Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Flying Solo with Newborn

Three very terrifying words that I knew would soon become a reality since we were heading back to the east coast shortly after Waylon's birth. Trust me, I tried getting out of it. I googled over and over "driving 40+ hours with an infant". I tried to make logic of that insane idea, but deep down I knew it just wasn't fair for poor Waylon to sit that long in a carseat.

The backstory: our family relocated to the west coast back in 2013 in order to satisfy an itch that we knew we couldn't scratch unless we dove in and made the move. My husband is in the technology field and the opportunity arose where we were basically paid to move out there. We were ecstatic, I mean how cool?! So Jason, myself, & our 120lb doberman, Mac, rented an RV and made the trek across the coast.

Fast forward two years and we were married and having a baby boy. This changed things, including the desire to be close to family and friends, so we made arrangements to get ourselves back east. Jason, our son Bradley & Mac were going to drive our Jeep and our beloved wine collection cross country ( what? do you know how hot it gets inside a moving van?!). Waylon & I were going to fly to Ohio, wait for the boys get get to Atlanta, GA, then fly down to GA. This was the only reasonable option for us, and I was terrified. I knew nothing about babies. In fact, I have never even changed a diaper prior to having Waylon. I relied heavily on Jason to lead the way since he was a master parent in my mind, having two kids from a previous marriage. The fact that he wasn't going to be with me for the duration of the flight was a little daunting to say the least.

Prior to booking, I went to the handy dandy internet to search for "flying with a 7 week old". Turns out, not much is out there because I DON'T THINK PEOPLE ARE CRAZY ENOUGH TO DO IT. So if you are reading this in hopes of getting some solid advice, I really hope I can deliver, at least a little anyways.

Back to booking. After delaying the inevitable for several days I finally pulled the trigger. Questions while delaying were:

"Should I fly morning, evening, red-eye?" I don't know his sleep/feeding schedule yet!" (note: I ended up booking our flight after Waylon was born, just an FYI. I still didn't have a clue about his schedule because feedings were still ad hoc.)

"Will I get the side eye from every single person if I fly first class with him?"

"I can barely handle carrying him in the carseat for 30 steps to the grocery store. How am i going to hold him for 5 hours on a flight?"

But, alas, trigger was pulled and I decided to take a mid afternoon flight, first class, from San Francisco, CA to Cleveland, OH. That's right, I said first class. Now, for those asking why I chose to fly first class, here's a few reasons why:

1) Less germs. You are sitting in a confined cabin with far significantly less passengers. Your restroom is also used by less people, too. Waylon was a mere 7 weeks, and had just received his 8 week vaccinations 2 days prior to boarding. I wanted to have a little space.

2) Speaking of space, more of it. The seats are much larger in first class and that was a saving grace with a sleeping, stretched out infant.

3) I needed the help. Let's face it, flight attendants are a lot more attentive in first class. I was able to ask the flight attendant for help with everything from drinks (hot water, water for myself), to getting my bag down. Which by the way, try seating in aisle 2 and back. I chose the first row, window seat thinking I could get up and walk around but i rarely did that. Sitting in the front row means your diaper bag is in the bin above your head. Choose the second row.

4) The other option was to purchase 2 seats, in coach. That way I could have a second seat to put Waylon and I would bring the carseat on the plane to do so. This was also a solid choice, but i figured if I was going to be paying the same price OR MORE for two seats, why wouldn't I just purchase one ticket in first class?

Have faith in humanity. Who cares what you've seen on social media, what your friends tell you, or anyone else for that matter. I saw friends posts that destroyed my confidence to fly first class with a child and truthfully, had I never read it I probably would have never second guessed myself so much.

As we headed toward SFO, I held back the tears. I knew on the other side I'd have my parents there ready to help, I just needed to get through the next several hours. This is how I prepared:

Feeding: At the time, I was still breastfeeding, and I am an extremely private individual so I held the nursing in public to a last resort (side note: I pleaded with myself over and over again to be that mom that can nurse in public. I TRULY wish that I was that person, and I give huge accolades to those that can- I'm sincerely jealous!). I ended up pumping beforehand and freezing the breastmilk in my Kiinde pouches to take in my carry on. I actually got this awesome backpack / diaper bag that has a insulated spot to keep things cool. I chose to freeze my breastmilk because I read that TSA agents could potentially throw out liquid breastmilk at their discretion, and this scared me. Because the pouches were frozen it was technically considered a solid and they wouldn't be able to trash.  By the time I got through security I simply took the frozen pouches out to thaw. When we boarded the plane I asked our flight attendant for a cup of hot water to warm the milk. I made sure to feed Waylon both on the ascend and descend in order to help with the pressure on his ears. On the way up, timing was off and he was actually asleep with a pacifier, which if that's the case it works just as well. If your baby isn't ready to feed and is old enough (check with your pediatrician) to take juice or water, you could do that as well.

Carrying: I chose to wear Waylon in the Boba wrap. First, a lot of times you aren't asked to take it off while going through security, unlike other carriers such as the Ergo Baby 360. Also, I could literally stuff a thousand items in all the different folds- bonus! The Boba managed Waylon's pacifier in one fold, my ticket in another, his bottle was warming in between my breasts and the wrap held it securely, a burp rag was positioned in a fold by my hand, etc. It was a lifesaver when it's just you. I chose to wear Waylon, push our travel system, and carry on his diaper bag. Our shared large bag was checked. As a note, when you get to your gate to board, you will still have your stroller/carseat travel system. When you get to the end of the jetway there will be a place to disconnect your carseat from the stroller and break down the stroller itself. This was the one part of the whole trip where I was left a little helpless. You are sort of at the mercy of good samaritans lending a helping hand, and that's OK! Ask for help!
I also "snuck" on the Boppy Pillow, which was another saving grace. I actually sat on it during take off as to hide it (and also help my tail bone which I broke at the hospital/Waylon's birth). Once we were up in the air I pulled it out and put it around my waste with Waylon resting on top of it. It was a tremendous help during the 5 hours flight- it really relieved a lot of Waylon's weight so my arms didn't go numb. High recommend.

The flight first class was wonderful. Nobody really knew Waylon was with me until we all got up at the end of the trip to de-board the plane. The gentleman next to me was so sweet. I immediately addressed the elephant in the room with him as soon as he sat next to me saying, "Well, you hit the lottery paying for a first class ticket and sitting next to an infant". He smiled and told me he had to fly with his daughter when she was that age and if I needed any help he would be more than happy. The 5 hours went by pretty fast, and because Waylon was a newborn he was either eating or fast asleep. When we landed in Cleveland, I waited at the jetway for the carseat & stroller, put everything together (with a little help from strangers) and we wheeled down to baggage claim where my parents were with open arms. We made it!

The truth of the matter is, don't think the worst of any situation or of people for that matter. Because it will likely be quite the opposite. That was my takeaway from this whole trip. Also, remember that  you paid just as much for your ticket as the person sitting next to you. If people give you the side eye or say anything, don't let them get to you. You are a confident mother and you are doing the best that you can. You've got this!!!


  1. Hi, your post has been incredibly helpful! I'm preparing to fly with my 9 week old in a few days and have been looking for someone who traveled with the stroller/car seat but didn't actually use it on the plane. When you checked your stroller and car seat at the end of the jetway, did you have a bag for either one? I've heard horror stories about these items being abused by handlers (set down in puddles, tossed carelessly, otherwise damaged). Also, just wondering how you managed to sneak a boppy on board. I'd love to but I feel like they are huge!

    1. Hi Kim! I'm SO glad you found my post helpful! Congratulations on your little one and seriously, I know it can seem scary but you are going to knock it out of the park.

      I've only once (out of 8 times) brought a carseat bag, and that was only because I knew it was going to be raining so I wanted the extra protection. However, when I got to the check in Frontier Airlines already had me covered with a complimentary plastic bag. It definitely wasn't as heavy duty but it got the job done. As a side note, my stroller and carseat are both black so its hard to notice staining. If I had a different color fabric I might have opted in for bagging at the end of the jetway.

      As for the boppy, there were two stages. Through the airport I had it smashed between the carseat and the stroller seat (trust me, it will fit but it takes some muscle to get the carseat locked). Then when I disassembled at the end of the jetway I simply tucked it under my arm and boarded with Waylon wrapped and the diaper bag on the other arm. It was a bit of a load but it was only for a few minutes until I was able to sit down. Step 2, when I got to my seat I sat on the boppy and buckled in. It worked out really well because my tailbone was injured during delivery so it provided cushion and was ready to use once we got up in the air. I don't think flight attendants care too much since its soft and wouldn't present itself as a hazard if it were to get loose somehow. If they can hand out pillows and blankets pre-boarding then we should be able to bring on a "pillow" of our own, right? :)


    2. Thanks so much for your reply! Wow, I'm a bit surprised and impressed that Frontier did that. They just got voted (again) one of the worst airlines in the US. Maybe they're trying to improve their image! I am pretty much going to try to mirror what you did (except for the 1st class flight) and wear the baby in my Beco carrier, check a suitcase, carry on the diaper bag, and push the Chicco car seat and stroller system to the gate. I'm an exclusive pumper so I'll also be bringing on frozen breastmilk, although I don't use bags yet so it'll be the Medela storage bottles. Thanks again!