I actually wanted to title this post “how the survive flying with your baby for the first time for the newbie mama who doesn’t know what the hell to buy, wear or prepare”. As you know, my family and I travelled to my home country of Tanzania last month – although it really feels like it was last year as I write this! The responses I received from you when I admitted I was terrified, was amazing. So many of you opened up and shared tips with me. It really helps to hear from fellow mamas. Thank you to every one of you who messages, emailed, commented on Instagram or tweeted me your advice. I really, really appreciate it. It’s proof that there’s strength in helping other women. I took so much of your advice as well as advice from my friends. It really helped my nerves by preparing for (almost) everything. I thankfully had a great experience on both flights with Kai. He was a star baby. He conked out 15 minutes into the flight and woke up about 20 minutes before we landed. Hallelujah.
Now that I’m on the other side, I’d like to share them with you, as well as my own.
Get all the information and any relevant documents you need at least a week before you fly out to prepare yourself for the trip. If you’re flying international, make sure your baby has:
- his/her own a passport
- unabridged birth certificate
- an affidavit and letter of consent from your husband or baby’s father (if travelling alone with baby)
We didn’t want to travel with his original birth certificate, so we brought a certified copy. You can do this at any police station or commissioner of oaths. You can download the affidavit form from Department of Home Affairs website or you can collect one at a branch. Check out the DHA site for full requirements. I didn’t know Kai needed his own passport until about 2 weeks before our initially planned travel date. Suffice to say, we had to change our dates to accommodate his passport application. Womp womp.
A tip: if you’re an FNB customer, you can apply for a passport via a couple of their branches. Make sure to check where and how you can do it before hand. It saved us so much time compared to going to Home Affairs and putting up with those awful queues. Some countries don’t accept emergency travel documents, so we made sure to get a passport rather than risk it at immigration.
Vaccinations and Medications
If you’re going to a country that’s high in yellow fever cases, you may need to get a yellow fever vaccination for your child. Considering Kai was less than a year old and Tanzania is no longer considered a high-risk yellow fever area, we didn’t end up getting the shot. But it’s something to note, depending on your destination. We did, however, ask his travel doctor to write a note for us, in case immigration asked us for one. This could be something to consider if you’re worried your baby is still too young for a required vaccination, stating your baby is exempt from it.
Tanzania is a very high-risk malaria country so we had to give him anti malaria medication, which in itself was quite a nightmare to do as it’s based on weight. My tip for this would be to make sure the pharmacist gives you the meds in a way that’s easy for you to give your child. The doctor prescribed 37mg of a tablet as 1 dose for Kai. Now, how do you measure that? It’s not an easy half or quarter tablet. Our pharmacist, bless her, pre-measured every single dose (there were 7 in total) for me and paired it with the equivalent amount of water I needed to mix with the crushed tablets. Somes things to keep in mind:
- Remember when you need to start taking the malaria meds so you do it in time. Kai needed to start his a week before departure.
- Carry a little bit extra, just in case – your baby may vomit it out or you may get stuck at the airport or be in a country where the medical facilities aren’t as reliable. At least you’ll know the necessary meds are taken care of.
- Make sure the meds are always with you. We carried all of Kai’s malaria meds in our hand luggage in case our luggage got lost.
Other meds that I packed:
- Panado – a lot of it because I didn’t know how he would react to the flight, travelling or the first few nights in Dar. We decided not to give it to him before flying, just in case he didn’t need it (which he didn’t). If you know your baby doesn’t settle well, then it’s up to you to give him/her beforehand.
- Peaceful Sleep insect repellent. I have a travel size version which I kept in his nappy bag – in case our luggage got lost. I had that on hand because we were arriving in Dar in the evening and there would’ve been no time to hunt around for insect repellent at that time.
Think about the best and most convenient way to give your baby food in case he/she doesn’t yet eat adult food or might not like the food at the airport etc. To be honest, I really didn’t know what food Kai would’ve liked to eat while travelling so I ended up with a variety of options, which all worked very well.
- Woolies’ fresh baby food tubs. They can be eaten as they are or heated. I loved that I didn’t have to decant them into a bowl. They’re about R20-R22 each.
- Disposable plastic cutlery so you don’t worry about cleaning your baby’s dishes. I got his spoons at the Woolies till. You could just throw them anyway when done with it.
- Crackers and Clicks’ teething biscuits. I love these because they’re individually wrapped so no staleness and they’re small enough to pack in hand luggage. We packed the rest of the box with our checked in luggage.
- Pre-measured formula. I carried 3 bottles’ worth in our dispenser. You can get one at Dischem – so helpful! We made sure to feed him before we left and gave him another one after take-off before he fell asleep.
- A flask for his bottle water from Tommee Tippee. On the morning of our trip, I boiled water and filled the flask with it. When we were at the airport we just asked a staff member at the lounge to help us with a bowl of ice water to cool the water down and that worked perfectly.
- Tissues and wipes come in very handy!
You never know how cold a plane can get. I knew Kai needed at least 2 outfits – one to wear and a spare. I also packed a summer outfit for when we arrived in Dar (which was boiling compared to Jozi) and I made sure to layer him up.
I really love this hoodie (from Ackermans) because of the fleece lining. It kept him warm and wasn’t as bulky as his coat. I also got him some really easy to wear and trans-seasonal shoes for Tanzania. His spare outfit was the same thing just different colours. His summer outfit was two short sleeved vests and a pair of light leggings.
I knew my outfit had two functions: comfort and breastfeeding friendly. So I wore a white button down top, black leggings and sneakers. I couldn’t find my nursing bra that morning so I wore a normal bra but one that was easily accessible. Leggings are a God send because they are easy to fold and oh so comfy. I wore one of my ponchos on top which worked really well as it adds a bit of class to an outfit. It was especially helpful on the plane as I was able to cover myself while feeding Kai with it. It was also useful when he fell asleep as I used my poncho to cover him. Think of something easy access for nursing. Everything had to be no-fuss. I kept my makeup neutral as Kai loves playing with my face at the moment. I also didn’t wear any necklaces or big chunky earrings – obvious. I had my hair braided under my wig cap and wore a turban to avoid friction against the plane seat. I also packed a spare outfit for myself and hubby in case Kai made a mess on us.
- Choose your seating; Kev sat in the aisle seat and I sat in the window. So when Kai fell asleep, we lay him in the middle seat between us. It’s rare that someone would choose that seat unless it’s a packed flight. Hopefully, they’ll move if they’re not keen on babies.
- Pack triple the nappies; you don’t want to be stuck on a plane or at the airport with a baby with a runny tummy.
- Grab extra blankets. Because we weren’t sure how cold it’d get, I brought two warm winter blankets and one medium blanket.
- Pack his/her fave toys, that don’t make noise so not to disturb other passengers – this was a handy tip from a follower of mine, thank you for that.
- Check with your airline what their luggage allowance is, if your baby qualifies for a bassonet, if you can bring a stroller on board or if you have to check it in. It’s not standard across all airlines and some may charge you extra for items.
Phew, that’s it! This post was much longer than I anticipated but I really wanted to share everything I learned with you. I hope you found this helpful fellow mama. Remember, the flight will end at some point and every single person on that plane has been a baby once so they must just take a chill pill.
Did I miss anything? Please add your tips in the comments below.
Plane photograph by: Cristian Baron