You might think—like I did—that your only
problem when flying with a baby is the screaming. So when my 4-month-old son
slept almost all the way through our first flight, my partner and I thought we
had it down.
Then I flew on my own with him. Crying was the least of my problems.
Here are some things you might want to consider
before your solo flight with a baby. Think of them like philosophy problems.
Things to ponder over with no answers.
1. Which seat?
You think you know this one, right? The aisle seat
so you can get out when you need to.
Sitting by the aisle with your baby in your arms
means either her head or feet are sticking out, vulnerable to the lethal edges
of the drinks-cart.
Only someone really selfish would choose the window
seat and annoy two people when they got up, so the best seat must be the middle
seat. Except, now you're still upsetting both of them, because you need to take
up the left and the right armrests while baby feeds/sleeps/wails/squirms in
So, opting for the window seat is the lesser of
three evils after all. The problem is only you know the logic path you just
followed. Even if you only get up once, your seatmates will be muttering under
their breath that you could at least have sat next to the aisle.
2. Carry-on or hold luggage?
If you've opted to take more than just carry-on
luggage on your flight, you won't have to think about what to do with it, because you didn't get further than the end of your street before giving up and
returning home. Oust everything but your toothbrush in favor of diapers, baby
wipes, a changing mat, a couple of toys, a change of clothes for both of you,
feeding paraphernalia, muslin blankie, pacifier, sterilizer, colic medicine and five
spares of all the above.
If you're lucky, that will all be allowed as
carry-on and fit in a bag small enough to put under the seat in front of you.
Otherwise, there's no way you're going to be able to juggle the baby while you
try and get the bag in the overhead compartment. Once you're in your seat,
it'll be even more difficult to open the compartment and get it out again
should you need it. Not without asking one of the two passengers that already
hates you for making them get up all the time to get up again. And hold the baby.
Only someone really selfish would choose the window seat and annoy two people when they got up, so the best seat must be the middle seat.
3. How to eat?
Feeding your baby is easy. You're probably really good at eating with your other hand while holding him too. This is going to be
Feeding yourself is only possible if the baby will lie
still enough to act like the pull down tray that you won't be able to use.
Maybe you've planned ahead and brought your own food and drink? Too bad it's in
the overhead compartment.
4. What's your baby called?
If you happen not to share your baby's surname,
you'd better have all her documents with you. Birth certificates, a signed
letter from the baby's other parent giving you permission to take her out of
the country, baby's first mortgage application. Never mind that the photo in
the passport no longer resembles the child you're travelling with anyway.
5. What to do with the diapers?
You know how when someone farts on a plane,
everyone within three rows' sniffing distance has to pretend not to notice?
There's no such protocol for smells made by minors. Like a shitty version of
Original Sin, the disgust is aimed at you, not the baby, as you waft past your
two seatmates to the toilet. Space and facility-wise, airplane toilets are
better set up for Mile High sex than diaper changes.
At least one of you gets to relieve yourself on
this trip though. You are on door-to-door bladder and bowel lockdown unless you
can grow an extra set of hands.
Once you've struggled that far, it'll all be worth it when you feel the relief of seeing your stroller circling towards you.
6. What to do with the stroller?
The airline helpfully lets you keep your stroller
up to the plane door and then stows it, free of charge, in the hold. Even if your
worst nightmare doesn't come true, and they don't bother to put it on the plane
(this happened to me), you still have to hold your baby and bag
while collapsing the stroller. At least a flight attendant will probably
be around to hold or fold something.
But then you've got to get off the plane and trek to
the luggage belt with baby plus bag and no help. Once you've struggled that
far, it'll all be worth it when you feel the relief of seeing your stroller
circling towards you. And then you realize you'll have to put your baby on the
floor while you wrestle it off the belt and unfold it.
If there's room in your hand luggage for a sling,
this will save you most of the hassle. As will staying at home. Yeah, maybe
just do that.