What NOT to do when Flying with a Baby

As a new mom, I have read every “check list”, EVERY tip & trick of traveling with an infant but no mom has spelled out how difficult traveling with a baby can be. I’ve written my own travel tips on this blog, but I want moms to understand that we’ve only figured these things out through trial and serious error!

I’m here to tell you what NOT to do when traveling with you baby or toddler.

Our first cross-country plane trip with our 5 month old baby started in Seattle. Here’s everything we did WRONG…. this post isn’t about all the must’s or to-do’s or how to easily travel with kids. I’m writing about all the mishaps, mistakes and unfortunate events. Hopefully you will find the humor in our crazy, chaotic adventure.

Packing a TON of Stuff

So we find ourselves in Sea-Tac airport early in the morning for a flight cross-country to South Carolina. As a new mom with a tiny baby, I decided to pack an army of necessary things.

I thought about what to pack for months prior to this trip. I couldn’t decide what to keep and what to leave. The last thing a new mom wants to admit is “I forgot that at home” or if there’s an emergency, “I thought we wouldn’t need it!”. So rather than speaking these words, I erred on the side of always be prepared. This meant, bags… upon bags… upon bags.

My stroller resembled a homeless person’s shopping cart mounded with collections of bags, blankets and found items, enough items to last a year, not just a week’s vacation.

A purse, a diaper bag stuffed with bottles and packets of pumped breast milk, books, rattles, teething toys, burp cloths, diapers for the entire trip, formula cans, extra formula packets in every bag, a hairbrush, a toothbrush (she had three teeth, so this was completely unnecessary), food pouches (which we hadn’t started solids yet, but just in case!), shoes, socks, clothes… upon clothes… upon clothes, hats, tights, three swimsuits, coats, sweaters…. okay I’m just getting tired of writing this list but there was more, lots more.

Can you say overkill?

It was ridiculous. I stuffed items everywhere you could imagine. In my husbands backpack, hidden in the bottom of the stroller so we could get away with extra bags, beyond the ‘carry on + 1 personal item’ limit. I wanted to be prepared! I thought I was doing the “right thing”.


We get situated on the plane and the first awkward thing I do is apologize to the passenger by the window for the upcoming six hours of being next to a “not yet” screaming baby. Preparing myself and my fellow passenger for the doom that lies ahead of us. Keeping a positive attitude just seemed impossible.

Breast Feeding Fiasco

As the plane takes off I try to discretely breastfeed. Imagine trying to discretely pull your breast out for your child to latch onto while being squished up next to strangers like sardines… ‘nuff said.

While my modestly was nonexistent, I proceeded to dig through my large carry-on for a bottle instead… however this 4oz bottle was nowhere to be found, considering the mounds of STUFF I packed which hid everything I went searching for. Not to mention the mechanics of trying to bend down, with a baby on my lap, pull out the stuffed diaper bag out from under the seat in front and find enough room to search for ‘said’ item…

Finally I found the bottle as my baby girl cried for food, needing to swallow for her ears to pop! It was a frantic mess.

With the bottle found and baby finally eating, I realize my boobs sore, full of breast milk needing to be emptied. I decided to hand the baby off to dad while I searched for the breast pump. Now you think breastfeeding is awkward next to a stranger… try pumping! But because I panicked and fed my baby from a bottle instead of breastfeeding, this made pumping mandatory.

Imagine the embarrassment as I whip out my boob and press the suction cup to the breast. I bet the guy next me thought he’d rather be next to a 300lb snoring man with BO than me right about now. I guess I’m glad I apologized in the beginning??

Diaper Changes on an Airplane

Once our girl woke up from a short nap, she needed changed. So after finding the diaper changing clutch, I got up and we headed back to stand in line waiting for the bathrooms. Finally we made it inside and it was time to sanitize the entire bathroom with one hand while holding the five month old with the other. I tried wiping down walls, the changing table, the sink… everything I thought might have a germ that could pass on to my baby.

Then lay her on the tiny changing table, which she barely fit. Head touching one wall and feet kicking the other! What would a 7 month old do?

She immediately discovered the tissue box behind her head and started pulling out the tissues, one by one. As I frantically tried to clean up her blow out of a diaper, tissues were flying, getting caught up in the poo and falling on the floor. Holding onto the baby, I tried to clean up the mess she was continually making, but there came a point when I had to cut my losses, grab the baby and get out of there. I tried to use a different bathroom the next around as that one was a complete mess by the time we were done with it. My little sanitizing wipes wouldn’t scratch the surface at that point.

Nap Time

We headed back to our seats and after a little playing, showing videos, reading, and walking her up and down the aisles, we knew it was time for another nap. Hopefully longer nap this time as she was definitely over tired from all the hustle.

I sat down in the aisle seat this time (my husband sat next to the stranger) and breastfed… she ate well only she didn’t want to fall asleep. Different environment maybe, too loud, uncomfortable??? Whatever the reason for not falling asleep she instead started to cry and cry, ramping up in octaves as the seconds passed…

Frantic from disturbing everyone around me I pulled out the bottle of formula thinking she was still hungry…

That seemed to quiet her for a few minutes, but she was still refusing to fall asleep. So… I fed her some more….

She started screaming, at this point refusing the bottle.

Oh my, you can not imagine the shade of RED on my cheeks, embarrassed and hot from panic never looks good on a new mom.

After 10 minutes of crying and trying every trick in the book I knew of, my overfed baby ralphed every ounce of breast milk and formula she had digested… projectile vomit all over her, me, my husband and the aisle had a nice dose of it too. It was such a scene that the women across the aisle all made gasping sounds and had eyes the size of saucers, hands covering their gaping mouths in disbelief.

The red in my cheeks flared and if I wasn’t wet enough from vomit, the sweat on my forehead made me feel even worse.

This soured milk seeped into my shirt, down my bra soaking me through and through. But in all that I packed, I never packed myself a change of clothes in any of the carry on bags.

The baby was soaking wet too but I first had to frantically clean up the upchucked milk on the ground before someone walked in it or the drink cart rolled on through.-

The seat belt sign was on so I couldn’t change her outfit in the bathrooms. Without even a thought, I just started undressing her, right there in our seat. I instructed my husband to get whatever was dry and somewhat clean in the way of her clothes from the diaper bag.

All that was left in all the onsies I packed was a thick, fluffy onsie suit. Everything else had been pooped or peed on, or puked on in this case. So snow suit it was. I stripped her naked, changed her wet diaper right there in my lap and zipped up this suit, equipped with feet and a hood. She looked ridiculous, like a polar bear baby on a plane. But she looked just as I had felt. At least she was dry while my husband and I continued to shiver in cold sour milk the rest of the trip.

She finally wore herself out, and all of us in pure exhaustion fell asleep for the last hour and a half.

The plane landed and as we walked off the plane, the flight attendant told us that it was 65 degrees here in South Carolina and the baby was a tad “overdressed”. I just smiled and rolled my eyes, continued walking, happy I would never see any of these people again.

So there you have it. Here’s what not to do on your flight with a baby. Don’t over pack, don’t overfeed, don’t panic, and don’t apologize.  Traveling is always worth the effort but sometimes you just end up with great stories to tell, and the entertaining bloopers are always the most remembered and cherished.

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