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6 Unsolvable Problems When Flying Solo With a Baby

Photograph by Twenty20

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.

RELATED: 10 Questions to Ask Before Boarding a Plane With Your 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. 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 your lap.

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 fine, right?

Wrong again.

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.

RELATED: Buying a Plane Ticket for a Baby Is a Waste of Money

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.

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