“Go big or go large,” that was our motto. So go big we went indeed and decided to take HB with us on husband’s work trip. To Australia. It’s no secret that the flight was my biggest worry, especially with HB having a constantly blocked nose due to his deviated septum. This is a little insight into flying longhaul with a newborn.
I can honestly say that I never anticipated just how much stuff we’d need for HB. It didn’t help that we probably had too many cooks when it came to his suitcase (yes, he had his own suitcase, something I had scoffed at before I realised how much space in mine I’d have to give up) – Tom had very clear ideas that we should take things like Ewan the Sheep (a silly idea as we had phones with white noise apps on) and the car seat (his reasoning being that we had several drives to and from airports) and Emilia, our 24 hour maternity nurse) was a big advocate for blankets and also the car seat. I personally thought that even though our pram, the Yoyo Zen, folds up to overhead locker size, was overkill. After all, what were slings for?
HB’s travel items included his own suitcase (albeit a carry-on sized one), a pram, a car seat and a changing bag. Each of us had a large suitcase and a carry on bag. I have never travelled with so much stuff before. For 3 weeks. Last year, we went on honeymoon for 3.5 MONTHS and only had carry-on luggage.
For weeks in the lead up to HB’s flight, I had asked many people for advice. And it was all pretty much the same: FEED ON TAKE-OFF AN LANDING. I had also looked up other tips which included:
- Take enough nappies. Estimate 1 for every hour of your flight. Apparently babies can shit more on airplanes. Somewhere mentioned due to the pressure.
- Take more outfit changes than you think you need. See above for reason why.
- Take a change of clothes for yourself – again, see first point.
Everyone said the same thing too: MY BABY SLEPT THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH! It got to the point where I wanted to punch the next person who said that to me. I didn’t want to jinx it.
Timings for us were tricky – I had to review my carefully thought out plan for when I was going to feed (I didn’t want him to not be hungry when it came to take-off) as our plane was cancelled and we had to be re-routed. Obviously even the best laid reviewed plans go awry, especially when delays are involved.
For the first leg of our journey, we flew BA Business Class. Even then, as we had to take whatever flight was available due to our first cancelled flight, there wasn’t any bassinet available. For take-off and landing, it’s required that babies are strapped to you with a seatbelt extender. I thought this was pretty stupid, since HB was already strapped to me in the Baby Bjorn but the air steward was a stickler for the rules. Since he was already asleep and in his carrier, I thought I’d take the risk and leave him there. If he yelled, my plan was to whisk him out the Baby Bjorn and breast-feed him. Goodness knows what I’d do about keeping him seatbelted to me, but figured that none of the staff would know as they’d be in their allocated seats by that point. He slept throughout take-off.
To start with, I didn’t have much chance to enjoy my first time in Business Class as I was more concerned with making sure HB was ok. As we were now having a stopover in Dubai rather than Hong Kong, our flight was a lot shorter, coming in at 7 hours. After an early bout of crying, the husband took HB who promptly fell asleep on his chest, giving me a few hours of much-needed sleep. Once mum-duties returned, I struggled to eat one-handed but managed to stuff food into my mouth somehow. And then prepared to try and settle HB who was alternating between feeding and being a little grumbly. Knowing that feeding settled him, but also being tired, I attempted lying down breast-feeding so that I could rest too. Yes, my boob was on show for anyone who happened to walk past but quite frankly, that was their problem. It seemed to work anyhow, and that was the main thing – I managed to get a little sleep.
I dreaded landing as I’d heard this was worse for pressure changes, but HB slept through it, nestled on my lap on a pillow. Yay!
We didn’t have long between our connecting flights and luckily, HB just slept.
For the second leg of the journey, we were lucky enough to fly First Class (free upgrade) on Emirates and OH MY GOODNESS WE GOT TO GO UPSTAIRS. Again, my best laid feeding timings plan went out the window as we were delayed for 40 minutes on take-off. I had thought for the second leg of the journey (a whopping 14 hours) that we’d switch to Brisbane timing when we boarded and try to instil HB’s schedule (which involves feeding at 3+ hour intervals, having a walk at 8.30am and going to bed at 7pm). Screw that, he was all over the place.
Whilst he fed fine on take-off and didn’t seem phased by the pressure changes, he was a lot more unsettled during this leg. There was more comfort feeding (almost every hour), less sleeping and more crying. I spent a lot of my time trying to shove a boob into his mouth as that seemed to soothe him and handing him over to the husband when I couldn’t stop him crying. He was also a lot more bunged up on this flight which meant I was regularly applying saline nose drops and trying to suck out his snot with an aspirator. Thankfully, most of the passengers were holed up in their little pods so I couldn’t see whether anyone was giving me dirty looks or not. I like to think they weren’t – the guy next to me seemed rather concerned upon landing as to whether we had had a rough flight. When we apologised for any noises that may have disturbed him, he brushed it off with a comment about how babies are babies and we can expect them to cry. I liked him. To makes matters even better, each passenger is issued with noise cancelling headphones so all HB’s screaming would most likely be a distant noise, despite how piercing his cries can be. I think, had I seen annoyed looks, my stress levels would have doubled.
I tried to do the lying down breast-feeding trick again but due to the way the seats folded down, it didn’t quite work and interestingly enough, the BA business class seats were marginally wider. So what I did instead what lie him on a pillow on my lap and that seemed to keep him happy. We did try, for a couple of hours, using a bassinet. It’s absolutely dinky and sits at face level in the pod. However, HB being HB, wasn’t having any of it, even with a white noise app and swaddling so after a while, we asked for it to be removed and I resigned myself to an eternity with HB on me.
Eternity can’t last forever. At least, not on a plane with a maximum fuel load and eventually we started our descent. As per our first flight, HB didn’t seem phased by the changes in pressure and I had him feed on landing.
HB had successfully completed his first long-haul flight!
- The next day we had green poo which can be a sign of HB not getting enough of the fatty hind milk and too much of the lactose heavy foremilk which can upset tummies. I think this was because I used the boob so often and little that he didn’t feed for long enough.
- Our journey was absolutely fine, made so I think because we were fortunate enough to travel in Business or First Class. The one thing that helped the most was being able to have enough space to comfortably breastfeed and have a properly reclining seat. If I were to travel in economy, I would invest in a FlyBaby or a FlyTot.
UPDATE: We have since taken a short flight to Melbourne on a much smaller plane. Air pressure differences on take-off and landing were much more noticeable. HB tried to sleep during the flight but was noticeably in discomfort especially on the way down.