Saturday, November 14, 2009

Flying with baby...

Ok, some friends are asking for things to note and tips when flying with baby, so here goes:

1. For most airlines, baby either goes on your lap (with a seatbelt belted to yours, or with no belt for some airlines like domestic flights in China), or on the seat next to you (if you specially paid for a ticket for a seat). Even if you paid for a seat for baby, you might want to belt him up with you during take-off so that you can feed him. Do check if your car seat is suitable for use in aircraft if you want to use it, and if a baby seatbelt isn't provided, you might want to put baby in the baby carrier during take-off, for safety's sake. The carrier will be useful during long flights as its safer to put him in there when you walk along the aisles, in case of turbulence!

2. About 2 weeks before your trip, do call the airline to see if:
a. They can provide baby food (usually its jars of puree, suitable from 6 months onwards)
b. They can book a baby bassinet for you
c. They can reserve the seat next to you so that you can put baby there, if the flight is not full
d. They can provide special food for you if you are on a special elimination diet due to breastfeeding

We had only called Silkair regarding the baby bassinet on our departure to China, and found that they could actually provide the other services if we had asked. They noted our requests for our return flight (but we didn't know they reserved the seat next to us, so on our return flight, we checked in the car-seat, and couldn't put baby J down in the seat, which was a pity!)

3. Do eat with discernment if you are on an elimination diet, even if you have stated your dietary restrictions and have requested for special meals. We requested for a no-soy, no dairy meal for me, and they served me a slice of custard tart on the side that look suspiciously like it had butter... I think their understanding of "no-dairy" just meant no milk, but didn't include other things like butter (which they also served with the bread!) and cream.

4. To deal with air pressure changes, I fed baby J on take-off and descent, ensuring he drank all the way until the seat-belt sign went off. Its pretty easy to feed baby with the baby seat belt, but do bring a nursing cover. Also, try not to feed baby at the airport so he won't be full at take-off, and start feeding only when the plane is actually moving off to fly. I was so nervous about flying the first time, I started feeding the boy when the plane was taxi-ing out (planes have to taxi for a long time at Changi airport since its so big), and by the time we actually took off the supply was almost done for! For mums who are exclusively pumping, you might want to pump at the airport before you fly and use the bottle on the flight, and those formula feeding might want to prep a bottle at the gate just before boarding. Alternatively, for older babies who are using a sippy cup, that would work too, as the main thing is baby must suck to relieve the pressure changes.

5. With all the white noise and movement, babies tend to sleep in planes too if their ears don't bother them, so booking a bassinet would be helpful. (Baby J went straight off to sleep for almost all the flights as he was so tired!) This means you'll have to sit at the bulkhead seats, so do check about your seats when checking in, as some airlines automatically give you those seats upon check-in if they know you have a baby ticket, but I'm not sure if its the same for all airlines. It definitely wasn't the case for the China domestic flights!

6. If you need to feed baby solids during the flight, bring easy to prepare stuff like instant oats, Cheerios or biscuits if they don't provide baby food. You might want to bring a small amount of water in a sippy cup as the bottled water some airlines serve may not be suitable for baby (PDs don't recommend babies to drink mineral water, due to the high mineral content).

7. Bring toys to keep baby happy when he's awake. To make things more interesting for baby, try putting toys into the air-sickness bags that they provide and let him rummage around, it keeps them interested for longer. And at the end of it, they'll probably get a good 20 minutes of entertainment just trying to crumple up the bag!

8. Remember how they always call for families with young children to board first? Now that you qualify, do board first... since you do need the time to settle baby down, as well as figure out how the baby seat belt works!

Hope this helps, and happy flying!

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