By Marc Courtiol
Having a newborn can be stressful enough without leaving the house, so it is easy to understand why so many new parents are reluctant to travel. Babies need constant care, they are unpredictable, and their crying is sometimes difficult to stop. All of these things work against travel, which requires as much predictability as possible. The good news is that many infants fall right to sleep as soon as the plane starts moving, but you just cannot know beforehand. Plus, nobody wants to be those poor parents stuck on an airplane with a baby who refuses to be quiet. That is no one's idea of a fun vacation.
But you do not have to be scared to travel with your infant. Sure, things may not go perfectly, but the trip does not have to be a disaster. Here are some ideas to keep in mind.
The right attitude
Start preparing by getting in the right mindset for traveling with an infant. Especially if this is your first child, this may require you to alter your view of the world to some extent. For starters, while it is important to be considerate of others, you simply cannot get hung up on what strangers think about you. There are always going to be curmudgeonly people who bellyache when a crying baby is in their vicinity, and there is nothing we can do about them. So just forget about them and focus on your family.
Also, try to approach the whole thing with a sense of calm. The best way to do this is to take it slow. Give yourself plenty of extra time for everything. If you usually leave for the airport two hours early, give yourself two and a half to three hours this time. Move slowly through the trip, and stop to attend to the baby whenever he or she needs anything. If you can cultivate this sort of attitude, your baby will pick up on it and will likely be more calm.
Plan your trip as early as possible so you can reserve seats in an optimal row. Exit-row seats are great because they give you extra room to maneuver with the baby. Also, if you have never traveled with an infant before, you might want to call the airline and talk to a real person about their policies. Your baby should be able to fly for free, but many parents choose to buy a seat for their infant anyway for the extra room. Airplanes are generally a tight fit, but a full three-seater in an exit row can be a cozy little temporary home for mommy, daddy, and baby.
Knowing what to bring
When flying with a newborn, the key is to bring as few things as possible while having everything you need to take care of your baby. It can be difficult to find this balance. Here are some things that you definitely need:
- A few changes of clothes (bring a couple more than you reasonably expect you will need)
- An item or two, especially a blanket or stuffed animal, that smells of home and reminds the baby of safe, comfortable places
- Diaper-changing supplies, including a changing pad, sanitizing wipes, and multiple extra diapers
- Pastic bags for storing soiled baby clothes
- Cloths to wipe spit-up and other substances
If you are breastfeeding, bring a bottle with a little extra milk in case the baby needs to be fed at an inopportune time for breastfeeding.
Other than these crucial items, keep what you pack to a minimum. If your child is a newborn, then she is probably too young to need any books or toys to keep her occupied.
Be prepared to carry
If you have a baby carrier, make sure you have it ready, as maneuvering through the airport, especially the security section, is much easier if the baby is strapped to you rather than in a stroller. Of course, it is fine to bring the stroller on your trip, but treat it like a piece of luggage until you pick it up at your destination.
On the flight, it is fine to keep the baby with you if you have not reserved an extra seat. If you do have an extra seat for the baby, you of course cannot have her sitting on it when the craft is in motion. That is why the airlines recommend bringing your infant car seat and strapping it in if you are not going to be holding the baby through the entire flight. If you do not have too much other luggage, brining that seat is a good idea.