And live to tell about it...
In some ways, traveling with a newborn is much easier than traveling with – say – a toddler, which is like trying to ride an angry bull. That’s on fire. And was just kicked in the balls. Sure: the delicacy of the age can make it feel just as nerve-racking, but most headaches and anxieties can be avoided with the right logistical preparation.
My husband works abroad, in Jerusalem, and we spend about half of our time there. Which is why I found myself needing to tote my brand new baby on a 12-hour international flight when she was only 7-weeks old. I learned some things… The upshot? It wasn’t half as bad as I feared it would be. And a few newborn travel hacks helped ease the stress of the journey.
1) Newborns need passports… tiny, tiny passports
OK, they’re the same size as normal passports. Just cuter. If you don’t have time to wait for the snail mail document exchange you will have to physically bring your baby to the passport office with an OFFICIAL passport photo and all of the necessary paperwork. This means a 2x2 color photo on a white background in which your baby is looking directly into the camera but NOT smiling (good luck). You also must list your child’s height and eye color, two features that will probably change soon after the passport is issued. Once you’ve submitted everything you’ll end up with an official passport that your child can travel on for 5 years – yup! Our daughter’s looks like an Interpol mugshot of an infant Winston Churchill. Customs officials eye her suspiciously but have let her pass, so far.
2) Bring a body carrier AND stroller
This is especially crucial if you are traveling alone with the baby. Long security lines might mean your baby would be more comfortable snoozing (hopefully) in a stroller, but many airports (including JFK) require you to fold up the stroller and send it through the x-ray with the rest of your carry-on luggage. Have you ever tried holding an infant and folding a stroller at the same time? It’s no fun, and you look like an idiot. Have a simple body carrier ready so your hands are free to fold strollers, remove shoes and laptops without having to hand your little one off to the stranger behind you (which is also a fine option, actually… people love babies).
3) Ask about express or preferred TSA lines at check-in
The airline reps will usually take pity on you and make sure your boarding pass indicates that you should be whisked through lines whenever possible.
4) Bring plenty changes of clothes/ pj’s
Bring a fistful of onsies. Things get sloppy on the plane. I’ll just leave it at that.
5) Nurse or give a bottle during ascent and descent
The drastic change of air pressure on my daughter’s tiny ears was the only thing that really made me loose sleep before the trip. Our pediatrician made sure her ears looked clear before the flight and instructed me to nurse her during takeoff and landing because the swallowing would normalizes pressure in her ears. I’m relieved to report it worked like a charm. You could also give a bottle or even a pacifier is better than nothing.
6) Wear a soft, cozy shawl or poncho
Choose something generous and comfortable for you and baby to snuggle together. I recommend cashmere (duh). It works as a blanket, nursing cover and light shade when your little one is sleeping. Plus, you look super-chic and put together when you step off the plane.
The bottom line? It will be okay. Sure, the stress might scar YOU for life. But your baby will probably flirt with some flight attendants, take a long nap and wake up ready for a new adventure. Babies are resilient like that. And for the rest of us, there are horse tranquilizers.