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Tips for flying with a newborn

Saturday, February 15, 2014
Before Winter hits her three month mark, she will have traveled over 10,000 air miles criss-crossing the continental U.S. That's definitely more flying over the course of one month than Mr. P and I have done over the course of any given year! Having seven (yes, 7!) flights under our belt, I can confidently say we've got traveling with (newborn 0-3month) infant down. Here are a few tips I can share:
Book nonstop flights. 
You never know what might happen during a layover. This also simplifies planning as far as diapers, bottles, naps, etc.  which translates to less STUFF you have to carry. Speaking of packing...

You can still carry-on!
I am a carry-on queen. I HATE checking my luggage. Even on an 18 day trip across Europe I packed a carry-on bag (see here). Clearly when I've set the bar so high, I figured traveling with an infant, who's entire 3-month wardrobe could fit in a backpack, packing would be a breeze. Wrong. It's not easy but it's certainly doable.  First consider the equipment. are you bringing a stroller? carseat? a carrier?  We chose to take our carseat since it locks into our stroller base serving 2 purposes: carseat at our destination and stroller just in general. Granted pushing a stroller with one hand and rolling a suitcase with another takes some coordination but it beats carrying anything.
Each airline is different but we flew jetblue which allows infants to have a stroller that can be gate checked and a diaper bag (what classifies as a diaper bag can be open to interpretation). Couple this with your personal luggage requirements (carry-on suitcase + "personal bag") and stuff just ADDS UP. I packed baby's clothes into my roller carry-on suitcase. My personal bag (which could fit in my stroller basket) was one tote. In that tote I had: my wallet and things for flight (mag, earbuds, toiletries) as well as bag that served as baby's changing kit. In the baby changing kit I had:
  • diapers (i estimate 1 for every hour of traveling not just flight)
  • ointment (if needed - travel size)
  • 1-2 changes of clothes (for diaper blowouts),
  • ziplock bag (for soiled clothes) 
  • wipes (travel size)
  • travel changing pad (wipe-clean kind or disposable) 
I did not bring diapers, wipes, etc for the time we were at our destination - we always buy those things when we get there. It saves space and you can probably still squeeze in leftover diapers into your suitcase and replenish travel wipes case for your return flight home. 

Security:
You'll have to break down the stroller to fit through xray machine. If it doesn't (ours didn't) they'll have to personally inspect it. You carry baby in your arms through the x-ray machine. All other rules still apply (laptops out, shoes off, liquids limited, etc) For breastmilk/formula: notify the security agent so they can scan those items separately. If you give them the heads up - it'll speed up the process by avoiding having to explain everything after-the-fact.
other flight tips:
  • put baby in a sleeper - they'll be comfortable and warm, and it makes for quick and easy changes
  • have baby sucking (via bottle, breast, or pacifier) on ascent and descent to handle change in pressure
  • consider a baby carrier (bjorn, ergo, sling, wrap, etc)  on the flight - makes boarding possible since i'd be hands free for my roller suitcase + personal bag. Also baby easily dozes off in there so I didn't have to exert much arm strength for the duration of the flight. 
  • if your baby is fairly light/small or you've got a companion sitting next to you - those tray tables can act as a "bed" if your arm starts to feel heavy
  • my baby changing kit was inside one of those disposable totes you get from the grocery store - leaves you hands free to hold baby as you go to the bathroom on the plane without having to lug your entire personal bag
  • a window seat gives you a bit of privacy to lay your head but aisle seats lets you get to the bathroom easier with baby without having to climb over your seatmates (something to think about on long-haul flights).

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