Part 2: How to Survive an Airport with a Baby in Tow!
If you haven’t read my previous post about preparing to fly with an infant, my first suggestion is to check that out. Navigating the airport with your baby can be tricky but here are five tips that can help make your day a little easier:
Tip #1: Did you know that it’s a good idea to travel with printed copies of TSA/airline rules regarding breastmilk and traveling with children?
If you read my previous blog post, I discussed this topic in detail there. If you haven’t checked it out you can find it here: (Part 1: What to Know About Booking a Flight and Packing for Travel). You will also find on my previous post links to the TSA guidelines for traveling with breast milk. I recommend having the TSA guidelines and any airline policies regarding children/breast pumps/car seats printed out and stored in your carry-on luggage or diaper bag with your baby’s birth certificate or passport. In the event that check-in personnel or TSA give you a hard time – pulling out the rules and having applicable sections highlighted can help. I print and highlight fresh copies for each trip we take.
Tip #2: Did you know that Babywearing through security can save you time and keep your baby happier?
When dealing with the airport, even without children, going through security is a pain. The lines are long and people tend to be impatient. It can be especially stressful if you are worried about making it through and finding your gate in time to catch your flight. Add a baby into the mix and the stress doubles because you have to go through additional checks (especially if you are traveling with breast milk) and babies aren’t always the most patient travel mates.
Even if you are traveling with your stroller, I have found that it’s easiest to wear your baby through security. Wearing your baby keeps baby calm because they are with you and feel safe in a sea of strangers. If you have a stroller with you it will need to be inspected and it’s much easier to already have you baby out of it than trying to get them out in a hurry right when it’s your turn. If you use a carrier without any metal on it (for example I would not recommend using a ring sling here) you can actually keep it on and wear your baby right through the detector. I have yet to be asked to take it off. I have been lucky the past two times I have flown to have been traveling with my husband. Since I am usually wearing the baby, he pushes the stroller though and gets it checked while I deal with my breast pump bag being flagged. Speaking of which – always let the TSA agent know in advance if you are traveling with breast milk so that there isn’t any surprises. By tag teaming, we are able to get through security fairly quickly and without too much hassle. Flying alone, I would still go through security with my baby being worn versus in the stroller just to avoid having to get him in and out of it quickly. Typically once past security, I keep my son in his carrier and just use the stroller to carry our stuff ( like the diaper bag and we usually put the car seat on top of the stroller so we can push it instead of carry it (more on that later).
Tip #3: Did you know that many airports now have nursing rooms or pods for breastfeeding moms?
Seeing the title of this tip, some of you may be wondering why you can’t just nurse your little one in the terminal – you can and I have! However, if you aren’t comfortable nursing in the crowded terminal, are pumping, or if you have a highly distractible nursling you might be happy to know that many airports are striving to become more nursing friendly. Some airports now have “nursing pods” for moms and others have nursing rooms. One of the airports that we frequent has nursing rooms next to the women’s bathrooms. These rooms have a place to sit, an outlet (if you are pumping), and a lock so that you have privacy. Some have signs asking you not to change your baby there though as they want to keep it a more “sanitary” environment. The only downside to these rooms/pods is that they typically can only be used by one person at a time and (as you know) one nursing/pumping session (especially for a new mom) can take a while. A few times when I had planned to use one of these rooms I ended up giving up and just doing what I needed to do in the terminal because I got tired of waiting. That said though, it’s nice to know that these rooms/pods exist and it doesn’t hurt to check to see if one is available – especially if you are pumping and in need of more privacy or a convenient outlet.
Tip #4: Did you know that if you are traveling with a car seat or stroller that you may want to gate check it?
Most, if not all airlines, allow you to travel with one child safety restraint (aka car seat) and one stroller per child free of charge. Some airlines require you to gate check in order to avoid paying a fee and some allow you to check it at the check-in desk with your other baggage if you wish. Either way, I recommend checking your stroller and car seat at the gate for a couple of reasons:
- If you are flying with your infant as a lap child and have decided to travel with your infant’s car seat, checking your car seat at the gate allows you the opportunity to use it if the flight isn’t full. I know what you are probably thinking… when are flights not 100% booked or even overbooked these days? You’re right, odds of a flight that has an empty seat are small however, that said, if you ask the gate agent some airlines will allow you to take your car seat on board and use it for your infant if the flight is not sold out (even if you didn’t purchase a seat). It’s worth asking… you never know!
- We all know how baggage workers handle luggage. If you are like me you have watched from the plane window as luggage is loaded and unloaded from the aircraft. The baggage handlers are not exactly “gentle” with the luggage and honestly sometimes I’m downright shocked that my luggage makes it in once piece. That said… if you check your car seat and stroller at the gate they spend less time in the hands of those baggage handlers and will likely be placed on top where they are easily accessible at destination since they have to be returned to you at the gate as well. To me… this means that they are less likely to be crushed or banged around. Also, a side note, I bought inexpensive covers for my car seat and stroller. I personally decided not to shell out the money for a padded cover but the simple cover keeps my things clean and also keeps all of the parts (such as my stroller tray and shoulder pads) from accidentally getting lost in transit.
Tip #5: Did you know that nursing during take-off and landing can prevent your baby’s ears from popping?
OK, I know this last tip is related to the actual flight itself and not the airport but it’s an important one so I am including it anyway. I’m sure that if you have flown before, you know that having your ears pop due to change in pressure during takeoff and landing can be uncomfortable. I myself always carry hard candy to suck on or gum to help me to keep swallowing to prevent this. However, a baby doesn’t have that option. Nursing (or bottle feeding) can solve this issue. Try to plan your nursing sessions for takeoff and landing so that baby is swallowing while feeding. Preventing his or her ears from popping can ward off some unnecessary fussiness during flight. If baby absolutely won’t eat… you can also try a pacifier as that also encourages sucking and swallowing.
No matter what happens, remember that most people understand and many have been in your shoes at some point. Just smile and do your best. Try to stay calm and your baby will take his/her cues from you. Happy mama = Happy baby. Even if everything goes wrong, know that you are doing a good job and don’t let it totally ruin your trip. You got this!
Photo Credit: Karen McCall