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Flying With Babies: The Honest Truth

Someone joked that preparing to fly with a baby is like preparing for battle, only it isn’t a joke, it’s the absolute truth. And just like battle, sometimes you win, and sometimes, despite your very best efforts…you lose. Bad.
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By: Casey Mullins

Addie’s first flight was at 10 months from Salt Lake to San Francisco and it went amazingly well. Vivi’s first flight was from Salt Lake to Indianapolis through Chicago and it went really well too. Though Addie wouldn’t fly again until 18 months, Vivi has flown at least a dozen times in her 14 months. And y’all? I won’t be doing it again anytime soon if I can help it. I should also say that every flight I’ve made with my girls has been alone. I’m not even sure what I’d do if I had help on a plane with them. For the most part other passengers have always been incredibly kind, but there are always those few stinkers who think kids shouldn’t be allowed in public — let alone planes.

Someone joked that preparing to fly with a baby is like preparing for battle, only it isn’t a joke, it’s the absolute truth. And just like battle, sometimes you win, and sometimes, despite your very best efforts…you lose. Bad.

The first and best advice anyone flying with kids should be aware of is to help ease your baby’s ears into pressure changes. Nursing, sucking on a bottle or sippy cup are all very good ways to relieve pressure on ascent and descent. Chewy candy or gum work really well for my older daughter so I always have a packet on me for that reason.

When it comes to scheduling your flight, you can try to schedule it for nap time or bedtime but from firsthand experience it’s a giant game of chance. Perhaps my baby would have been happier last night had she taken a full and proper nap before our flight rather then me trying to time it during nap time? Who knows. Night flights are the same way. While you’re thinking, “Go to sleep little baby!” your baby is taking it as “UP SO LATE YAY PARTY!” There have been times when my babies have fallen asleep with the combination of loud engine noise and vibrations. Other times it just simply made them hyper aware of their surroundings.

It can be really hard to hold a baby’s attention on a plane, especially if they’re mobile and want to be anywhere else but your lap. I keep a little cup filled with ice (no stains, not as many spills) and cheap beaded necklaces as plane entertainment. There’s always the temptation to let Vivi play with my old iPod touch, but what about that half-hour time slot I have to put it away for landing? I learned that lesson the hard way. If it’s a really long flight, go ahead and pull it out if that’s something you’re comfortable with. But if your baby loses his or her mind every time you put it away? It just going to be that much more obvious on an airplane.

Knowing this last flight was going to be a tough one, I brought earplugs for my seatmates (my baby has a set of pipes) and I offered to buy the guy right next to me a drink if he needed it. I’ve learned that the more self aware I am and the more upfront I am about how my baby handles planes, the more sympathetic the people are around me. They know I’m doing my best and I don’t want to listen to screaming and crying any more than they do.

Hopefully my baby is the minority when it comes to horrible flyers, and my story only serves as a cautionary tale. However, if you’re baby is a horrible flyer as well, take comfort in knowing that I’ve so been there and have held onto a tantrum in row 19 all the way from Salt Lake to Chicago.

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  • Rated 0 out of 5 by 4reviewers.
    Rated 0 out of 5 by i actually thought it was pretty easy to fly home with my LO. he was 5 months at the time. and i flew home just the two of us. it was around a 16hr flight total. we are stationed in hawaii and flew to indiana. i brought ready to feed formula, so i didnt really struggle with preparing it. he slept most the entire flight, and when is was awake just wanted to see everone and what was going on (normal..lol ). but my sons also has never been a fussy or difficult baby. rarely cries... some people on the plane had babies that were crying the whole time.. i would just say keep your LO entertained.. if its patting on the arm rest, or the table that pulls down. i also carried him the entire time, and used the pull down table as an arm rest while he was sleeping. September 3, 2014
    Rated 0 out of 5 by Great article! I wanted to add one suggestion that I learned the hard way. I was on a cross country flight with my 9 month old when he woke up from a nap with hives all over his body, and his throat was closing up! I somehow remained calm and asked the flight attendants for Benedryl (I'm sure someone would point out that you are not supposed to give this to infants, but these were desperate times...). Unfortunately, AIRLINES DO NOT CARRY BENEDRYL!! It was a new FDA thing, but the take home point for parents is when you travel on a airplane, always bring some children's Benedryl. Just in case. Thankfully, there was a doctor on board and he was able take care of my child and an emergency landing was avoided But boy, were we close. So, please pass it on - bring children's Benedryl with you. May 31, 2014
    Rated 0 out of 5 by I just flew with my almost 5 month old. I think the hardest part was getting everything through security by myself. The flight was delayed one hour in the airport and 2 hours on the plane before we ever took off for the 6 hour flight. The advice I have it to make sure your baby is eating when landing because of the pressure on their ears. The flight attendant was so helpful and said she would hold my baby as I went to the bathroom. Number one tip is ask for help with everything and remember if it doesn't turn out like you hoped you probably won't see those people again. Be confident because you know your baby the best! February 23, 2014
    Rated 0 out of 5 by The first time I flown by myself with a 2 and 3 yr old last year. I was flying down to meet my husband in Texas we live in Mass. The flight was 5 hours long it started out ok I had all the stuff to keep the kids entertainted but 1/2 thru the flight the kids started to be unrully and wanted off the plane. Neither of the slept at all during the flight. My son finally fell asleep as we were landing in Texas go figure! My advice to moms or dads flying solo with children have activites, IPAD OR KINDLE FOR EACH OF THEM(no fighting) and my number one piece of advice is when the stewardess or anyone offers help or comfort to a crying mom TAKE IT! Because they actually do care and have since and been thru it almost every flight they work on. Southwest Airlines was wonderful and understanding of my situation. But it will be ok. Just for future advice take someone with u to avoid all the mistakes I made but survived thru. Like I said Southwest Airlines are the most understanding when u have children even the passenger didnt mind the crying tantrums etc. So have a safe fun flight. But next time I will drive LOL April 11, 2013
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