My first child was 6 weeks old when I took my first solo trip with him. We got our first vaccination needle and headed to the airport. (a few days later) My mum had already been down for the birth and one of my four sisters had just had her third kid. My son was the first male grandchild and my sister followed with the same colour three weeks later, so it was an exciting time for my dad to finally have some blue around in his very pink world.
I was coming to understand why your mother being around was so incredibly helpful when you are faced with 100 questions every day as a new mother. Not living in the same city, I wanted to be with my family at this exciting time and with my husband working hard to support his new family, a solo trip was the only way it was going to happen.
The flight was only an hour. Doesn’t matter. One – two, 8. At that age, babies don’t do much. Sleep and eat, sleep and eat. It’s a matter as to whether you as a new mother, can cope with the transition. The prize at the other end was my priority and I never questioned whether I was brave enough. I wanted to be there and if it meant enduring plane travel that was what it was.
I must admit. I am a hideously ill pregnant woman. If you are a new mother and the whole thought of getting up and having a shower and organised enough to be at the airport is stressing you out, I get that too. I am just so happy to no longer be throwing up any more and able to move around and eat, that newborns could throw anything at me and I would catch it! But, I get that everyone has different challenging times and I wanted to point out those sweet first weeks for me were a piece of cake. (it does catch up with me again don’t you worry)
I was not aware of many things and I made plenty of mistakes. I wanted my parents to be a part of my child’s life and I wanted to ensure I was spending time with them. I had great grandparents when I was born. Two sets. I had amazing relationships with both grandparents and I desperately wanted that for my children. It’s a romantic, rose-coloured glasses ideal that you go through when you first have kids to think that your kids will be close to relatives they see every few months. It did however get me on and off the plane a lot by myself with a baby.
Some tips for travelling with baby.
With children under 12 weeks
Travel when you can get a lift to the airport and a pick up. Taxi’s in Australia do not require a child to be in a car seat and waiting for a car seat taxi can take ages! I have taken my baby on my lap and as I pulled out without a car seat I asked the cab driver to return to the taxi rank after a lap of the airport. I couldn’t do it. I went back to cab rank and waited 40 minutes for a car seat taxi! Mum and Dad ended up buying a seat for their car to be used after the realisation that hiring one 3-4 times was the same cost!
Booking a hire car with a car seat.
Despite ordering a hire car with a baby capsule, they turn up with any old seat. Once they pulled up with a toddler seat. (that’s a seat using the car seat belt) You can request a baby seat but let me advise you to confirm and confirm again that they understand. On another occasion they pulled up with the right seat but there was little chance I was putting my newborn baby in that filthy contraption. Back to the taxi rank!
Pack more than what you need. I know the age old rule of packing is pack and then remove half. With a baby – reverse that. Pack and then add all of that again. Yes, ALL of it. Airports do not (they have started to in the last few years) cater for travelling mothers. They do not provide kid friendly meals, they do not sell nappies or formula. They do not have bottle sterilisers etc. Change tables are dirty and filthy. This is where all those disposable change table liners come into play.
Some people will tell you to travel at sleep time.
That’s fine if your plane is on time. When the plane is not on time….. Waking a small child in the lounge to board is not fun for you or the people on the plane after. Travelling at 10.00pm to get reduced fares is also not necessarily the best idea. But hey, if it’s the difference of you being able to afford to go or not. I get it.
Babies’ ear pain is greatly avoided by sucking.
With an hour flight you may not be feeding on take-off and on landing. Sure enough my little man fed smack bang in the middle of the flight.
Baby Bjorn’s and carriers.
You can’t use these through security and you can’t wear them on take-off and landing. How an airline thinks their stupid belt is safer than in a carrier, the mind boggles. But whilst a baby carrier is helpful to get you through the airport and allow you a hand free to pull luggage, you do need to know how to put it on and off with ease and you need to be able to throw into your carry-one at times when you are not using it.
In fact I used a cocoon like carrier on many occasions as it was easy throw the airport for getting baby in and out through security. This was an attachment for my pram. I used it like most people use a capsule. It’s lighter, not as bulky, easier to carry and it can pack flat if you need it to. Remember if you choose a baby carrier like a Baby Bjorn – how does one go to the toilet with baby in the carrier? Yep. I’ve had to go with baby in there and it ain’t pleasant. At least the cocoon you can put baby on the floor or sink area during the flight.
You will need a baby blanket on the plane.
Babies don’t like being cold or hot. You need the blankets to adjust their heat to where they are comfortable. I bring a cotton one and a light cashmere on just in case the plane is terribly cold (they can be)
Dummies and pacifiers
These will help with the sucking and therefore avoiding any ear discomfort.
Wear something easy to feed in.
You may be in a full plane and the chances of getting your cover-up and feeding cushion all too hard on the plane. The hostess’ are generally pretty good with giving you a cushion for support. I tended to use a large shirt and a feeding singlet underneath. One went up as the other went down. You are therefore exposing 5-6 cm of skin and babies face will be over most of this.
If you have bottles ready to go.
You will be allowed to take them through security but be ready for scrutiny as they may check them or any tins of formula. If you are breastfeeding be prepared for lack of milk and carry some formula sticks with you just in case,
Airline provided prams
The airline will state they have prams to help get to the departure gate. EKKKKK. Have you seen one?? Seriously, Qantas is one of the leading airline sin the world and they buy the cheapest and nastiest strollers on the planet. Suitable only for toddlers or babies that can sit and they are filthy. I have seen cleaner toilets in the Bornean jungle! You need to have a strap for your nappy bag to go over your shoulder. Your handbag is no longer required when you have a nappy bag. Put all you need in the nappy bag and use a backpack if you need to carry more.
You can’t use the tray area with a child on your lap.
Planes aren’t built to accommodate both. Don’t plan that the plane food will be your snack during your feed. Bring your own. If you are not allowed to bring water on, drink beforehand and after. The flight attendants will bring you water but it will be a cup at a time and may not be as much as a feeding mother needs.
For babies over 12 weeks
You will need to start bringing some toys to amuse them and distract them. Don’t get carried away. A toothbrush can provide hours of fun. I personally don’t like screens for baby and I’m yet to work out how you get baby to wear headphones but I have seen this done. I have also seen a blog about a baby in and eye mask… Once asleep maybe but can’t see how they would think this is okay otherwise.
For babies on the go it gets trickier.
I know you want to take advantage of that ‘free’ seat for as long as you can but I personally think car seats on planes are a necessity if you want to arrive in tact. Consider it – it’s worth the additional cost.
Becoming a girl scout
I could write more but this list is extensive enough for anyone about to embark on their first solo trip with baby. It’s not all bad. You need to be organised, but now that baby has arrived, I’m guessing that is something you strive for everyday and struggle to even get out of your pyjamas.
If your routine has baby awake between 4-7 am perhaps you should consider this as your ideal travelling with baby time. Only you know what your baby needs. As these are ever changing from day to day it’s hard to know when the best time to travel is. Just relax and think about whatever the reason is for putting your baby on the plane is worth it to endure hours of possible screaming and restless in and out of airports. Babies sense nerves.
Allow yourself time to get to the gate. Time to check in and time to collect luggage at the other end. Get help getting to and from the airport where you can. Focus on the reason for travelling. You will soon learn that the journey and whatever is thrown at you is what motherhood is. How you deal with these challenges is what is about in your sleep deprived state.
For the first time in your life, if you haven’t previously been one, the best advice I can give is be a Girl Scout. Prepare for as many scenarios as you can think of and then not only will you be able to get through it but very little will stress you. If your flight is a long haul – there has to be a reason why you would insure that pain- focus on that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It will all work out.