Before welcoming your darling bundle of joy into the world, you may have found yourself shooting looks of trepidation in the direction of parents rocking infants while waiting to board a flight. As the parent of an infant, you may find yourself fretting about how other passengers on the flight will react if your little one fusses or bursts into one of her trademark screaming fits that typically keep you walking the hallways of your home until the wee hours of the morning.
While the mere thought of traveling with an infant can leave a parent wrought with anxiety, the truth is that you may just be putting yourself through unnecessary stress about the whole experience. Here's a little something you may not have been told by your friends and family: Most babies sleep on planes. Whether the flight is a quick one-hour jaunt to see grandma, or an international leg that stretches as long as 18 hours, your little one is very likely to spend the majority of her time on-board fast asleep.
Let's face it. We've all been guilty of having preconceived thoughts about how an infant or toddler will behave on a flight. If you think about it, how many times have you stepped off of a plane only to notice that a passenger a few seats down has an infant tucked against her body? For every infant that does make her presence loudly known on the plane there are just as many, if not more, infants that sleep sweetly for the duration of the flight.
Let's take a look at some of the ways you can handle your anxiety about traveling with your little one.
Be prepared, but don't overpack
As parents, we tend to overpack our diapers bags and prepare ourselves for every potential issue that we could experience while we are away from the comfort of our homes. For a new parent who spends more time packing the diaper bag for the trip to the grocery than time spent actually buying groceries, the idea of being on a plane without your supply of baby essentials can be stressful. The truth is you don't really need that much, especially if you are nursing your little one. Diapers, wipes, a few shirts or sleeper outfits, a blanket, and perhaps 2 pacifiers. If you use formula, premeasured amounts of formula and empty bottles are all you need. The flight attendants will be happy to get you warm water to help make up the bottles.
Accept help when offered
Most travelers on the plane with you will be understanding of a fussy baby and may even offer to give you a hand with holding the baby while you go to the restroom, grab your bag for you or get warm water for you. Accept the offers of help from other passengers, especially if you are traveling solo with the baby. This could be the little bit of anxiety and stress relief that you need for the journey.
The biggest concern you may have about your little one might be the way the change in air pressure can hurt her ears. Offering your little one a bottle, pacifier, or nursing her will help her ears to pop and adjust to the change in air pressure.
Once the pilot has turned off the seatbelt sign and indicated that you can move around on the plane, you can walk the aisles of the plane or stand toward the rear of the plane to rock your little one. The sounds of the plane's engines can often provide a soothing white noise that will both block out her cries and help her to drift off to sleep.
Handling dirty looks
It doesn't matter how angelic your little one is on the plane, you are sure to be on the receiving end of dirty looks from other passengers. Don't let the visual jabs add to your anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. Dirty looks never killed anybody. Responding with a polite smile and looking away is the best choice for your sanity.
If one of the passengers do decide to take his dirty looks a step further and makes a comment about your little one exercising her lungs on the plane, do your utmost to ignore his comments. You will find that he is definitely in the minority with his less than polite comments. The majority of passengers will be very understanding of a crying and upset baby, especially if she is a parent.
If you are truly concerned about causing a disruption to the other passengers, consider purchasing a few inexpensive boxes of earplugs. For just a few dollars, you can have plenty of earplugs to hand out to the passengers around you, so they are less rattled by your upset little one.
Baby's first few flights can be nerve-wracking for parents, especially first-time parents. Keep in mind that the whole experience is more of an ordeal for you than it will be for your little one. Babies are very good at adapting to their environment, especially if their parents do their part to keep them feeling secure. Keep your little one warm and comfortable with a full belly and she probably won't fuss much at all for the duration of the flight.
Kerry is a single mom to the best boy in the world, a freelance writer, and the author of numerous children’s books. Holding a Masters of Arts degree in Educational Technology, she is an eternal student who loves delving into new and previously unexplored subject matter.