While stranded in Toronto Pearson airport for nine hours, waiting for a delayed flight to Kansas City, a thought popped into my mind – what better time to write about traveling with a baby other than now – Like many other working mothers, I usually don’t get this opportunity of being stuck in a brightly lit, lively, busy airport by myself. So, like Dr. Seus says, that ‘waiting place’ is not for me, I take full advantage of this free time that fell on my lap unexpectedly, and would like to share with you a bit of my experiences of traveling around the globe with my boys. First of all, there is no ‘absolutely correct’ ways to do this ‘mom’ thing, just find what fits you and things will work out. You already welcomed this chaos to your life when your little one joined you on this earth, enjoy these hard times – because it will be gone so quick, you are going to miss it.
We took our first son on his first flight to Denver, Colorado on a five-day work/family trip; a three hour flight, two adults and one infant. I took my second son to Chicago for a Christmas weekend trip just to walk around the windy city – he barely had started walking. The third son was on a flight to Toronto when he was just two months old accompanying me on a full-day interview – yes I breast fed the baby while on breaks during the interview process. Including these, there were many domestic and international trips either as a whole family or few at a time. We flew for either work/family trips for a week or month long trip overseas. You have to believe me when I say I have seen it all and tried it all. My friend just wrote about how my life looks chaotic with three boys but I always seem to come on top of it with a smile on my face and that’s how I would like you to picture yourself as a mother or mother to be – always with a smile, no matter what – because motherhood is a wonderful thing.
Prepare ahead – make tons of phone calls.
For a stress free – at least low stress – air travel, what you cannot avoid is preparing ahead. From the moment you book the flights, you need to work on making this trip as easy as possible for you; always remembering to keep your baby’s health and wellbeing your priority.
Call airline companies to check on available facilities for babies on board. I found out that our car rental company can provide a car seat free of charge at the destination, so we didn’t have to carry our own all the way from here. We put the baby on the bassinet that the airline provided free of charge. Once we requested the bassinet, they also upgraded us to an economy plus seat with more leg room and of course room to keep our bassinet. We carried the baby on a Baby Bjorn – the best kind of baby carrier I have ever used – across airports going from one gate to the other, got a very nice car seat from the rental company, wiped it clean with disinfectant wipes I carried everywhere with me. For a whole week, the baby traveled around safely buckled in the car seat. United Airlines lets you carry your own baby car seat, breast pump and a diaper bag in addition to the carry-on baggage allowance. For a full list of baby items that are allowed in United, visit https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/infant.aspx.
Take minimum amount of stuff you need. Chances are you’ll be in a place where you can get a small pack of diapers for the baby, so why pack diapers for two weeks in your check-in luggage? Same comes to clothes. Layer, mix and match is a great way to stay stylish on the go without having to carry the whole wardrobe with you. Remember babies clothes are very easy to just hand wash and hang to dry overnight. I usually pack two-days-worth of supplies for baby in my carry-on luggage in case my check-in does not show up at the destination.
Be mindful of others around you, but you don’t have to give up your happiness for theirs either.
When I travel with little babies, I bring small bags of chocolates or packets of M&Ms for everyone around. No one says no to chocolates and M&Ms. These little bags of M&Ms do make the baby cries seem less loud and less annoying than it actually is. Rarely, you’ll find a sad soul who will complain about ‘that crying baby’, but hay, they’ll get over it, just ignoring those comments is the best medicine for your sanity.
If you are still breast feeding the baby, it is a well-known secret that feeding the baby on the takeoff and landing, keeps him calm and ease the pain in his ears. That strategy worked perfect for me and an added bonus was that my son fell asleep right at the take-off while feeding and slept all through the two hour flight.
Waiting in airports
If your baby is small, put the baby on his blanket on his back. Once you find your gate, you can usually find a quieter corner and place the baby on the floor and relax. I used to bring a play mat with soft sensory toys attached to it. Letting him stretch out, play and make some baby noises while waiting will get him to relax before that long flight. Wait on the feeding for take-off as we already mentioned. Waiting time is good for changing his diaper and a good wipe-down. I use wet baby wipes to clean his toes and fingers and give him a massage with the baby lotion. When its waiting with my toddler, I bring small matchstick cars and a collapsible small track. I let them walk around as much as they can and airports now have play areas for toddlers to hang out if you have a longer transit.
One final advice on travel, find ways you can save money and your energy throughout the trip getting there, because you are going to need a whole lot of both at your destination when you get there. Whatever the reason you are taking that baby on board, a fun trip will be a memory to cherish for a life time to come.
Dr Ganga Fernando received her PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and currently teaching at Cottey College – a four-year University of liberal arts and sciences for women – as an Associate Professor of Chemistry. In her role as a faculty member of the BS in Health Science program, she offers research and internship opportunities in the field of Global Public Health disparities and health care in rural South East Asia. She is a mother of 3 and a world traveler with vast experience in women’s health and maternity.