Baby’s First Flight

After several months of planning, and back and forth, I’m finally going home to Tanzania this month. And I couldn’t be any more nervous.

I’ve been travelling my whole life. Which is so ironic because I’m scared of flying. Ok, it’s clearly not debilitating fear but it’s enough for me to jump and say a prayer every time we hit a slight bit of turbulence. Now that I’m a mom, my fear has quadrupled and I’ve only flown twice since having Kai. But none of those times were with him, so this trip will be his first time on a plane. We wanted to wait for a little while before taking him home but now that he’s just shy of 11 months, and I have an unprecedented number of expiring leave days, it’s the best time for him to see the land of (half) his heritage.

It’s unchartered territory. I guess this whole motherhood thing is huh? But just to show you how clueless I am about travelling with him, we were originally aiming to go a couple months ago over Easter…until I found out he needed his own passport to travel outside of SA. I just assumed we could add him onto mine. Hmmm. Turns out, I’m not the only one who was a little surprised to hear that, as many of my colleagues also didn’t know that was a requirement now. I stopped feeling stupid for about half a day before going back to chastising myself for not knowing. So I set out to equip myself with as much information on travelling with a baby as possible; does he need a passport or is an emergency travel document enough? What vaccinations or medication does he need to enter Tanzania? To make matters worse, I spoke to a very unhelpful woman at Home Affairs who was completely impervious to the fact that I’ve never done this before so I obviously didn’t know what was needed from my side.

I asked her “what documents do I need to travel with?”

Her response: His passport

Me: Is there anything else?

Her: Like what?

Me: Umm, do I need his birth certificate?

Her: Yes.

Me: Anything else? I’ve never done this before.

Her: Like what? You need a passport and the birth certificate. I don’t know what else to tell you.

Me: Yellow fever vaccination card? A letter from his dad?

Her: Yes, you need all of that.

Soooo, if I hadn’t asked those questions, how would I have known what documents I’d need to take with me? By the time our appointment for his passport application was booked for, it was too late to make travelling over the Easter holidays. I was gutted.

Kai now has a passport. And yesterday, I gave him his first dose of malaria medication – which by the way was another mission to get. He wasn’t impressed. As much as I’m really looking forward to seeing my family, I’m dreading the flight there more than I usually do. Yes, we have the paper work sorted, but I’m not feeling confident with dealing with the trip itself. I’m worried he’ll freak out on the plane and I won’t know how to calm him down. It’s a 3.5 hour flight. Not that long, but it can be an eternity with a cranky baby. I read somewhere that giving them a dummy helps but he hasn’t taken to a dummy at all. I’m still breastfeeding and worried how I’d do that on the plane considering he’s sharing my seat. And if he poops, where do I change him?! I have a new found empathy for parents with screaming babies and children on the plane. Because I’m praying I won’t be one of those. I’m desperately trying to prepare for everything but since I’ve never gone through it before, it’s hard to be sure I’ve covered everything I need to prepare for our trip.

And now I’m coming to you for advice, fellow mama. Have you flown with a baby? What you do to prepare for it? How did you keep him/her comfortable on the plane? How can I make this the easiest trip on both of us? Please share!

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5 Comments

  1. MNN
    June 10, 2017 / 1:43 am

    I did it with a 6 month old, and then again with a 16 month old and a semi newborn. My husband couln’t make the trips so both were solo with babies in tow. All your fears are warranted dear sis. Can I call you that?! …. Coz I swear we are sisters in my head LMAO! I have laughed with you (from this end), cried at your joys, and sent hugs across the seas. Sorry the ignorant lady at Home Affairs wasn’t helpful. Kudos to you for getting anti- malarial meds. A lot of travelers neglect that but it is one of the most essential things to take care of. As you take off, pop out your boob and nurse him, it helps with the ar pressure. Oh look, silly me, dear Mrs. JK already mentioned it. Also ask for the seat right behind the galley, I think that’s what it’s called. That way you have some-little but oh so worth it – leg room for you and Kai. You can comfortably stuff your bags, and let him stand every so often. You;ll be close to the bathroom, the flight attendants should you need to warm his bottle or go to the bathroom. I was so fortunate to have really helpful flight attendants that subbed as baby sitters, you know you can’t go to pee with a baby in that teeny thing that passes for a bathroom..it’s too “squeezy”. Carry a toy he loves, or that snuggle toy or book that is a perfect reminder of home. A video of the Wiggles on loop was my salvation! Your baby is looking to you as he too will be in a new environment, so take a deep breath, you can do this, and relax. You don’t want the baby anxious. Have fun with the family and safe trip. Saying prayers for safe passage. Cannot wait to ooh and ahh over the pics. Much love and Godspeed.

    P.S. Don’t worry about trying to shush a baby. My sis wrapped little candies alongside a note that it was baby’s first flight for the ten seats around where I was sitting and to” please bear with me when baby cries. Because babies do cry- it’s in their nature. Thanks for understanding” and one passenger switched seats but I didn’t get no slack. And the babies weren’t fussier than normal once they acclimated to the flight. Also try and keep him on the same schedule..Mine was a cross continental flight so I imagined the groans and faces..lol, bt we all had places to get to, and the plane was the mode of transportation we were all using.

    • Aisha O
      July 29, 2017 / 2:06 pm

      Hi Mnn, thanks so much for your advice and prayers. We had a great trip and Kai was SO good it was amazing. He didn’t even want my boob lol. He just conked out about 15 mins after take off. But I loved that candy bribing idea by the way. Something I’ll definitely be passing onto some of my mommy friends 😉

  2. Makhosazana
    June 5, 2017 / 4:01 pm

    You have done well with the preparations, Aisha. Calm down. All is well.

    My daughter and I recently had our first flight. She is now 10 months old. I was slightly nervous because it was her first time on a plane and my husband was not travelling with us. Turns out I had little to worry about. She was such a star! She was awake during take off and landing. A friend had told me to feed her particularly during the landing, but she refused, and was happy looking outside (we had a window seat). I did feed her a few minutes into the flight. I carried a large wrapper to cover us both. It was seamless. I was also grateful that we sat next to a friendly lady who was not bothered when my daughter grabbed her earphones.

    Our offspring really pick up from our moods/tone… Just be yourself and enjoy this first with Kai. Journey mercies and have fun!

    • Aisha O
      July 29, 2017 / 2:07 pm

      Thanks Makhosazana, turns out I also had little to worry about! What definitely made things easier was having my husband travel with us. Kai did so well, I was very proud of him 🙂

  3. Mrs Jk
    June 5, 2017 / 12:59 pm

    I flew with my son for the first time when he was 5 month and I was so nervous. He’s 20 months with 12 flights under his belt, 4 of which were 10hr long international flights. If you are still breast feeding, that’s great! I found it helped to feed him during take off and landing. It relieves the air pressure which apparently hurts for some small babies. Also try to plan you flights around nap/sleep time and hold thumbs that the motion and feeding will put him to sleep.
    If for what ever reason he gets fussy/cries, forget about everyone on the flight and focus on yourself and baby And stay calm. Oh and take with you as many distractions as you can to keep him busy.
    You’ll do great!

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