I really didn't have a lot of anxiety leading up to the flight. I knew that I couldn't control whether the air pressure changes would bother Sully or not, and deep down, I just had this feeling that he would enjoy the flights. I couldn't have been more right! He was a dream and the whole experience couldn't have gone better than it did.
Now, I'm no expert and not really qualified to give out advice on flying with your infant, but here are some tips on what we did and didn't do to make our first flight with Sully as smooth as possible. Maybe some of them will be helpful for you if you ever find yourself travelling with an infant.
1) First of all, Sully's age really helped. At a little over 6 months at the time of the trip, we had just started introducing solids and his main nutrition was still coming from breastmilk. Therefore, we didn't have to worry about packing any food for him with us or bottles and formula. I know our next flight with him will be a bit more complicated in this area.
2) In addition to the point above, breastfeeding really made the entire flight experience a breeze. A lot of people suggest nursing on the take off and the landing, but I was actually told beforehand by a friend, not to nurse on the take off as then your baby can also ingest a lot of air making them more uncomfortable in the long run. I've also read that your ears naturally adjust to the ascent as opposed to the descent. I nursed while we were taxiing, and then Sully fell asleep for take off. I tried to time nursing with all 4 landings we did, but sometimes I couldn't get him to keep nursing during the entire descent. Those times I popped a soother in his mouth to encourage swallowing to decrease sensitivity to the air pressure changes. Also, use a soother clip to avoid the soother falling on the floor of the airplane. (Gross, and you can't rinse off the soother in the airplane washrooms.) Bonus: Sully loves playing with his soother clip and chewing on the beads. Functional AND fun!
3) We had upgraded seats for both flights which was a godsend. Sure, the free snacks and drinks are a huge bonus, but it was the extra leg room that was really nice when you have to hold a baby on your lap the entire 6+ hours. You're also first off the plane which is really nice. And out of sheer luck, on our flight home, the third seat in our row remained empty and we actually laid Sully on it while he slept for a few hours. This actually gave me some time to read, which is my favourite thing to do on a plane. For flights over 3 hours, I think it's worth the splurge to upgrade your seats. Plus, you get two free checked bags as opposed to one. If you're going to end up paying to check more luggage, you might as well upgrade your seat instead.
4) Take a pillow or small nursing pillow onto the plane with you. You will not regret it. Your arms and elbows will thank you when you are holding a baby for the entire flight. Also, if you luck out like us and get an empty seat next to you, you can use the pillow to prop the baby on to sleep.
5) Take a couple of receiving blankets. These serve a few purposes: nursing covers, blankets for everyone if the plane is cool and to clean up any spit up. My favourite are the aden and anais ones. They are large enough and breathable enough to use as a nursing cover - I just knotted two ends together and placed around my neck - this allowed me to leave my regular nursing cover behind (Sully hates being under that one anyway).
6) I packed a small bag of toys to entertain Sully with, but I didn't end up needing any of them. He was pretty happy to look out the window when he wasn't sleeping. And his favourite thing to do was pull papers out of the seat pocket in front of us. But I would recommend packing a few things to distract/entertain your baby just in case.
7) Pack double the diapers you think you will need on your carry-on and pack extra wipes. We amazingly had not one poopy diaper to change, but my philosophy is, if you don't pack extra, the shit will literally hit the fan. Wipes are awesome for more than just cleaning your babes bottom. I used them to wipe down the seat trays and arm rests, and anything I thought and knew Sully would touch. But I'm sure all you mom's already know the brilliance that is the baby wipe.
8) Have your babe travel in a sleeper. They're comfy, you don't have to worry about socks or shoes, and they're way easier to change a diaper in, especially in the god-awful teeny-tiny bathrooms on the plane. Plus, if you do have a blow-out, it's much easier to contain the mess and change babe quickly. Skip the cute pants/onsie/shirt outfit for until you get to your destination.
9) Bring a hands-free baby carrier. I took 3. Overkill? Possibly, but I wasn't sure which one I would prefer. I had a cloth wrap, an ergo and a friend lent me a sling wrap to try out. I loved the sling wrap and would definitely recommend one for the airport. It's so quick to put on and put baby into and Sully really liked snuggling into me in it. More so than the ergo. I didn't bother with my wrap (which I love) because it's a little more time consuming to put on and I have to re-wrap it each time Sully goes in and out of it. I also used the sling wrap a lot during our trip - for grocery store runs, etc.
10) Lastly (if you've read this far, high-five!), try not to stress. Anxiety feeds anxiety. I knew if I stayed calm and cool, Sully would most likely stay calm and cool. Perhaps my outlook would be different had he been a nightmare on the flight, but I like to think part of his good behaviour was because of mine. Or we just got really lucky this time!
In case you're wondering, we left our good stroller at home because we had one to borrow from family when we arrived at our destination. Instead, we used a small umbrella stroller (lent to us by a friend) in the airport and gate checked it. We easily could have survived without it though, especially since we had our hands-free baby carriers with us, but it did make going through security a bit easier. We bag checked our car seat, but left the base at home. You can just as safely install the car seat using the seat belt in a vehicle so we didn't bother lugging it along.
I'm so grateful we had a wonderful first experience flying with Sully. It will make the next trip we go on that much easier for us mentally. I'm sure our next experience will be completely different as he will be a babe on the move and won't be content to just sit on our laps, but we will cross that path when we come to it.
Have you travelled with your kids when they were just babes? I'd love to hear what worked and didn't work for you!