A plane ride is an uncomfortable situation for all of us. The close quarters, the smells, the sounds and the turbulence create a situation, which is challenging and exhausting. The coping mechanisms we have to get through the uncomfortable situation of being on a plane are inaccessible to infants.
Ollie doesn’t understand when we tell him that the experience will soon be over or that if he does certain things he will be more comfortable. For Ollie, he’s in a strange place with odd smells that is affecting his body in a way that he doesn’t know how to cope with.
This sets up a situation for a six month old like Ollie that can only go so well. He can only sleep for so long on the plane and he can only sit in our lap without fussing for so long. Ollie is too young to be entertained by watching Elmo on an iPad and is too old to sleep the length of the flight and not need stimulation.
Ollie cried, he slept for parts of it and Diana and I both took him up and down the aisles to entertain him. He ate through most of the corner of the emergency information card and he enjoyed ripping pages out of the in-flight magazine (I think he had issues with the quality of some of the articles).
We struggled to get him to sleep when he was cranky and somehow found success. At one point I had Ollie pressed up against my chest with both of our heads underneath a swaddle cloth with one hand pressing a pacifier to his mouth and the other hand holding my iPhone blasting a white-noise into his ear.
It wasn’t until after he fell asleep that I realized that I was sitting in an incredibly uncomfortable position. I was slouching so the small of my back took my body weight, my legs were propped up against the seat in front of me in an awkward angle and my arm was beginning to ache having to balance his body weight. Then I realized I had to go to the bathroom.
But I sat that way and let Ollie sleep on my chest for 45 minutes.
The hardest thing about flying with Ollie was the fact that Diana and I were constantly on. Usually on a plane you can relax and read a magazine. You can zone out in front of an iPad and chill out. When there’s a baby involved you are never relaxed and settled. Forget trying to get sleep, read a book or watch a show, you are one the ENTIRE time. This is exhausting.
Here’s a couple tips that worked for us with Ollie on the plane that helped us get through this experience:
- Give your kid some baby Tylenol before the flight.
- Nurse or give your kid a pacifier on the way up and down (helps with the change in air pressure).
- Carry-on as a little as possible (except for diapers and wipes). It’s worth the extra fee to check bags in.
- Pack plastic bags.
Ollie already has more plane flights planed for this year. With family in Seattle and Chicago, this is just going to be part of his life. Yes, flying with Ollie was challenge but it was well-worth it.
Taking a baby on a plane is hard. Every parent has stories about struggling through this situation. Be realistic about your expectations and be thoughtful about your preparation. Don't forget, the most important thing, the thing that will help your child get through a plane flight is your attention, your calmness and your love.