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Flying With Babies: The Honest Truth

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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