Next up I’d like to tackle the airplane and how we dealt with that. I’ll start out by saying our return flight was much more pleasant/successful than our trip out to Chicago.
First off, on our way to Chicago we had to leave for the airport right during Eleanor’s morning nap which mean no morning nap. We were mid-flight when her afternoon nap was supposed to begin. This meant we had a very overtired/crabby baby to start with–Eleanor is extremely observant and easily gets distracted with her surroundings and very very rarely falls asleep on-the-go anymore. Of course she started crying at the airport right before boarding, which made me feel like I had a gigantic red flag over my head “Warning: Screaming baby preparing to board!” She did calm down before we had to get on the plane, but I knew she was hanging on by a thread.
I will also mention that we were flying Southwest, which meant no assigned seats. This also means on a full flight (as ours was), some poor soul had to voluntarily sit next to us. Just a bit of information: family boarding with Southwest is after Boarding Group A. We had a nice gentleman sit next to us, and he was very patient/understanding/didn’t seem to notice Eleanor’s outbursts. Thank you, kind sir.
Disclaimer: there is going to be boob/nursing talk. I’ll summarize it by saying I nursed Eleanor a LOT on this first flight, and I wasn’t happy about it. She nursed on take-off to help with her ears, then she ate lunch, played for a bit, ate a TON of Cheerios and then melted down when we took them away. The removal of Cheerios happened to coincide with normal afternoon nap time AND a timely patch of turbulence that forced the Fasten Seatbelt light to come on. Fantastic. After she screamed for 5-15 minutes (I have no clue how long–it felt like 2 hours) I nursed her since nothing else could calm her down, at which point she finally fell asleep. Thank goodness.
Unfortunately, she only napped for about 45 minutes and woke up screaming. Frustrated but unwilling to listen to her cry on the plane, I nursed her again (frustrated because 1) I knew she wasn’t hungry and 2) I was getting sore from letting her nurse so long/often on the plane–when someone’s sucking and there’s nothing left, it’s not the most comfortable thing). This calmed her down and somehow we survived the rest of the flight (I did have to nurse her, yet again, on descent).
People were generally kind, but I did get a few passive aggressive comments (“Wow, she has a set of lungs, doesn’t she?” from a lady in front of us as we deplaned). I apologized profusely to anyone who gave me a second look and they were all gracious, but clearly it bothered them or they wouldn’t have commented in the first place, right? Oh well. Everyone survived in one piece, more or less.
The return flight was MUCH better–we got many comments (even from flight attendants!) on what a beautiful, happy, well-behaved, pleasant baby we have. I smiled and thanked them and thought “yeah, you must not have been on the last flight with me!” Our strategy was slightly different for this flight, but circumstances made the biggest difference.
First off, the timing worked out so that Eleanor got a morning nap at the hotel before we had to leave for the airport. This was probably the single most helpful thing in having a pleasant flight. The next stroke of luck? It wasn’t a full flight. Plop that baby in the middle seat and people avoid your row like the black plague–I mean, literally not one person even LOOKED at us as they were choosing a seat. I’m definitely not complaining, but it was sort of comical. Having that seat was great–sometimes I feel that Eleanor gets over-stimulated from being held all the time, and she just needs a little space to explore on her own. I did end up holding her most of the flight, but she did spend a bit of time in between us, and it seemed to help keep everyone a little more sane.
As I mentioned, our strategy was also a little different. I decided I wouldn’t get frustrated with nursing her, and I’d just let her feed as often as she wanted. That said, during take-off I just gave her the pacifier–she was content with it (it’s not nursing per se that helps with the ears, it’s just any sort of sucking) and I figured I would be risking a battle if I nursed her and then wanted to take her off the breast once we were in the air. This worked out well, and in fact (since it was just about time for her afternoon nap) she actually ended up dozing on me soon after we were airborne. Unfortunately for both of us, I dozed as well and my hand twitched in my sleep and (lightly) hit her in the face, waking her up from her nap after about 45 minutes. Whoopsies! She was pleasant when she woke up, but I felt bad.
After her abrupt awakening, I nursed her as long as she wanted, and then sat her in the chair next to me and gave her a toy to play with. We spent the remainder of the flight mostly playing with her, trading her off between laps and the chair. She ate some solid food, nursed a few times intermittently (any time she’d start to get cry and I could tell it was going to escalate) and I stood up with her for a bit for a change of scenery. She. Was. Amazing. She charmed everyone around us, with her flirtatious smiles and silly antics. I was so very thankful for a much more pleasant flight! No snarky comments as we got off the plane this time! Only compliments and smiles for the little one.
Overall, despite our less-than-pleasant first flight, flying with a baby wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I feared it would be. It’s helpful to remember that you never have to see these people again, and there are always drink tickets to purchase if your baby is exceptionally bad.
I guess my experience would boil down to these tips:
1) Be prepared to feed your baby/child much more than they would normally get (if you are trying to avoid crying)
2) Have a favorite/familiar item to play with (or soothe, if your child has a favorite lovey/blanket)
3) Have a new item or two that you give them on the plane, since new items frequently capture their attention slightly longer. Since my new items didn’t arrive, Eleanor got to play with the Spirit magazine aboard the plane. She promptly ripped out an advertisement and enjoyed waving that around for a good 5 minutes.
4) Don’t get rattled! Nobody likes a crying baby, but it’s a fact of life and the less rattled you get, the easier and more comfortable it will be for everyone. Babies can sense your emotional climate, and it only would put other passengers more on edge if you’re getting all flustered.
5) Remember it’s a limited time–you will get off the plane at some point.
6) Snacks, snacks and more snacks.
What are your best travel tips for the airplane with the younger crowd?