When my daughter was born, I was already living in California and my husband was finishing up a project in New York. He came to visit several times over the first few months, but when she was around 7 weeks old, I decided to take her to New York for my last few weeks of maternity leave. I was completely alone and had never traveled with a child before – let alone an infant! I usually like a challenge, but I was a bit terrified at the prospect. Here are the most important things I learned:
Getting To and Through The Airport
Here’s where having the most strategic luggage pays off big time. If you can make it was one big suitcase and a baby bag, you should be golden. Pack your and baby’s stuff in a large suitcase. Consider a backpack diaper bag if at all possible. You’ll be carrying your baby and a diaper bag, so being hands free will help exponentially. I like this and this one. Wear your baby! If you are traveling alone, this is pretty crucial. You will have to take the baby out of the carrier for take-off and landing, but you can wear it on the flight to sooth a fussy baby and most airports won’t make you take off the carrier going through security. (Disclaimer: if you travel outside of the US they most likely will make you remove it). My all-time favorite baby carrier is the Ergo 360, but I have also heard great things about the Tula. Once you check your suitcase, you’ve got a backpack on your back and baby on your front. You are completely hands free to make your way through the airport (and even drink a cup of coffee!) while you wait for the flights (don’t attempt to bring that shit on the plane with you though – it will be a disaster).
Bring Pacifiers (and pacifiers and pacifier and pacifiers). If you’re anti-paci, feel free to skip this paragraph. Flights are tough on infants – their ears hurt during take-off and sometimes during the flight. The WORST thing that could happen to you on a long flight with a newborn is to drop your pacifier on the airplane floor. I brought 10 pacis in a large ziplock bag.
A paci strap can also be helpful, just make sure it doesn’t drag on the seats or armrests.
If the worst-case scenario occurs and the one item that is keeping your precious bundle of joy calm falls to its demise in the filth of the airplane floor, you can just put it in a wash later bag and pop a new one in.
A travel pillow is clutch. Older babies can sleep more comfortably on parents, but for newborns who still have floppy necks, a small travel pillow on your lap gives your arms and wrists a break. Just throw the pillow over your arm like a bag and unzip once settled on the plane.
Snacks and Drinks for Mama – Once in route it might be hard to get food or drinks. Pack plenty of snacks for yourself and big bottle of water so you don’t have to worry if about waking a sleeping baby to hail down a flight attendant.
Rely on the Kindness of Strangers – I’ve seen people hand out bags of gifts to strangers in thanks for putting up with baby on his/her first flight. The truth of the matter is if you are traveling alone with an infant you probably don’t have time or space in your backpack to do that! Every single one of us was once a baby. People are typically way more understanding and compassionate than we might think. Ari was pretty good on the flight until the last leg when she started to get fussy. I was desperate to pee and a tremendously big Samoan flight attendant offered to hold her. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but he took her, and his eyes lit up he walked her up and down the aisle singing to her. I got to pee and eat a GRANOLA BAR! To this very day, I have never been more grateful for another human being on a plane.
A few other must-have items for a long flight with a newborn:
- A good, easy to put on nursing cover.
- A few nice muslin blankets. These are super lightweight and don’t take up much space and you need a backup in case one falls on the vile floor.
- Change of clothes for baby and shirt for you
- A few more diapers than you think you could possibly use (layovers and delays happen and being stuck in the airport without a diaper is not a good time) + Wipes
- Clorox Wipes – to wipe down the area around your seat.
- A kindle or ipad with preloaded videos and headphones – Ya never know, you might just have a unicorn who sleeps all flight and gives you the chance to watch Game of Thrones from the beginning.
The most essential thing you need is a positive attitude. I know far too many Moms who would never travel with their kids – especially alone, but if you are a Mom who also loves adventure and travel that’s not going to be an option for you. Look, there are times when things are not going to go as planned. Your baby might scream for two hours or have a blow-out on the plane, but YOU can do it. All of the things that could go wrong also make us stronger, more confident Mama’s. When you arrive at your destination, give yourself a hand and pour yourself a glass of wine. It might not have been easy, but you made it! By the time you board your return flight, you will already be a pro!