aka ‘How not to be the one with the screaming baby’ …
When DamBaby (DB) was eight weeks old, she took her first flight. The short journey from Amsterdam to the UK has fly time under an hour. Even so, I was nervous. I was doing this outward leg alone – my husband would join for the return journey. I was convinced I’d be holding a crying baby the whole way. I’m more sympathetic now I’m a parent, but I know what some travellers think: “why can’t they stop their baby crying?” I was dreading the judgment.
If I was worried about any part of the journey, I shouldn’t have been. It couldn’t have been smoother. My husband drove me to Schiphol airport, to help with check-in of bags and baby. I had one big suitcase to go in the hold, containing both DB and my things. I also had our Maxi-Cosi car seat which we checked into over-sized baggage. Finally, I had the baby and she was contained snugly in her baby carrier.
The husband waved us through passport control, and I braced myself to do the rest alone. His emotional farewell face as he prepared to be apart from his new baby for a whole week made it worse. I stepped up to the passport officer, baby asleep in her carrier. As a lone parent travelling from the Netherlands to the UK, I was advised to bring a signed consent letter from my husband to prove I wasn’t abducting our baby (yes, really). No-one asked to see it. A swift look at my passport and DB’s, with her ludicrous photo with her eyes shut and head lolling, and we were waved through. Step one: done!
DB was still sleeping in her carrier as boarding time approached. I debated risking waking her for a pre-flight feed, or letting sleeping babies lie. At the last minute I chose the feed option. I shut myself in the airport’s dedicated baby care room, conducted a lightning-quick feed and nappy change, then headed to the departure gate. My clean, milk-filled baby went straight back to sleep, snug against my chest.
At Schiphol airport, hand luggage security often takes place at the individual flight’s departure gate. I had concerns about this part of the process too. I was worried they would confiscate my bottle of lovingly pumped milk, or that I’d be forced to take DB out of the carrier to go through the x-ray scanner. Again, all my worst fears were groundless. The milk bottle, in clear plastic bag, was passed through with a smile. And, when I inevitably set off the metal detector thanks to my baby carrier, all they asked for was a gentle security pat down of the sleeping baby to prove she wasn’t smuggling anything.
Onwards, onto the plane, baby still asleep in carrier. As I settled into my seat, a kindly male steward came to check if I’d travelled with baby before and knew what to do. Obviously not. He noted her sleeping soundly and asked if I’d prefer to leave her there than wake her to put in a baby seatbelt. Yes please.
Boarding complete, the plane’s engines fired up. We taxied onto the mass maze of runways. DB still sleeping. This is the moment I was ready for. I’d been advised babies need something to suck on during take off and landing to help equalise their ears. I had pacifiers ready. I had a bottle ready. Worst case, I had myself at the ready. The plane straightened up. That quiet moment of pause before the engines roar. Then, Go! Accelerating down the runway. Front wheel inching off the ground and the jolt as we shoot into the air. I’m watching DB like a hawk, pacifier hovering against her bottom lip. Ready … ready … nothing. Sleeping. Through the clouds and we level out. Still sleeping. Trolley comes and I take a water. Still sleeping. Across the channel. Sleeping. We reach the UK and some cloud-based turbulence. Snooze. Landing, and we bump down onto UK tarmac. Sound asleep. She didn’t wake for a second the whole way.
As I walked off the plane, a fellow passenger commented; “wasn’t she good?” My face finally changed from nervous anticipation to a slightly smug smile. “That’ll do baby. That’ll do”.
My top tips for (short-haul) flying with a baby:
- Get to the airport early so you’ve got time for a final change and feed before boarding
- Baby carriers are your best friend for getting around the airport and getting onto the plane
- In case yours isn’t the snoozing wonder, have pacifiers and a bottle ready for take off and landing to equalise their ears
- If they do cry … who cares. All that matters is you and your baby, not what other people think
Do you have any great flying tips? Or have you ever had a travel disaster? Let me know.