Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Flying with Small Infants

A friend of mine is going to take her nine-week old baby on her first flight this week. Since we took River on his first flight at just over two months old, then continued to subject him to more flights – as well as train, bus, cable car, boat and car rides – she asked me for advice on how to ease the travel stress.

My number one tip – which probably counters the standard advice of make sure you bring this and that – is REDUCE THE CRAP TO THE ABSOLUTE MINIMUM. Travel is much easier if you are able to focus on baby and her needs rather than how you are going to lug or carry all the junk you have with you.

This is my super-light packing list for plane travel with a young baby:

Couple of diapers
A travel pack of wipes (you could skip this if you want and use wet paper towels
from the restrooms instead)
One change of clothing
An extra bib or two if baby is still spitting up
A blanket if you think it’s necessary
All of the above can go in whatever carry-on you are using for yourself. No extra diaper bag is needed.

Travel equipment:
A really lightweight frame stroller (we had the Graco SnugRider) with an infant carseat gives you maximum ease of portability and you are also set for vehicle travel at your destination. You can roll this through to the gate. If there is an extra seat available, you can take the carseat on board. If not, you can check the whole thing at the gate. If you don’t need a carseat at your destination, then a baby carrier (BabyBjorn, Ergo, etc.) works well but you’ll have to keep baby on your lap on the plane.

If you are breastfeeding (which I think is just fine at airports and on airplanes) you don’t need anything. If not, I haven’t had any trouble bringing milk (either breast or formula) through security, even in large quantities. Pumping in the airports can be a real pain (except at Minneapolis/St. Paul). Bringing breastmilk in a small cooler/carrier would be easier than pumping. For formula, Enfamil (and perhaps others) has little handy travel packs of powder. You can add water to a bottle plus one packet for each 4 ounces you need. Using these lightens the weight since you don’t need to carry the water.

Tips besides packing include:
If you are self-conscious about breastfeeding, go for a window seat and put your travel companion (if you have one) next to you.

If you choose your seat online, look for seats with the highest likelihood of not having someone sit next to you. It’s worth it to sit in the back if you are able to get a free seat for baby. When you check in, ask again to see if there are two seats open together so that the baby could have one.

Any other travel with baby veterans able to offer advice to my friend?
Photo: first flight - 2 months and one week old.

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