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Fearless While Flying

Figuring out how to travel with a baby can be a challenge.

You learn a lot about a person when you travel with her. My newborn is no exception to that rule.

On a recent weekend, my new family flew from Boston to Washington to hunt for a new home, in advance of our upcoming move. Before traveling, we asked our pediatrician, my Mommy and Me class leader, and other new parents for travel tips. We were told to be the last on the plane – rather than first – and to be sure to nurse at take-off and landing. These were useful tips, especially since as new parents, we’re always learning. However, they didn’t totally account for the quirks of my fearless daughter, who revealed some new facets of her personality during our weekend away:

Airport Security. TSA’s agents, for their part, did nothing to make things easy. We had to deconstruct the Bugaboo stroller base from the car seat and put it all on the conveyor belt for screening. When they pulled the insulated bag with my pumped milk for additional screening, I became antsy they would toss it and followed the TSA employee holding that Medela carrying case like a hawk following prey. Luckily, TSA’s light test proved I was carrying breast milk, and the screener returned it to me. Lila, who was in my arms throughout this ordeal, looked entirely unruffled – until we had to get her strapped back into her car seat.

The Flights. As we’d been advised, we boarded last. Lila seemed enthralled by the large number of new faces to study in this new place with a never-before-seen ceiling; ceiling watching is one of her favorite pastimes. Lila was extremely cooperative and focused on eating at take-off and landing. In fact, Lila seemed perfectly content. We had never seen her smile more.

This smilefest transpired in spite of turbulence, which we encountered flying in both directions. Mommy became nervous as our flight bobbed and weaved unpredictably, but Lila remained perfectly placid. On the way to Washington she didn’t even look up during meal time; she remained focused on feeding.

On the return trip, Lila wasn’t interested in eating or remaining obscured by my multicolor-dot nursing cover. During both take-off and landing, Lila did her best to bat back the nursing cover, so that she could see everything around us. Her big eyes hungrily took in everything she could see from my lap. And while she may have noticed the air pressure changing as the plane shifted altitudes, she never cried. Lila took the swings in stride, as if Daddy were rocking her to sleep.

Meals on The-Go. That contentedness extended to eating, as we traveled around the Washington area. Lila was incredibly adaptable. At two apartment buildings, our appointments overlapped with meal time. This posed a challenge. In the end, I carried a latched Lila – hidden by my nursing cover – on both building tours. I considered this a limit-pushing feat of strength for my arms and wondered if Lila would be upset having to eat on the move, because as a general rule, we’re a stationary feeding team.

That weekend I learned I could probably feed Lila while doing pirouettes, and she wouldn’t protest. As long as Chez Mommy’s kitchen was open, Lila didn’t mind where her meal was served. This included her car seat in our moving rental car. Lila eagerly drank down Chez Mommy’s to-go offering in a bottle, as Daddy chauffeured Lila and her server back to the hotel.

Shut-eye. The hotel was the place where things went least smoothly. In advance of the trip, we had asked the hotel front desk for a crib. They were able to oblige us, and we found a simple green Pack and Play set up when we arrived in our room. Lila has a Pack and Play at home, but she’s never wanted to sleep in it, always opting to sleep in her snugger Bugaboo carriage instead. So this was a test, and it flopped. Lila had trouble falling asleep, waking up during the long descent from Daddy’s arms to the Pack and Play’s low bottom. She had trouble staying asleep in her unfamiliar, larger sleeping space, which meant that Mommy also barely slept.

The important thing was that we made it through the weekend, and we found a new apartment. We traveled with an 11-week old baby, and we survived. My husband and I learned that while it’s intimidating to travel with a small baby and her mountain of gear, it is indeed doable. The baby is portable at this age and even happy to embark on an adventure. The other important lesson we learned is priceless: next time, we’ll pack the whole Bugaboo, because sleep is always a good thing. And if Lila can’t sleep, nobody sleeps.

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