When my daughter was 5 months old, I had to go to Singapore for training. I loathe not being able to take her with me. I had a very generous friend who offered to put us up for a few days and even babysit! So this intrepid mummy decided to take baby along. Little did I know what an undertaking it would be!
Since I was already wearing my daughter as much as possible, I thought it would be easy. I could just wear her through the airport and on the plane, and she’d sleep and feed from the carrier. I would have my hands free to wheel our (rather large) hand luggage around and all would be dandy. How wrong I was!
My first obstacle presented itself when I blithely walked through the security check with baby ‘on board’. The metal detector sounded and woke baby up, and her cries mingled with the alarm to create a lovely cacophony of noise. I was told to take baby out of her perfectly snug sling, which caused her to cry even louder. Red faced and sweating, I went back through the scanner and was subjected to a thorough body scan and search. With baby still wriggling and crying. Finally, the guard determined that it was the metal sling ring that was setting off the alarm and that I wasn’t a terrorist with baby prop.
Thoroughly flustered, I grabbed my bag, re-slung baby, and went off to find my gate. The security check fiasco had one advantage - I didn’t have to wait long at the gate. I had managed to calm baby down after a quick diaper change, so I looked forward to boarding and settling down. I was ushered to the front of the boarding queue and enjoyed settling in without having to disturb my fellow passengers.
I was just settling down with a book and baby asleep in her sling when the flight attendant told me I’d have to unsling baby and hold her on my lap for take-off! My heart sunk. I tried to unsling baby as gently as possible so she wouldn’t wake up, but - no luck. Baby woke up and starting crying. Luckily I managed to prop her up on some strategically arranged airplane pillows and nurse her back to sleep as we took off, thanking the gods of flight that my seat-mate was female. The sucking actually helped relieve any pressure baby might have experienced during take-off.
The flight itself was uneventful. It was a short flight and baby slept throughout, thank goodness. However, I had to take baby out of her cosy sling again when it came time to land, and baby was not happy about it, again. I spent the walk to immigration calming her down, then I had to joggle her again when ‘presenting’ her to the immigration officer. By the time I got into my friends car, I was thoroughly regretting the decision to bring baby along.
Since that harrowing experience, I’ve picked up a few tips for plane travel with a very young baby. Here they are to help other first timers:
1) Look for a child-friendly airline and even airport, if you can find one. Generally, if the staff seem calm, they will be more open, so try to fly during off-peak times.
2) If you are going to wear baby, make sure you find the right kind of carrier that will: - pass through security (metal-less) - allow you to take baby in and out easily (for take offs and landings) - be comfortable for you on the flight - be lightweight and manageable (in case you do have to take it off)
3) An affordable carrier that fits most of these criteria is the Mei Tai.
4) Bring on board a carry on (in case your luggage gets lost or you need anything for baby on longer flights)
5) A harness that is suitable for your child will come in mighty handy such as the CARES harness or Flyebaby harness sold at www.tinytapir.com/flyebaby (I hear that they are out of the CARES harness dur to popular demand but new stock is expected by August 2016).
6) Take your time and ask for help. Ask if there is a special stroller line at immigration if you are taking along a stroller and if they don’t usher you to the front of the boarding queue, request for it.
7) If you are traveling alone on a longer flight, it might be worth it to buy an extra seat for baby even if you are planning to wear her all the way. That way, you’ll have a place for all her necessities and more space. Also, you won’t be disturbing anyone as much. Alternatively, ask if you can be moved next to an empty seat.
8) At take-off and landing, nurse or give baby something to suck to alleviate the pressure in his ears, I found the Teething Bling sold at www.tinytapir.com quite useful here is the direct product link, they come in some cool colours and always on discounted at Tiny Tapir: http://bit.ly/298btv9
9) Changing diapers on board might not be well-received, so do it only if you feel comfortable doing it in the lavatory or if baby is uncomfortable and you’re able to shield it from the view of other passengers.