BABIES ON A PLANE! Tips & Tricks for a Smooth Traveling Experience with your Baby

I have taken my daughter on two plane flights, one short (when she was 3 months) and one long (when she was 7 months) and before I did, I tried to read every single article or blog I could find on the subject to be prepared. Surprisingly enough, I didn't find anything that I actually needed to know, so here is my own personal attempt to help all of you plane riding mommies or daddies plan accordingly!

Our first plane trip was from San Francisco to Los Angeles, just under an hour. Our second plane trip was from San Francisco to Indianapolis, just over four hours.

                          Our first airport family selfie!

                          Our first airport family selfie!

 My main concerns were:

1. Her ears feeling the pressure changes

2. Transporting her through security, and to and from the gates.

3. How to have a car seat and car seat base ready at our destination.

4. Cleanliness 

5. Do I take the stroller??

6. Diaper Changes, Sleeping, Feeding, Pumping, Playing -- basically everything else

I will address each concern below in the same order, so that if you only want to know the answer to one topic, you can scroll to that topic and not waste your precious mommy research time on reading this entire blog. I get it. 

 

1. Ears

The ear pressure problem was probably one of my biggest concerns and ended up not being much of anything. On our first plane ride, I was obsessive about her either breast feeding, bottle feeding, or sucking on a pacifier while we took off and landed. Whenever I felt my own ears close up, I would make sure she was sucking on something. But then, on our second plane flight, she fell asleep during take off and I wasn't about to wake her up just to put a pacifier in her mouth and she was fine. Then, I just got too busy to think about her sucking on something during the landing and she was fine again. Basically, I think they are constantly using there mouths and swallowing and chewing on toys that they are taking care of releasing the pressure themselves, but there is no harm in making sure you have that pacifier or bottle or boob handy to calm your nerves. 

                    Georgia with her pacifier on the plane

                    Georgia with her pacifier on the plane

 

2. Transporting babies through the airport

Okay, I did this differently on my two flights. For the first flight we used the carrier and checked the car seat before security. The second flight we carried her in the car seat through the airport and checked it at the gate. Long story short, I recommend using the baby carrier through the airport. But, here are both scenarios; carrier first.

After checking our car seat and base (more in #3 below), we put her in our Baby Bjorn carrier, $53, and headed towards security. (By the way, the Baby Born has been the easiest carrier to use, hands down, and I bought six different models.)  She was almost 3 months old and still facing inward. She had also just napped in the car ride to the airport, so she wasn't fussy yet. I liked to leave one of the neck supports open so that she could lean back and look around. I would still support her head with one of my hands.

MommyCarrierBaby

When you get to security, you will have to take your baby out of the baby carrier because the carrier has to go through the detector conveyor belt. You will hold your baby as you go through the metal detector. Then, promptly put them back in the carrier and continue to your gate.

Side note: Breast milk or Formula Bottle: The TSA will stop you and have you take out your breast milk or formula bottle (if it's already in liquid form) and test it. They will do this in two ways. 1) Open the bottle and put the milk/formula on a test strip or 2) Put the unopened bottle into a special machine that tests it from the outside. You can tell them which way you prefer it to be tested. Sometimes they will ask and sometimes they won't. 

She stayed in the carrier until we got on the plane. Then she stayed in my arms, mostly underneath my breastfeeding cover the entire flight. She was still fairly tiny at 3 months and enjoyed suckling for comfort and feeding.

When we arrived at our destination, we put her back in the baby carrier and then picked up our checked car seat and base at the luggage carousel.   

On our second flight, I decided to try and keep the car seat with us, because our flight was leaving in the middle of the night and I thought she would want to sleep in her car seat instead of being awake in her baby carrier, but it was much more of a hassle than not and she was awake anyways. Lugging the car seat through the airport and going through security with it and then trying to check it last minute at the gate was cumbersome, but still doable. If you do decide to do it this way, you might as well bring your stroller too and check both the stroller and the car seat at the gate together so you aren't carrying the car seat through the long air port walk ways. 

 

3. Traveling with the car seat and car seat base

You do need a car seat and base at your destination if you are going to ride with your baby in a car, so you can either, check the car seat and base attached to each other, before security at the check in counter, or wait and check it at the gate before you board the plane. Either way, it is free to check the car seat.

We used this special car seat check bag, $10, that we bought off of Amazon. The airline appreciated it and it keeps your car seat clean and easily recognizable when picking it up from the carousel. 

I recommend checking the car seat at the check in counter so that you aren't lugging too much through security. 

4. Cleanliness 

Yes, we all know airports and airplanes are pretty gross so we've got to do our best. It's important to me to find simple ways not to spread poop to my neighbor and vice versa, so here are some of the items I bought that helped. 

A. The Monkey Mat, $20. I bought this mat to use in the airport if we had time for her to sit and play with some of her toys. I didn't want to just lay her down on the airport floor somewhere. The mat is super compact and has carabiners that keeps toys attached to make sure they don't leave the mat area.

B. Individually wrapped Pacifier wet naps, $10. You can use these on pacifiers, toys, etc. 

C. Cloth High Chair. This is called My Little Seat, $25, and I bought it through Amazon.  This was probably the best, most useful, purchase I made, not just for traveling in the airport, but for the entire rest of the trip and all traveling thus far. I cannot tell you how many times people stop me to ask me where I got this. No matter where we were, we had a high chair! 

                           Georgia using her My Little Seat!

                           Georgia using her My Little Seat!

D. If I had time, I would also wash my babies hands when I washed my hands in the bathroom sinks. 

E. Disposable changing pads. My Dad bought me like a thousand of these and they have come in handy in all locations. If they get poop on them, no big deal, just throw them away! You don't have to travel with poop stained diaper changing pads! Note: definitely keep these in the car too. 

F. Hand Sanitizer for yourself. Since you will probably be the person touching your baby the most, keep your hands clean as often as you can! My hand sanitizer lives off of the diaper bag handle for easy access.

5. Do you take the stroller?? 

I still don't really know the answer to this question, but I'd say, Yes. But also, it depends on the type of trip you are taking. 

Our first trip was only a day and a half long and I knew we would be mostly in our families home and not going anywhere, so not taking the stroller worked out well. 

Our second trip, we were gone for a week and we were going to be out of the house most of the time. One of the family members I was visiting had a stroller we could use, but it didn't adapt with our car seat, so we had to take her out of the car seat and put her into this other stroller. My daughter likes to sleep in her car seat and not sitting up in an open stroller, so it would have been nice to have our own stroller that worked with our car seat, but we still managed well. 

My husband is still happy we didn't bring our stroller. We have the Bob and it isn't small. We both LOVE the Bob, but if money allows, I would recommend buying a travel stroller that adapts to most car seats, like the Baby Trend Snap n Go, $60, and folds down nicely. Then, it would be up to you to check both the car seat and the stroller either at the check in counter or the gate.

 

6. Everything else

Pumping:

I was still pumping/breastfeeding through both of these trips.  I didn't make much milk, so she was on formula too. The first trip, I pumped in the car on the way to the airport with my car plug adapter and had a small cooler with me with an ice pack for the breast milk. I kept all the breast milk in the bottle and kept adding to it, to eliminate too many breast milk storage containers.  The flight was so short, that I didn't pump again until we landed and got to our families home. 

Our second flight was a little over four hours long and luckily, I was weaning. Again, I pumped in the car on the way to the airport, but then I didn't pump again until I was in the car at our destination. That was the longest time period for me between pumps. If I was still breastfeeding, I would have breastfed on the plane to eliminate the long time gap, but my daughter was over the breastfeeding at that time. 

On our flight back, I pumped in the airport. I was really nervous to do this. I don't like to expose myself in public. We were sitting at our gate with lots of people around and the middle consoles had plugs, so I put on my breast feeding cover and discretely hooked myself up and started pumping. To my knowledge, no one noticed. The airport was so loud, you couldn't even hear the pump working. The whole pumping in public experience worked out better than I had thought. 

Diaper Changes:

I pretty much change diapers wherever I can and the disposable pads I mentioned above are a lifesaver. 

If you didn't know, the airplane bathrooms have changing tables over the toilet. (I had no idea. Before I was a mom, I never noticed those things).

But, when my daughter had a dirty diaper, my husband got out of his seat to go change her in the airplane bathroom. He was stopped by the flight attendant and told that the seat belt light was still on and we couldn't have the baby out of the seat. But she had a dirty diaper!?!?! It didn't matter. My husband lightening speed changed her on his seat before he sat back down. I still don't know how he changed and cleaned her that fast. 

Sleeping

I use something called a Dock-A-Tot at home and while traveling. This portable bed has been a god-send for co-sleeping, crib training, traveling, and staying in hotels, etc. I didn't actually try taking it with me on the plane until my final leg of my most recent flight. I decided to try this because the flight occurred during her night time sleep and I wanted to make it as close to normal for her as possible. This, was by far, the best idea I had. I did have to fight my husband on this one, because we had to use one of our carry-on's for just the Dock-A-Tot and he thought it was going to get in the way, but now he sees the light. :)

Georgia in her Dock-A-Tot across our laps on the plane

Georgia in her Dock-A-Tot across our laps on the plane

 

Playing:

I really thought my daughter would need a trunk full of toys to play with on the plane, but really, she only needed a few things. And we got creative, well she did. She was fascinated with the airline plastic cups and proceeded to play with those throughout the entire flight. She also had fun with the individual pretzel bags. She wasn't strong enough to open them, so it made a fun sound and fun feel. 

I did end up bringing a few new small toys that she had never seen and kept them in the diaper bag for emergencies. Who knows if she really needed them, but she liked them, just as well. 

 

Concluding advice:

If you haven't noticed, I'm a little type A. I like to be as prepared as possible for as much as possible. I am less anxious that way and more enjoyable to be around says my husband. He likes to wing it and figure it out later, which is a tactic that might work for you too, but that is not who I am. So, in being myself, I hope I can help you prepare as much or as little as you would like. 

I'd say the only things I over packed for the flight were clothes and toys, but you never know if that day is going to be a 4 blow out day or not, so I'd probably do everything I did, exactly the way I did it again. 

 

 

Posted on May 4, 2016 and filed under Baby.

Advice to the New Mommy going back to work

I remember this dinner well, but not for cheery reasons. It was only a couple of nights before going back to work and I was so grumpy, sad, and nervous that I couldn't even eat. I just sat there watching my baby sleep in my husbands arms. My husband is Mr. Smiles most of the time, always trying to keep me happy and he does a really good job, but not much could make me smile when I knew I would be leaving my sweet little baby for an entire day so soon.

The next day was my birthday -- I had to go back to work the day after my birthday -- and I can't even remember what we did. I'm certain my mind was on that moment in the next morning when I would have to leave her and commute to work.

That night, I put her to sleep in her co-sleeper crib next to my bed. She went right to sleep and I sat on the edge of my bed, starring and crying. And then I wrote this:

Tonight is the night before I go back to work. I'm sitting at the edge of my bed, starring at my baby girl while she sleeps. She has no idea that I will abandon her tomorrow while she makes flutter smiles and dreams. I'm desperately trying to remember everything about this moment; which nightie she's wearing, which blanket she's wrapped in, and what position she fell asleep in.

Why does it feel like the end, when I know this is just the beginning of a long life with her? I don't know if I'll be able to sleep. I could sit and stare all night; well forever. I didn't realize how precious being pregnant was because I got to take her everywhere with me no matter what! I'm conflicted about wishing to be pregnant again, just so that I don't have to leave her.

I have no idea what I'll feel like tomorrow in the middle of the day, after I've been away from her for more than 3 hours; the longest span of time I've been away so far. I think I'll feel empty and anxious and lost without my new best friend, my heart, my everything. I won't get a smile whenever I ask for it, or a cuddle when I need it, and the saddest part is, she won't either.

I don't understand how so many mommies do this. It feels like a death sentence that should have been outlawed many years ago. Seriously, how is going back to work when your baby is 10 weeks and 6 days old, okay? I really had no idea I would feel this way. I thought, "of course I'll love her, but it'll be nice to have a break and still be me sometimes." Nope. Definitely not. I could care less. This is beyond love and I don't even know what to call it yet.

I can't take my eyes off of her; how she sleeps, how perfect her ears are, how long her fingers are, how smooth her hair looks, how her nose turns up at the end, how her eyelashes are so long they touch her eyebrows, how her hands are up on either side of her head, and what rhythm her breathing moves the elephants on her blanket up and down.

Working Mommies everywhere; you are warriors. Emotional heroes. When people tell you that you deserve an award...you don't deserve an award, you deserve all the time you missed while away from you baby back. 

After I wrote that, I knew I had to go to sleep. Or at least try to. And I did. I went to work the next day and I survived and I learned a few things too. So, here is my advice to the mommy's that haven't left their babies yet and are struggling.

Yes, preparing for tears is probably the best thing to do. If you don't have tears then something would be wrong. You are a very good mommy and that's why you will be sad. I've actually been wracking my brain all day to be able to give you all some wise advice, but I can't. It was probably the hardest day of my life. But!! I will tell you that after the first day and you run to get to your baby and they smile at you or recognize your voice, all the sadness just melts away.

Leaving Georgia never feels right, but I don't cry anymore. What I thought was interesting and what I didn't know would happen, was that even though I cried all the way to work that first day, I also found myself again.

I was needed at work and I helped people and I was respected as an adult person and it felt really good.

I got to be a mom to an amazing little girl and a successful career woman at the same time!

So, my advice is to keep your eyes open for the positive that might happen for you on that first day back even though you will definitely be sad.

Posted on December 5, 2015 and filed under Baby, Marriage.

An Ex-Fat Girl Gets Pregnant

You finally did it; you stuck to your plan and you lost the weight.  Did I say finally? It only took you about 487 fresh starts, 36 different diet plans, 16 purchased home exercise routines, 23 procured goal outfits, and countless dollars spent on all the above to actually, just do it.

Now you’re happy, proud, confident yet deathly frightened. You know that weight could come right back on if you even look at quesadilla, so you don’t. And you swear to yourself, you will do whatever it takes to never be fat again.

But, nobody tells you to add a provision to that contract; I swear I will never be fat again…UNLESS I get pregnant.

I always thought pregnancy would be a magical time when you get to grow your own child inside you and experience life’s true miracle and since losing an ovary to a large tumor when I was 21 years old, I always knew I would be extremely blessed to be pregnant as it wasn’t a sure thing.

What I didn’t think about, was how much the ‘ex fat girl’ inside me would fight the magic and beauty of a pregnancy and create guilt, embarrassment, hopelessness, and desperation at the same time; getting in the way of enjoying every growing moment.

I truly thought that all my weight “issues” and negative thoughts about my body would disappear when I became pregnant, but it’s the small idiosyncrasies that made it apparent that wouldn’t be the case as I started getting fat again… with baby.

One of the first signs was how much I liked to wake up in the morning and stretch out my stomach and feel how flat I could get it and roll my fingers over my hips bones. I didn’t realize how much I did that and how comforted I was by it starting my day. At 6 weeks, I couldn’t feel my hip bones anymore.

Realization number two is how many times I suck in, turn sideways, and pose every time I pass by a full length mirror. When you’re pregnant, you can’t do that.  Well, actually I still try. But you soon realize that sucking in does nothing.

The hardest thing to accept is the fat you gain that isn’t the baby. For instance, my baby weighs about 7 ounces right now as I sit here writing at 19 weeks pregnant exactly. So, what is the other 15-20 pounds for?? I know, I know; uterus weight, extra blood volume, increased breast tissue, placenta weight…blah blah blah. For an ex fat girl, weight is weight; period! And that’s what comes first, EXTRA WEIGHT. 

I remember at 4 weeks when my fetus was only the size of a sesame seed, my belly was already pooching out and turning to round flab and my hips and knees were gaining little pouches of fat around them like they decided to invest in little handbags without asking me. 

Then, you become obsessed with what everyone else’s bodies look like at 5 weeks, 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 16 weeks, etc. You want to make sure you’re on the right track with your belly bump and growing hips. Now, thanks to hashtags, you can easily search these images and compare your body to millions of other girls who are posting their baby bumps online. Is it just me, or am I growing at a faster rate than everyone else in the world?!?!?!? Seems like it and I have hashtag proof!

 

Bottom line is that I didn’t realize how hard it would be to accept “getting fat” again. There is a constant internal conflicting struggle between the glowing mom to be and the distressed ex-fat girl. I ask myself how I can feel betrayed and awed; embarrassed and proud; cheated and blessed; desperate and hopeful, all at the same time about one body. Just call me Jekyll and ‘Wide’ – a split personality gone mad over body fat.

But here’s a lesson to all you girls, ex fat girls or not. You start to look at old pictures of yourself, even just 6 months ago and you are already wishing for that body again and setting that picture as your screen saver or printing it out and secretly putting it in your wallet as motivation to get back there after birth. Did I ever think I would be using my OWN body as motivation?? No way. And that’s the same body I consistently hated on and cried over and made my husband crazy with every time I couldn’t figure out what to wear; it’s the same body that I would cover up at summer time ashamed of that little pooch in the armpit and miss out on a day at the beach; the same body that I scrutinize in the mirror and make mental marks on where I should get liposuction. Now, I respect that body. Dare I say, I miss that body?

I didn’t really get to say goodbye to that body or even treat it nicely when I had the chance.  All I can do, is start now and love my body for its newness; for blessing me with the ability to carry my own child; and for protecting my baby while it grows.

Way easier said than done. The battle will continue between that glowing mom-to-be and the distressed ex-fat girl.

I want to say I’m rooting for the mom-to-be. Period. But, believe or not, I’m still rooting for the Ex-Fat Girl. I’m rooting for her to not let her pregnancy become an excuse to eat every doughnut that comes her way. I’m rooting for her to still achieve her best self after birth. I’m rooting for her to love herself no matter what; to not be mean to what she sees in the mirror; and love her new best body, whatever body that may be.

 

Posted on March 20, 2015 and filed under Nutrition, Exercise, Baby, Fashion, Hair, Marriage, Science.