Monday, February 14, 2011

Traveling with a baby.

The very idea seems to strike fear into the hearts of new parents. It was certainly a daunting thought to us a couple of weeks ago!

What should I pack? Will my baby cry on the plane? How do I navigate security with an infant? Can I bring milk or formula on board?

These are the questions that keep us new moms up at night.

We've now been to Phoenix and Orlando in the course of a couple of weeks. Those trips involved three different flights, a long car ride, and several different accommodations. Before our first trip, I asked the collective wisdom of facebook about their tips on flying with an infant. I received at least 20 responses in about five hours. Fantastic insights! They were super helpful to us as we traveled. And along the way, we gathered a few more tidbits.

Since we've been back, we've already had a number of friends ask for our tips for traveling with a baby. I figure there might be more of you out there wondering the same thing. So here we go...

1. Flexibility is your friend.

If you're a schedule nazi, I think you'll need to drop it for the duration of your trip. Go with the flow. Rock your baby to sleep, even if you're a cry-it-out-er at home. Feed your baby when she fusses, even if you usually feed on 3 hour intervals. Roll with it. Knowing upfront that everything will be haywire will make you feel better about life.

2. Nurse on the way up and nurse on the way down.

Or use a pacifier! Or feed a bottle. This was the #1 piece of advice we got on facebook, and it worked super well! I've heard that it helps equalize the pressure in their ears. I don't know if Caroline had any issues with pressure or not, but since we didn't have any crying fits during take off or landing, I'm going to assume it worked.

3. On that note, get used to nursing in public (if you nurse, obviously).

This is a fairly controversial/personal issue, I realize. Personally, I nurse Caroline everywhere. Park benches. Friends' houses. Restaurants. The backseat of a car (that is parked). Rides at Disney World. I don't like to isolate myself from my friends and family just because I need to feed my baby, so I cover up and nurse in all kinds of different locations. This was especially helpful when I was traveling, since good private locations for nursing just aren't always available. I personally use a nursing apron/cover, akin to this one so I'm always covered and discreet. If you sew at ALL, you can also find great patterns for them online. In any case, it might be my most-used baby item.

4. Leave your pump at home.

Because of my thoughts on #3, I was comfortable with kissing my pump goodbye temporarily. It's just a big space hog and not 100% necessary to a trip.

5. Buy pre-mixed formula.

We don't use much formula around here, but found it to be a very handy backup option for travel. Especially the ready-to-go cans. On one of the flights, Caroline got super cranky. Since we were confined to the seat, we weren't able to calm her down using normal methods. She'd recently nursed, so I knew I didn't have much mama milk for her to munch on. So for the sake of the other passengers, we gave her a formula bottle and it did the trick! We also found it helpful to have formula on hand for car trips. We were able to tide her over here and there if she fussed between stops.

6. Leave your car seat base at home.

Okay, first check your own car seat and make sure you can buckle in the carrier without a base. Read the directions and find out how to do it. And then save space in your luggage and leave the base in your own car at home. We have a Chicco Keyfit and it works perfectly to simply buckle it into any car.

7. Check with your airline about their allowances for checking car seats and strollers.

For our first trip, we used US Air. They allowed us to gate check either our car seat or a stroller for free. We knew we'd need both in Phoenix, so ended up stuffing an umbrella stroller into a duffel bag, and then packing our clothes in around it. That way we were able to just check (and pay for) one item instead of two. But that's just us and our cheap ways. The third flight was with AirTran and they allowed both a car seat and a stroller to be checked for free, either at the ticket counter or the gate. I found none of this information on the airline's website, and had to call them directly.

8. Put a cloth diaper cover over the disposable diaper on your baby's bum.

We have blow out issues at our house when we use disposable diapers. That was part of the reason we switched to cloth when we did. But we still use disposables for travel. Two different facebook friends recommended taking a BumGenius cover (no insert, just a cover) and putting it right on top of Caroline's disposable diaper for an extra layer of protection. It worked like a charm! It saved us from more than one blow out during our travels. I actually forgot to pack cloth diaper covers for Disney World, and had to deal with the consequences more than once. Not so fun.

9. Swaddle your baby into their car seat or stroller.

This was a trip from my friend DeeDee, mother of 3, two of which are twins. If you're a swaddle-r, you may have noticed that your velcro swaddle blankets have a hole near your baby's rear end. This is for car-seat swaddle ability. Simply lay the swaddle blanket into the car seat/stroller, and pull the bottom strap through the hole. Pull the wings through the arm holes, and the put your baby in. Buckle the car seat/stroller as usual, and then arrange the swaddle blanket around the baby. I've found that this strategy really helps Caroline sleep longer and better when she needs to nap on the go. This was great for both our car trip to Florida as well as our Disney World adventures.

(And please don't call the baby police on me for putting Caroline in an umbrella stroller prior to her 3 month mark. We didn't feel like dragging our big jogging stroller across the country. We also used that yellow cushion, which helped stabilize her little head.) Also, the swaddle blanket is the primary colored one with the planes, boats, and cars.

10. One heavy blanket and one light one should cover your blanket needs.

The heavy blanket doubles as a coat (with a car seat) or changing mat, in a pinch. The light one can be used as a sun shade, a burp cloth, a swaddle blanket, etc. Or, if you're my mom, a scarf.

11. Make do.

Don't haul all of the baby crap you own with you. Since Caroline is so young, we left all toys and books at home. She's just as fascinated with colorful dishes and people's faces as she is with her teddy bears. She was also bathed in a variety of sinks, and toweled off with whatever was available. And she survived without her beloved bouncer seat.

12. If you need to bring a baby bed with you, spring for a Peapod.

You're probably already aware of just how heavy and bulky your pack and play is! The Peapod bed is light (just over five pounds) and fits into carry-on sized luggage. We just took along one of her crib sheets and covered the little air mattress with that. A perfect baby bed for travel!


13. Hands-free carriers are great.

Caroline spent some quality time in her Moby Wrap while we gone! A Bjorn or Ergo would work just as well, I'm sure. It was great for navigating the airport on that third flight when Josh wasn't with me. The only drawback for flights is that they'll make you take it off when you go through security. It was also great for navigating the buses and boats and rides at Disney World. More on that later.

One of these days I'll do a post on Disney World with an infant. But for now, there are my top 13 tips on traveling with a baby. All of these things worked well for us, but I know that each baby and family is unique. Do what works best for you! And on that note, I'm super curious to learn just what that might be.

So, bloggy friends, do share!


Ani said...

I can't believe they made you take off the Moby to go through security! We've never once had to take off either the Moby or the Ergo...even while wearing a 2-year-old who was awake a perfectly capable of walking! Of course all our flights have been international...maybe that makes a difference? Anyway, glad you got everything figured out and that things went so smoothly...can't wait to hear about Disney!

Ali said...

You are such an amazing mom. And I think we have a lot in common. Love ya, friend.