Getting Real with Megan Gregory

Remember that post I wrote about traveling with my two-year old son? Well, get ready, because I just went on a trip with my six-month old daughter.

Things have changed since I last went on an airplane – which was a year-and-a-half ago when we went to the east coast with my son. I am now a much more anxious person, and I am more afraid of flying than I have ever been. Needless to say, I was a wreck getting ready for this trip.

Fear of Flying + Guilt + Ticket Issues = Stressful Start

This trip was just my six-month-old daughter and I: no toddler and no husband. I was going down to Tucson to visit my sister and her family and to introduce my daughter to them. I had never flown with an infant before at all, and I had never flown with any child by myself. This, compounded with my normal anxiety surrounding flying and guilt about leaving my son, made me very restless.

The day before we left, I checked in for the flight and was shocked to find my name was incorrect, My middle name and my first name had been squished together to form one very long first name. I knew that if the name on my boarding pass didn’t EXACTLY match the name on my driver’s license, I would be denied entry, so I promptly called the airline who assured me they resolved the issue and I wouldn’t have any problems getting through TSA. They also corrected my daughter’s name (they had reversed her first and last names), which I didn’t even realize had been an issue. While I was on the phone, I tried to sweet talk my way into getting an upgraded seat with more legroom, knowing I would be nursing my daughter during the flight, but they wouldn’t waive the additional charge and I wasn’t willing to pay it.

The morning we were leaving, I was racing around the house trying to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I had made a checklist on my phone and a written list on the counter and, yet, I still did not feel secure. I packed up my breast milk in a small insulated bag (I have also never traveled while breastfeeding), made sure I had the extra car seat and base, and waited for my mom to pick us up. As we were driving, she could tell I was nervous and I told her I was scared about bringing such a young baby on a plane with all kinds of germs, but she assured me all would be well.

Travel Tip: You Can’t Get on the Plane without Your Boarding Pass and ID

About halfway into our drive I realized I wasn’t holding my boarding passes – and I always hold my boarding passes and ID in my hands so I don’t have to dig through luggage to find them. I called my husband, woke him up, and he confirmed that, sure enough, I had left my ID, the boarding passes, and my daughter’s birth certificate (which the airline told me I HAD to have, and it turns out I definitely did not need it) on the kitchen counter. So, back home we drove, with only 1 hour until my plane started boarding, and I was panicking. I told my mom, “Surely, the names being wrong yesterday, forgetting the documents, and running this late are signs that I should not be going” but, once again, she told me it would be fine.

I got to the airport, gave my son the tightest hug I had ever given him, wrapped my baby in her Solly Baby against me, and literally heaved bags all across and onto my body. I am sure I looked ridiculous with my baby wrapped on me, a backpack on my back, my breast milk and breast pump bag on one arm, my duffle bag on one shoulder, and dragging a car seat. As I walked through the doors, I was shocked to see the line to check luggage had over ten people waiting at 7:00am, but I got in line. I must have looked absurd because instantly a kind stranger offered to carry the car seat for me while another stranger attempted to make jokes with me. The conversation was welcome, though.

Nice People Make Travel Easier, Especially when You’re Traveling Alone with a Baby

Luckily, the line moved quickly and I now had 30 minutes to get through TSA and to my gate in order to pre-board on time. TSA went smoothly; the agent shot a laser beam through my breast milk and complained about other people’s agitation at their screening methods, and I was on my way. I was allowed to pre-board, which was comforting given how much stuff I had with me. As soon as I sat in my seat, I got a little anxious again. Who would be sitting next to me? Would they mind that I was breast-feeding? Would they say anything or make me feel any more uncomfortable than I already was? So, when a friendly-looking woman sat next to me, I looked at her and said, “I hope you don’t mind too much, but I plan to nurse my daughter to keep her calm.” The woman didn’t care at all.

As the plane slowly started to pull away from the airport, and all through takeoff, I breastfed my daughter and she fell asleep. She actually slept the entire plane ride. When the plane landed the woman next to me commented on how well my daughter did – I thanked her, but truthfully all I did was feed her.

We didn’t have much time during our layover, less than an hour, but I asked the ticket agent at the gate if there were any seats with extra legroom available. She said there was and upgraded my ticket at no extra charge – BEST DECISION EVER. The upgraded seat, which was immediately behind the first class section, had way more space, was closer to the front of the plane, and nobody sat next to me! I cannot express how much more relaxed I was having the extra room to comfortably breastfeed my daughter and not feel like I was making someone next to me uncomfortable. This plane ride was longer than the first and my daughter was awake for takeoff but did very well!

Let me tell you what I did. I knew she probably wouldn’t sleep right away, since she had just slept the previous hour-long flight, and she didn’t even want to nurse or suck on a pacifier (she’s not into pacifiers). So, during takeoff, I looked into her eyes and smiled and talked to her, tickled her belly, and she was totally fine. I think there’s something to be said for simply distracting your child from the fact that the plane is taking off, but I could be wrong. About thirty minutes into this flight, my daughter fell asleep and I watched a movie on the super-cool free movie app for this airline company. I don’t even know when the last time I got to watch a movie without a baby or a toddler interrupting it was, but this was nice. Even though planes aren’t notorious for being luxurious, being able to watch a movie in complete silence without anybody talking to me was blissful. That being said, I watched ‘Sausage Party’ and it was terrible, but still blissful.

The trip itself went wonderfully and the two plane rides home went similarly: one leg of the trip I got my seat upgraded for free with nobody sitting next to me and one leg of the trip I did not. The final stretch I was seated next to a man, and my anxiety shot through the roof, but I politely told him, “I will try to be as discrete as possible, but my daughter breast feeds, I hope that doesn’t bother you.” Luckily, he was pretty relaxed and slept most of the time. And again, my daughter fell asleep and I got to watch another movie uninterrupted.

Something that I noticed was as each flight concluded and people stood to collect their bags, someone on every single flight complimented me on how well my daughter did. And while I agreed, because she never cried or made any sound, I don’t know if I necessarily did anything to keep her that way. She’s a fairly happy and easy baby (now!) and she slept for most of all of the flights – that’s not a whole lot of effort on my part. I was thankful to the ticket agents who upgraded my seat when possible, to the few kind people who helped put or get baggage from the overhead compartments, to the man who carried my car seat until I could check it, and for my baby who didn’t seem to even notice we were flying.

What I Learned from Travelling with an Infant

  1. A baby-carrying device is crucial, especially if you’re not travelling with a partner. I preferred my Solly Baby wrap as opposed to a stroller, but to each their own.
  2. You do not need the baby’s birth certificate unless you’re flying international (I fell for this again!).
  3. Always check the car seat; do not bring it on the plane (I learned that from travelling with my son).
  4. If you’re flying United, download their app ahead of time so you can watch movies and television shows for free!
  5. Do not be afraid to ask for a free upgrade to your seat – you won’t get an upgrade if you don’t ask.
  6. Consuming the complimentary beverage and snack on board the flight is difficult when holding a baby and flying solo – good luck.
  7. Dehydrate yourself. I say that with some level of humor, but I drank minimal amounts of water before travelling the first day (to avoid public bathrooms) and ended up having to pee with a baby strapped to my body and all of my luggage in an airport bathroom – it was absurdly difficult. So on the way back I just didn’t drink anything until the final flight. Problem solved.
  8. Travelling with breast milk was no more difficult than travelling with any other liquid – and there’s no limit on how much you can travel with. Just be sure to pack plenty of ice packs around it to keep it cold.