As Thanksgiving travel ramps up, it makes me think of all the poor families traveling with a baby for the first time. Let’s just say, long gone are the days of a small suitcase and purse for a quick getaway. Even a short trip with a baby can mean a lot of well – baggage!
When my husband and I flew for the first time with our three-month-old daughter, Charlotte, to Chicago for a family reunion, we were lucky to have helpful insights from our neighbor who had flown with her baby several times. Here’s a checklist to help any of you during this time, and honestly one that I’ll be looking back at come this January when we fly with Charlotte again.
- Call the airline to add your baby as a lap child. You need to bring a copy of their birth certificate to the airport to verify that they are under two years of age and able to fly as “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect would say: “Foooooo Freeeeeee.”
- Bring a bottle to get from your house through security because there’s no ideal time to breastfeed. It’s nice that they’ve added breastfeeding pods or rooms at some airports. However, a special scarf or cover is another great tool for feeding your baby or pumping if you’re traveling sans baby. Here is one scarf I love that’s multi-functional because it looks great as a scarf or if you’re wearing it on the plane you can look artsy with a smock-inspired look. It provides good coverage and doesn’t take up much room if you don’t want to wear. Bring your pump as carry-on because you never know when you might need it. A pump that comes in a backpack is wonderful for work and travel. While I like my Medela backpack pump that I got “Fooooo Freeeee” from my insurance, I do feel like I’m competing in a 7th grade science project every time I assemble it. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I’ve beat the carry-on system by putting my breast pump backpack into a larger backpack so I can put other items inside of it. Also, don’t forget your icepack, bottles, cooler, and pump bags.
- When you go through security, make sure you take the cooler with milk out and let the security guards know you have breastmilk. It doesn’t hurt to let them know a breastpump is going through the conveyer belt too. They will check your milk in a way that doesn’t contaminate it. Make sure to reclose bags to get all the air out. You’re supposed to only bring 3 ounces in each bottle or pump bag, but they’ll usually allow you to bring more (at least Chicago, Las Vegas, and Phoenix airports have taken pity on me), just make sure that it’s not completely filled to the top of a bottle. It’s harder to test. Yes, talking from experience. Just ask the senior management from my company who had to patiently wait for me a few weeks ago…
- Another miscellaneous tip is to nurse at takeoff and/or landing because it helps babies handle the pressure changes better. Whether I’m nursing or pumping on a plane, it’s always helpful to have an end seat if I need to get up to soothe a baby or to have the aisle to easily access my backpack entourage. Have baby wipes readily available to wipe down the tray table and anything else in reach of baby or even just you because it’s not fun getting sick when you have a baby.
- Essential Items to Pack: Stroller, car seat, car seat base, and a bag for your car seat. The car seat base was one item that I almost forgot. I wasn’t even thinking how we’d need that for transportation to and from the airport, or if we drove anywhere while in Chicago. Make sure you get a gate check tag when you first arrive at the airport and where you’d check any bags. Then you can take your stroller and car seat/base all the way to the gate and then check it right before boarding. The baggage handlers bring it up right outside the plane door after you’ve landed. You’ll be thankful for the extra storage space underneath your stroller while making your way through the airport. For those that might be a packing ninja, you can check your stroller earlier and simply use a carrier. Sometimes they will allow you to bring your car seat onto the plane if there are extra seats. Take advantage of the fact that they let families with young children board early and arrive at the gate very early.
- Plan for a blow-out, spit up, getting peed on our even the trifecta of all three. Bring bags to dispose of dirty diapers or stained clothes while in transit. Bring an extra set of clothes for baby, you, and hopefully you’re partner that’s also traveling with you and carrying some of those bags. You can put these extras in your diaper bag or another carry-on bag. My husband and I checked a large suitcase to share and kept our clothes and Charlotte’s clothes in one bag. Then we had our diaper bag backpack, my husband had another backpack, and I as I mentioned before I had my pump in a backpack that allowed me to keep other travel essentials in the pockets. We put one of the backpacks under the stroller.
- I brought my breastfeeding pillow that served its obvious purpose, but was also a great place for my daughter to lay on my lap and nap during the flight. Make sure you go to the bathroom right before boarding in case your baby sleeps the whole flight. You do not under any circumstances move that baby! Speaking of sleeping, if you can ever stay with a family that has recently had young kids and not have to bring something for your child to sleep in that’s a bonus. A lot of people invest in strollers that have built in bassinettes so there you go.
- Don’t underestimate the climate or uncontrollables. For us, we travelled to Chicago right as fall arrived. New parents and completely naïve, we thought that we had a blanket that was heavy enough and didn’t even think about packing socks or shoes because we rarely took our daughter outside. Thank goodness my cousin we were staying with had plenty of warm blankets, socks, etc. Plan for the extremes and make sure that your baby is covered.
- Sometimes your baby is a mess. It happens. My cousin’s daughter was a crier, and anticipating that her daughter was going to cry the entire flight from Chicago to Florida she brought candy for everyone on the plane. Small gestures go a long way.
Got any crazy travel stories with your baby? Share below!