I have a bunch of new ideas for posts, so hopefully they will keep on coming. Today’s topic? Travel with baby!
But, first things first. Zachary is officially walking. True to form last Wednesday he was not walking, Thursday morning he was not walking, and Thursday evening he saw something he wanted (to get into our freezer – we have the pull out drawer freezer) and he was off. He hasn’t stopped since. Way to go, kiddo!
Now, on to the topic at hand. Zachary has traveled a ton in his little life. Because KK has not had a full time job she and Zachary have been able to travel with me to conferences and meetings as well as our usual family vacations. All in all I think Zachary has flown 7 or 8 times in his short little life. Next month we head to Tacoma, WA for a week (annual conference there, so it will require some work on my part while KK and Z check out the water front and their Children’s Museum).
Traveling has changed quite a bit over the past year but it has all been fun in its own way. Z’s first flight occured when he was 3 months old. We were still new parents and I was terrified. But, it was fantastic. My sister gave me this wise piece of advice, “Think of it this way, you are putting him in a giant white noise box where he can nurse whenever he wants to.” We bought a travel nursing pillow and he slept and nursed on my lap the whole flight. When he was awake if I worried about his ears and he didn’t want to/need to nurse I just encouraged him to take his pacifier. On our flight home the plane was a little rougher on the ears (even mine hurt) and so he cried for the last 20 minutes. But in all of our airplane travel that is the only time it has happened.
Sleeping on the Plane on the way to Nana’s house for Christmas.
As he has gotten older flights have gotten both easier and harder. By 6 months old he started to really love watching people. In flight entertainment became easier because he was so happy making faces at his neighbors. At 9 months we started to need to think critically about other forms of entertainment. When we traveled to Calgary, CA Z and I hit the target one spot and the party gifts sections to look for cheap and entertaining items. Because he would be in our laps and we watch him closely I allow him to play with things on a plane that we wouldn’t necessarily give him in other places. On this trip we got a LOT of mileage out of some Mardi Gras beads and a $.99 box of bendy straws. Now at just over a year old things hare harder again. He is so long that it is hard for him to nap on the plane. He can still do it, but it is best if we can get him to snooze with his head on our shoulder. He also wants to be up and about more. At Christmas time he wasn’t yet walking so keeping him confined to our seats worked well. We now pack a bag just with entertainment ideas – things he hasn’t seen before or hasn’t seen in awhile work well – and snacks he can eat on a plane. While I know that folks have mixed feelings about a pacifier it has proven to be invaluable for us and hasn’t harmed the nursing relationship. While flying it both helps keep him quiet, and helps his ears adjust to changes in cabin pressure. I would never use a pacifier to keep a child quiet in any other scenario (we spend a LOT of time yelling and exploring the sounds we can make at home) it has been a helpful tool for respecting the other folks on our flights.
Zachary is clearly an extrovert. He gets a lot of energy from meeting new people and seeing lots of different people. Now that he can wave and say “Hi” and “Bye” much of his time is spent greeting people. While we were in CT for the winter holidays my parents took the whole clan to NYC for the day. Z had never been in such a big city and it was a LONG drive (in the end it took us about 3 hours to get into the city and park). For the drive we used the same pack lots of treats and toys technique to keep him entertained, and because my parents rented a mini-van to drive in we made sure he could see and interact with the folks in the back seat (he will be rear facing until he is 2).
Our time in NYC brings me to our other life saver while traveling, our Pikkolo carrier. We absolutely love this carrier. It is ergonomic, made by a fabulous company located in the Chicago area, and has served us extremely well. Z is fond of it because it allows him to nap when he wants to, and more importantly because he is level with adult faces when he is awake. Wandering through Rockefeller Center to look at the tree (the crowd was intense) and down Fifth Ave to see the window displays Z said “Hi” to almost every person we passed. I think he was in his own personal little heaven. He is a bit heavy to carry, but at the end of the day all that was tired were KK’s legs. Not bad at all!
Snoozing while they wait for the Subway…
Finally, sleep. First off, beds. In most hotels they will put a pack-n-play in the room for an infant to sleep in. Because Z cannot sleep in our bed (see extrovert above) many of our trips he has slept in a pack-n-play quite happily. He did however go through a period of time where he would not sleep if he didn’t have a good firm mattress under him. For those few months we would go online and find a local company to rent a full size crib from. It was never ridiculously expensive when compared to the cost of lost sleep (usually under $100 for a week) and it allowed him to sleep comfortably and happily.
Secondly, sleeping through the night. Every time we travel Z has a sleep regression. For example, at about 11 months Z began sleeping through the night one night a week, was up once 2-3 nights and was up twice 2-3 nights. This is still the current pattern (Before that he reliably nursed 3 times per night – every 3-4 hours.) Unless he is teething he is never up more than twice in a night and he always goes back to sleep immediately after nursing. He has always been good about going to sleep at bedtime and returning to bed after nursing without a fuss. He’s just a kid who likes his sleep. When we travel all bets are off. As an infant this drove me crazy. After being up every hour to nurse and rock and fight to get him back to sleep KK and I would panic that good sleep would never return. But each time we would get home and within a week things would go back to normal. Now when the sleep deprivation crazies hit me over vacation I can remind myself that this too shall pass. When we are on vacation I just don’t worry about sleep any more. If it is bad, oh well, it will get better and I will be fine. Vacation is no longer about catching up on rest, now it is about enjoying time together as a family and exploring the world. After this last trip we had a week of continued up-every-2-hours-MUST-NURSE-AND-ROCK before we realized that we needed to go through one night where we let him fuss a bit to remind him that he didn’t need help to go back to sleep – he only needs to be up when he is hungry. What that means for us is that we let him fuss when he would wake up before midnight (a normal first nursing time for him). If he fussed longer than 10 minutes we would go to him. He woke up and fussed twice before midnight and each time he was back asleep on his own by the 8 minute mark. After the 10pm wake up that night he slept through the night. Since then he’s been sleeping like a champ again.
So, I think I’ll leave it there.
We LOVE traveling as a family. I cannot wait to explore Tacoma with my two favorite people next month. While it has taken some adjustment we’ve found the time together to be worth the lack of sleep. I’m happy to answer any questions about our experience. We have good friends who co-sleep and have found that it’s even easier to keep a bedtime routine while away if you do so. I also think that bottle feeding on an airplane would work in the same way as nursing – just make sure you have all the tools you need with you! :)