This is the second post in a series of guest posts by my sister Trish on her marathon 28-hour trip from Sydney to London – with a five-month-old baby. The first installment of this story, Flying With A Baby: Pre-Trip Planning, was published yesterday. Today, she talks about how she chose what to bring on board, preparing for and the experience of, the actual flight itself.
In deciding what to pack in our carry on bag, I started out with the point of view that you can’t have too much for the baby and it’s better to be safe than sorry but after a couple of attempts I had to put on my realistic hat and figure what was the minimum we would need. I found myself getting tied in knots trying to predict what my son’s feeding and sleeping schedule would be throughout the journey. Anal as it may seem, I made a spreadsheet listing his usual hourly daily routine – bearing in mind that this was a rough guide because he really didn’t stick to one.
I had 3 columns, one for each time zone (Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, London) showing the duration of our trip. I decided it was pointless trying to ‘trick’ a 5 month old baby to stay awake when his body was telling him to sleep so I decided to pay no attention to the jet lag factor and just let him feed and sleep when he wanted during the journey. The spreadsheet was more of a guide for me so that midway through the flight if everything was going horribly wrong and we were both staring at one another scratching our heads I could make a somewhat informed guess as to what was upsetting the baby.
Next I decided all-in-one sleep suits were probably the best thing for the baby to wear and considering he rarely threw up after eating it was totally feasible that he would be wearing the same one for the entire journey (which is what happened) but I packed a couple of extras and a jumper (sweater) anyway. I was concerned about how cold he would be when we landed in London and considered bringing his hat, gloves and coat onboard but then my practical side said that its really never that cold walking through the terminal and if we packed the cold-weather gear at the top of our check-in bags we’d be able to take them out the minute we reclaimed the bags – and if the bags were lost we could buy new ones in the airport before going outside.
Finally I had to consider food – my son was still breastfeeding but had started taking the occasional bottle. We decided it was worth taking some formula onboard. We took 3 bottles filled with water and didn’t use any of them. (If we had however, there would have been no problem washing them onboard, in fact the air stewards were only too willing to help.) So my advice would be not to try and pack 30 hours worth of bottles, rather bring a few and re-use them.
At five months babies really have memories a bit like goldfish. You can produce the same rattler over and over and it’s always met with the same level of curiosity so I guessed that we wouldn’t need a bag full of toys to keep our little guy entertained. Finally I packed a few wraps and a roll of sticky tape – the sticky tape was just something I came across while packing and thought “I’ll chuck that in because you just never know”. I was, and still am, an avid A-Team fan so it seemed like the right thing to do. In this case, my dream came true a few hours into the flight when the cabin lights were on and it was obvious that the lights were keeping a lot of the babies awake. I taped a wrap to the bulkhead wall and draped it over the bassinet so my son could sleep. Parents on all sides looked on in awe and the roll of tape got passed around from bassinet to bassinet. I sat there grinning as if I’d just helped Mr T weld together the homemade tank that finally got Colonel Decker and his crew off our backs, “pity that fool”!
A few hours in and so far so good we had a sleeping baby and were right on schedule, what we didn’t plan for was that he would stay asleep for the next 6 hours. Landing in Kuala Lumpur, I was convinced that our good luck must surely be coming to an end and was preparing for having an awake baby for the second leg of the journey. Instead, he slept for most of that flight as well – this may have been because every time he stirred I’d pick him up and let him nurse a bit and he would go right back to sleep. As we landed in London my husband commented that he was awarding a medal to my boobs for outstanding service in their field. I was exhausted but happy – the flights had passed without any traumas.
Our outbound layover in Kuala Lumpur was pretty uneventful and painless but it was relatively short considering boarding started almost an hour before take-off. On the return leg we had a much longer stop over but we booked into an airport hotel which I highly recommend even as a way to pass the time. The hotel we used is very basic but we had showers, bathed the baby, and just hung out in the room for a bit so we were really refreshed when we boarded the second flight.