. Try to nurse or bottle feed your baby during take-off and landing, as this is the simplest way to help them relieve the extra pressure.
If baby is fussy (and if you are allowed), strap on an infant carrier and walk up and down the aisles. Bring books and toys for older babies, and be prepared for a few hours of “the mommy show.” When it’s time to feed, if you need hot water ask ahead of time, and if you are warming up breast milk you can ask the attendant for a container, or use a plastic-lined air sickness bag.
Finally – find out which bathroom on the plane has a changing table, so you don’t have to tour the plane to change a dirty diaper. And relax; it’s just a few hours, and if you are prepared everything will go more smoothly than you expect.