Coming off of a recent family vacation, it dawned on me how much this whole "traveling with baby" concept terrified me. I remember my first flight with Lennon when she was only 5 months old and thinking, "Oh my God, please don't let us be 'those people' on the flight." Obviously, I was referring to "those people" who have that screaming, inconsolable kid who could not be calmed, soothed, tamed or even bribed into being well-behaved. We've all seen it and many of us have experience it.
For those of you who have yet to travel with baby, let me leave you with a few words of advice: don't worry. And, here's why.
First, chances are your kid is going to be fine. Airplanes tend to work as giant sound machines and typically will put your baby right to sleep. I know that this past weekend marked Lennon's sixth flight and going to and from Austin, she slept 80% of the time (the other 20% she played and ate her puffs). If you can, plan your flight according to nap times and let them play themselves tired before the flight. Most airports are equipped with playgrounds, and if not, you can find other creative ways to keep them busy. Let them watch the planes come and go or make a game out of counting the people around you. The more energy they exert before the flight, the better. If you baby is not yet mobile, then chances are, your baby will fall asleep shortly after take off anyways.
Second, let's say the loud humming of the engines and air conditioning don't put your little one to sleep, you need a plan B. Your plan b should be: Distractions. The one good thing about traveling with baby is that I always get dibs on the window seat and my husband cannot and will not argue. Mainly because I have to nurse, but secondly is because if your flight isn't blessed with wifi or in-flight TV, the window acts as both to your babe. And, the person sitting next to the window, usually holds the baby (now you see why he's so quick to give it up!) Show her the clouds, bright Sun, and just about anything else there is to see, and describe each thing to her as if you were watching an educational program.
If you and your partner get stuck with the window/aisle assignment, ask the person next to you trade. If that doesn't work, come equipped with toys and treats and bring them out at intervals. My husband and I treat each toy as if it were brand new and generate an excitement around each one. This usually buys us about 10 minutes per toy, so plan accordingly based on your scheduled flight time. If that still doesn't work, bribery with snacks is usually a good failsafe. When in doubt, puff it out and have a picnic on your lap.
Last, if your baby doesn't fall asleep and all the toys and puffs in the world don't work, don't stress. Your baby isn't the first to cry on the plane and it won't be the last. The best thing you can do is remain calm and do what you can to help soothe. One time with Lennon I spent the majority of the flight standing in the back with the flight crew because it was the only thing that calmed her. The crew was so incredibly helpful and I got extra snacks! Also, you may notice how helpful other passengers are, especially other parents. If they offer help, take it. This last flight, the guy sitting next to me literally poured me my beer while Lennon was passed out on my arm. He replied, "Five kids." We are all a team here, people.
In the end, the only thing that matters is the safety and comfort of your baby. I know that now as a Lennon gets more comfortable with flying, so do I. And a more relaxed mom equals a more relaxed baby. Keep this in mind if you should be blessed with some alone travel time and you see another tired, stressed out parent. Maybe offer some help or pour them a beer like my angelic passenger did for me. Also, puffs and wine pair very well together when things don't go according to plan or expectation.