February 26, 2009

in Babies

In my not so far days of no babyhood, sitting next to a mother and her baby in an airplane would evoke a panic I could barely contain. Babies cry, make noise, are unpredictable and might do the worst and try to communicate with me. I felt so sorry for myself in these occasions that I never stopped to think of the poor parent.

Have you ever tried to eat a meal from these miniature trays full of unreasonably saucy containers while the plane experiences well timed turbulence? now try to do that balancing a wiggly baby on your lap.

Now what is it with airline attendants? Don’t they have children? little nephews maybe? In my last air adventure I could have easily refroze my meal with the treatment I got from Ms. Freeze. Call me petty but since I pay about a third of the price of my overpriced ticket for the dubious right to fly with my baby on my lap, the least I expect is some courtesy. No, I take that back, the least I expect is some humanity. It’s a baby for crying out loud. She doesn’t understand your need to pretend to be royalty.

My baby is the best sleeper at home. Just put her in her bed, say good night and leave. wham bam thank you little ma’am. And she is happy. She plays with her toys, vocalises at her bears and puts herself to sleep. Happily. Parent’s heaven. The downsides of that winning lottery ticket are the occasions in which we do not have the luxury of putting her down in a quiet spot. Just try to put her to sleep on your lap. That miniature cuteness transforms in front of your very eyes into Gizmo’s evil twin. She will outlast the most caffeine driven pilot. She just wont sleep. The solution is deceivingly simple. Why not let the single mother sit next to an empty seat? The baby gets to lie down, mommy’s arms wont require physiotherapy later and all the rest of the plane could get some sleep. Right? Wrong. you wont believe the trouble we go through every single time we try to explain that to the airline clerks.

 There are even onboard bassinets meant exactly for that purpose. But bassinets, like water in a fata morgana, have never been further from your reach. No, we do not know if there are any bassinets available. No, we do not have access to that information. No, you will just have to wait and see for yourself at the check in. Oh Swell, here goes my anti-stress yoga class. What’s the point?

Could anyone explain to me why in our instant access existence, a major airline company cannot reveal to a paying costumer if one of their 3 bassinets (In a 400 seats airbus) is taken or not? And if there are empty seats on the plane, isn’t that in every one’s best interest that the little baby will have a place to crash?

OK, enough said. Consider yourselves warned. One of these days I will just have to start a consumer’s boycott on these family hostile airlines. And while I’m at it, someone please teach them to prepare a decent cup of coffee.

Now to the point. Your must haves when flying with baby:

1. Pacifiers. In plural. These tend to fall under the seat and disappear between millions of strange feet. Stock up.

2. A comfortable “hand luggage” size backpack that is also a trolley. A real-life transformer. Meant for these “carry me up, put me down” yo-yo situations.

3. If you are using commercial infant formula, do yourself a favour and pack many small containers with an already measured amount. All that’s left to do is hand your bottle to an attendant and ask for the right amount of water. Empty your little container into the bottle and shake. There. Done.

4. Ear plugs. If you travel with your partner, one of you could actually get some sleep.

5. A little bag full of new things for your baby to play with. No flashy new toys. Simple stuff like a key chain loaded with old keys, a colorful plastic wrist watch, a broken cell phone or remote control. Don’t offer that bag until you are very desperate. Don’t ask why. You will thank me later.

4. Pain killers. For you and your baby. You never know.

5. Something familiar for your baby. A teddy-bear perhaps, something she knows well from home. Does the trick at nap time.

6. Courage, people. It will be over soon. Try to take comfort in the thought that at least you didn’t have to wear those silly uniforms in public

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