Having and raising a baby is undoubtedly both the most difficult and rewarding of women’s life experiences. During the year after we give birth, women’s bodies are still recuperating, our hormones are fluctuating, and our schedules – if we manage to have even a semblance of one – are topsy-turvy at best. Each of these factors is exacerbated whenever we are traveling with our babies.
Some people (likely those who have never had children or whose children are older) think we’re nuts to travel with our babies. But, even though we’ve given birth, life marches on. There are new grandparents to visit and vacations to take and sometimes, we’re even faced with taking our babies on business trips.
I had my son relatively late in life. I was 37 when he was born, so I was well established in my career as the executive director of a non-profit organization. My job entailed traveling throughout the United States, and as a single mom, I didn’t have many options when it came to attending multi-day organizational conferences. When he was four months old, I flew with my baby to Los Angeles for four days, and when he was six months old, we flew to New Orleans for a week. I also took him on more than a few road trips, and learned some things along the way.
Babies on Airplanes
Pre-motherhood, we may have been annoyed by infants crying on airplanes. Now that we’re mothers, we’re sometimes mortified when our own baby starts wailing when we’re in the air. Crying is sometimes due to air pressure that builds up in the baby’s ears, so it’s helpful to have something for your little one to suck on – like a pacifier or bottle – during take-off and landing. A small stuffed animal or a teething ring can also offer a welcome distraction. Beyond that, and the techniques you normally use to comfort your baby, there’s not much you can do, so don’t feel badly.
Most airlines offer infant fares, so if you have the means, you should reserve a seat for your baby and bring along a car seat. This is not only much safer for your baby, but it will also allow you to have some elbowroom so you can take care of him or her. Airlines generally allow you to hold children under two years old on your lap, but if it’s a long flight, you’ll be glad you bought the extra seat.
With tougher airline security measures, it may take you extra time to go through security, so plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time. Although bringing fluids past the security screening area is prohibited, exceptions are made for baby milk, formula, and baby food.
Babies in Cars
Needless to say, you must have an appropriate car seat for your baby when you travel by car. Beyond that, plan on frequent stops for diaper changes, feeding, and nurturing. Even if you’re traveling with another adult, resist the temptation to take the baby out of the car seat in order to comfort him or her. Instead, find an off-ramp and take the time to get out and stretch your legs. In the long run, it’s best for everyone.
Babies in Hotels
One of the most difficult aspects of traveling with babies is bringing all of the supplies you’ll need while you’re away. If you’re traveling by air and will be staying in a hotel, consider shipping your supplies to the hotel prior to your arrival. Most hotels will hold packages for one to three days before a guest checks in, so take advantage of it. Shipping may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it beats having to haul everything from the airport to the hotel. Another option is to use an expeditor that specializes in shipping baby supplies to hotels in anticipation of your arrival.
When you make your hotel reservations, be sure that you request a crib. When you check in, ensure that the crib is both sturdy and meets safety standards. You may want to consider packing bedding for the crib, as hotel sheets are notoriously scratchy. Both the texture and the detergent hotels use to wash sheets can irritate your baby’s skin.
One of the hardest things to do is to leave your baby with a stranger when you’re in a strange city. Although it’s a personal decision each woman needs to make, when I was traveling on business, I made sure to stay in premium hotels and called the concierge well before my visit to get recommendations on licensed child care providers. Based on his or her recommendations, I would call and interview nanny services, check their reputations, call their referrals, and check on their licensing status. I would then have a nanny come and stay in my hotel room with my baby. I would go to my conference, but check back every hour or two for updates. I was fortunate enough to have excellent childcare providers who understood both my baby’s needs and my anxiety.
Traveling with babies can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. When you plan ahead, you can succeed in taking care of both your baby and yourself.