Flying Alone With a Baby
I have been asked, “Who is crazy enough to be flying alone with a baby?” Well, the answer to that is usually: a military wife.
The first [four] plane rides my son rode on was when he was one month old. Luckily, I had help. My in-laws were with us, but I knew I would be doing this alone in another month so I paid attention to the times I needed to pass the baby off and I thought about what I could do differently when we were on our own. My son was only two months old when we flew to Mississippi, which I thought made it easier since he was still sleeping a lot during the day. What made my situation difficult was that I had [short] lay overs, I was breastfeeding, and my husband was not ATP status yet which means he could not leave the base to meet me at the airport. Here are some tips that helped me get through the airport alone with my baby.
I checked almost everything. I even put my wallet in the diaper bag and packed my purse. I checked the car seat, the base, the stroller, and my suitcase. All I had was the baby and a backpack (which included all the things normally in my diaper bag, and a change of clothes for me and him). I put the baby in his baby carrier and carried the backpack on my back which means my hands were completely free. I didn’t want to bring the stroller because my lay overs were so short I could not wait for them to unload the stroller and car seat and I just figured it would be more stuff to keep track of and drag through the security checks. Plus, the Delta does not charge extra to check strollers or car seats.
All the airports I’ve been in did not make me take my baby out of the carrier. I did have to have my hands tested each time. This only took a few extra minutes. What took forever was the first time I went through security with my diaper bag. They tore it apart and it took a while to put it back together. The TSA told me that it was the wipes. It shows up on the monitor as a big dense object. I learned from this and took the wipes out each time and they never had to search the bag again. I also took out the diaper cream and baby oil. It is significantly faster to just pop the wipes back in the bag then have to figure out how you fit everything in there to begin with. Obviously, keep in mind the current liquid restrictions when packing (which I believe is 3 0z).
Getting to the Gate
I would immediately find my gate and try not to wander too far off. If I had to find food I just got something at the closest place. Anyone that has kids knows that everything takes longer when your trying to get somewhere with them. Honestly my layovers were so short I only had time to feed my kid. The only place I went was the bathroom because I did not want to try to fit into a airplane stall with a baby strapped to my chest. I did cut it way too close one time with feeding my baby in the bathroom stall. I learned from this and just used my nursing cover at the gate (if you are a whip-it-out type of breastfeeder, then all the more power to ya!)
Different airlines have different rules. Southwest has boarding categories and will allow people with children to board after group A and before group B. Delta will let people with kids board after the handicap. Do what you think is best. We flew southwest when I was with my in laws so it was helpful to board early so that we could find seats together. Delta has assigned seats and if I knew I had all aisle seats, I probably wouldn’t have boarded so early because I had to get up two separate times to let people in on each flight. But it did give me time to get everything situated which was nice.
I fed my baby BEFORE getting on the plane so that he was full and sleepy. Also, I didn’t want to try breastfeeding him when I was already way too close to a complete stranger. If you are using a bottle, I recommend feeding your baby during take off (or have them suck on a pacifier– which is what I did) Not only did it help him fall asleep but it also seemed to prevent any issues with his ears. He never seemed uncomfortable, and slept the entire flight each time. Also worth noting, airlines will make you take your baby out of the baby carrier during take off and landing- so keep that in mind when your baby falls asleep so you don’t wake him.
Have a system and practice it! ESPECIALLY if you are going to be alone. You have to find a way to be able to gather all of your things and transport them. This is what worked [wonderfully] for me. First, I found a spot near the front and got everything together. Most people will try to help you grab things when they see that you have a baby strapped to you. That was helpful when I got to Mississippi and all my stuff came out one after another. I opened the stroller (click connect), clicked the carseat on, and put the base in the car seat. I still had the baby on my chest and the backpack on my back. I was able to push the stroller and roll the suitcase behind me. I recommend using a suitcase with spinners. I also got my rental car without having to get on a shuttle which was great!
Invest in Antibacterial Wipes
I am not a germ freak whatsoever but airports are disgusting and if you DO have to put your baby down (to change diapers or clothes) then a travel pack of Lysol or Clorex wipes are very handy. Not to mention, you will probably want to clean when you get to the hotel.
My flights went very smoothly and my baby slept the entire time. If your baby doesn’t do as great, then my last tip is to try not to get too worked up over your baby crying. As parents we generally try not to disrupt people too much with our crying children but most people understand and if there is one thing I have learned- the more worked up you get, the more you will probably not be successful in calming your kid. Take it one step at a time, and have a safe flight!
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