Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Fly with Babies

The Diplomat and I recently traveled with Son on a little vacation to Hua Hin in Thailand in search of calm waters, clean air and good food. On the way, in the same plane there happened to be a family with a new baby, and, since we are such lucky bastards, there was one more on the way back. Both yelled their heads off and the parents were making it even worse by trying to entertain them. Now, in general, I do not mind babies on a plane – I have had one and I know what it is like. In reality, most of baby crying actually isn’t as loud as the poor parents think – I think the frustration and embarrassment of your screaming progeny augments your perception of the noise and you are convinced that even the pilot is ready to flush your dear child out of the toilet. Since I was sitting right behind them, however, the babies were practically splitting my ears.   
There are a couple of pieces of advice I would like to offer to those parents who are about to embark on a plane journey with a small child in an effort to make their and our journey more tolerable. Son has been on planes since he was 2 months old, and I think I have sufficient wisdom to share. Just like us, babies’ tiny ears get plugged during the ascension of the plane after takeoff. For them, that is distressing and often painful. That is why most babies who are awake during that time scream their tiny butts off. In those cases, PLEASE, do not try to bounce the unfortunate child up and down like a basketball, do not shove pens or expensive jewelry in its hands to distract him, or try to interest him in the emergency procedures cards. That will only make the child even more awake and irritated. Ears would either pop open or never even get plugged in the first place if your baby is swallowing something during takeoff. If you are breastfeeding, takeoff is your golden opportunity to nurse to achieve 2 major objectives:
1.       Help its ears stay unplugged as it swallows milk
2.       Puts him or her to sleep (especially if this is an evening flight) so that by the time the plane evens out and the pretty ladies with the food and drinks come around, your tiny cargo is ready to be put in the bassinet (if you are flying international and there is such thing), or would simply snooze the rest of the trip snuggled nicely in your arms (preferably in your husband’s arms, actually, so that you can ingest some much needed libation).
If you don’t breastfeed, simply have a bottle ready with nice, warm milk or whatever it is that you are feeding it. I have never had a problem asking the airhostesses to give me some warm water to mix with the prepared formula.
Do NOT do any of these:
1.       Give your baby a 5 hour nap before you get on the plane – that would only guarantee much bouncing in your or your neighbors laps, delighted (or not so much) yelps and generally the need to entertain the little beast while you are trying to maintain a low profile and eat your tiny airplane dinner.
2.       Try to distract and bounce the child, toss him around and give him noisy entertainment. Rather, try your best to make them sleep. The hum of the plane is magical – if you calm your hyper child sufficiently, it would actually doze off quite fast. Everyone will love you.
3.       Give the kid candy or anything with a lot of carbs – the resulting energy rush will cause your baby to be twice as vocal and bouncy, and your seat neighbors twice as murderous.

In all honestly, I find flying with babies a much easier task than, say, flying with toddlers. Son has been trained to sleep on the plane the moment we takeoff or right after the food has been eaten (he delights in eating airplane food, apparently he thinks it is some kind of a special treat bestowed upon him). But as he grows older, there are more demands to go pee, have some more water, draw for 5 more minutes, see a movie, walk down the aisle to see the pretty ladies in the service area, ask to scratch his back, tell him a story, drink milk, pee again, hug and ask for a blanket, complain that the seat is not comfy, then drink some more water and finally settle down to sleep. A baby can make no such demands – it drinks milk and conks out. Beautiful.  

1 comment:

  1. My wife and I (fellow diplomats) quickly discovered that feeding the children during takeoff and landing was the way to go. Traveling with an infant is not too bad. Traveling with a toddler is brutal.