on flying with babies.

most people know:

nic is a pilot. 

oooooooo! people say to/ about nic. you are/ he is so cool and rich!


being a pilot sounds super glamorous. i guess nic is cool because of it. it's a pretty big deal to maneuver a multi-ton, metal tube full of people and peanuts through the air at high velocities. as far as i can tell, it's a lot of staying in crappy hotels and eating subway sandwiches and waiting in airports amongst frantic travelers, but nic loves it, so i love it too. that being said, i am also very glad i'm not a pilot.

we are also definitely not rich, but we might be one day. stand by on that one.

the biggest downside to nic's career is he is gone at least 60% of the time. melby and i miss him. we talk about him. we take videos of us doing mundane things to remind him we're cute. the biggest upside is that we can fly for free anywhere american flies! including europe! while we have yet to take any spontaneous european vacations, we have been on a grand total of 14 american flights in melby's short 6+ months of life, starting when she was 6 weeks old.

thus, one of the number one questions people ask me is about flying with babies.

the short response to:

q: how do you fly with a baby? 


a: you get on the plane with the baby and hope for the best.

but we have flown enough times that i have some basic tips so here they are.

1. take the earliest flight of the day.

babies (and people?) generally disintegrate as the day goes on. the bewitching hour is a thing. being tired from a stimulating day is a thing. if you think you will take an evening flight and your baby will sleep, you are probably wrong. chances are, baby will be too overstimulated to sleep (if they are old enough to be aware) but exhausted and lose their mind.

morning flights are the least likely to be delayed too. so get out of bed early, get that baby to the airport, and hang onto the good mood while it lasts.

2. bring a stroller/ carseat combo (if this is an option) into the airport.

the first time i traveled i didn't take either of these things. i was alone, and carrying a baby and our 47 items was borderline impossible, especially if for some godforsaken reason i had to put her down. airport floors rank right above public restroom floors in cleanliness in my mind.

the stroller was an awesome place to store all our crap as we walked around the airport so i didn't have to carry it, and i could set her in the seat if need be. and then when you get to your destination, you have your usual carseat (most don't need a base these days! you can just use a seatbelt). you check the stroller gate side before your flight. just walk up to the counter and tell them and they'll give you the right tag. you pick up stroller gate side after the flight. 

the only downside to this option is it slows you down. you have to wait to pick up the stroller, which can sometimes take a minute and you also have to use elevators instead of escalators. if you have short connections to make, this can be stressful!

please see: me RUNNING full speed (ie not very fast, but totally crazy) between terminals, mowing down people with the stroller, while we raced to our standby flight after a delayed flight during christmas. some guy ran behind me, shouting, "you clear the way!"

we did make it. i feel like people clapped. or maybe i imagined that.

3. despite having a stroller, WEAR YOUR BABY.

as i'm sure you already know, people have no idea how babies work and want to touch them. oh i just coughed into my palm, let me hold your newborn baby's hand! her face is so sweet, i'm just recovering from the flu, but let me kiss her with my creepy mouth!

planes/ airports are cess pools. if your baby is attached to you, people are less likely/ able to sneak in baby touches. it also definitely doesn't mean they won't. as my friend said, keep her close and be ready to scream if necessary. sometimes you just have to be rude. i am not a germaphobe, but i still get on a plane and wipe down the area around me with a baby wipe.


wearing baby also means they might sleep on you. i try to walk melby around before we get on a flight so she can snooze through it (this works about as well as all of my other plans for motherhood, ie about 10% success). SOME airlines (ahem, united) will not let you wear your baby during take off and landing, which i think is insane, but be forewarned. which leads me to...

4. nurse/ give bottle or pacifier during take off and landing.

melby has not been bothered by the pressure on planes at all, which is why i root for sleep over boobs. but some babies are and the sucking helps. also the sucking helps mostly ANY other plane crisis that might occur. i am basically topless 90% of most flights.


this ties in to 90% boobs. do whatever you have to do. for me, a plane ride is about getting through each minute. she normally goes to sleep on her own? nurse her to sleep. she normally doesn't eat anything but beets and sweet potatoes? give her that bag of cheez-its. she's not allowed screen time? let her watch all of game of thrones on repeat.

realistically, for melby, a plane ride looks like a snack/ boob, one toy pulled out at a time to entertain her as long as possible, seven thousand trips to the bathroom to walk up and down the aisles, bouncing on legs, trying to go to sleep in a carrier, and generally praying. you just get through it. take one minute at a time.



just like it’s legitimate to drink in an airport at 8 am (right??), it’s legitimate to do whatever necessary to survive your flight in relative peace. it’s not a time for perfect parenting. it’s time for survival.  

6. change baby immediately before the flight. bring 50 changes of clothes.

changing a baby on a plane is borderline impossible. some bathrooms have janky changing tables above the toilets. some (usually smaller planes) do not. either way you will feel 100% too fat and uncoordinated to maneuver changing on a plane, so avoid it if possible.

of course that means they poop the minute you're in the air. melby also ALWAYS decides to have a blow out. bring more clothes than you think necessary. hope for the best.

7. baby gets their own carry on.

you get an extra carry on for baby. it can only have baby related items in it, but you can bring a whole other item on in addition to your personal item and carry on. this is why that stroller comes in handy!


8. accept help.

i’m usually traveling by myself so maybe this occurs more for the seemingly single mom, but endless people offer help. TAKE IT. let people open the door and carry your crap and go before them in line.

people aren’t offering help and you need it? ask. seriously. practice saying, "would you mind helping me for a second?" traveling alone with an infant has been such a great reminder how important it is to both offer and receive help and how willing most people are to participate. it’s humanizing; it makes both parties feel good, and it means you'll make it through alive and intact.



9. board first.

you have a baby! you now qualify as someone, who needs "special assistance." don't think you're exploiting luxuries that are not yours to take. they are yours! getting down the narrow aisles with your bags and baby and body, when the seats are already full is challenging. go first and get settled.


10. relax.

just kidding! there’s nothing relaxing about traveling ever, let alone with an infant. but i will tell you this: most people are really quite nice and understanding. people like babies! they're adorable! they're soft! they're tiny! and if they actually hate you and your angelic babe, you never have to see them again.

the last flight melby and i took in our impressive history was a dreaded evening flight, which i optimistically told myself she might sleep through. hahahahahhaaaa... she didn't.

instead she screamed bloody murder for 20 minutes (which felt like 20 hours. of being tortured. while giving birth, unmedicated. on a bed of hot coals...) and EVEN THE BOOB COULDN’T FIX IT. my entire chest was literally hanging out as i frantically tried to pat and shush and sing her into calming down. i was stress sweating and borderline crying myself. i kept saying to the people around me, “i promise it won't be like this the whole flight.” (i had no basis for saying that except very wishful thinking.) after many relatively successful flights, it was my worst nightmare come true.

and you know what? it was horrible. but it was also fine. the woman next to me patted my leg and told me she had 7 grandchildren. the man to my left smiled and smiled at melby; he said he worked for scholastic and handed us a new clifford stuffed animal he had in his bag. the woman behind him leaned forward and said, "i'm a mom too. i know it's hard." and then behind me, a faceless woman i never got to see chimed in, "you have another mom back here! we're with you!"

eventually, mercifully, melby fell asleep and i had a moment to reflect on worst case scenario come reality. it was okay. it was beautiful even. because a bunch of strangers reached out and reassured me that no one hated me or thought i was a terrible mom, that even my worst nightmare was okay and relatable, that i wasn't alone.

in summary, flying with your baby is a lot like anything else you do as a parent. you can follow all the rules and everything might still fall apart. in fact, it definitely will at some point, but it's a good reminder we're all doing our best. sometimes somebody's screaming, sometimes you're accidentally topless on a plane, sometimes you have to ask for help, but you're doing your best, and one way or another, you'll get where you're going.