With most of our family in Sweden and Ireland, we fly back and forth quite often. It can be daunting flying with children, especially babies, but as long as you make life as easy and comfortable for them as possible, flying with babies doesn't have to be a major hassle. Here are a few of the things I have learned along the way:
Aoife, at 2, with mormor (Swedish maternal grandmother), Copenhagen
1. Delay flying for as long as possible. Yes I know you've got cabin fever, and yes I understand that family and friends are putting an awful lot of pressure on you to see the baby, but please consider the pressure on that sweet baby's head before you book those tickets. It's an awful lot for a baby to cope with at such a tender age. And that's without all the other stressors of travelling. Please put your baby's health first.
2. Work out how to get through security in advance. In my experience, they usually want you to fold the pushchair and put it through the x-ray machine. Likewise, they don't usually like you wearing your baby. It can be a bit awkward, so try having a strategy in advance.
3. Prebook your seats whenever possible. Even if your airline lets parents and babies on first, it takes a little longer to get on the plane, then settled, with a baby. Especially if you've got to fold and leave a pushchair at the bottom of the steps. The rest of the passengers have usually overtaken you before you board. So if you want to make sure you get somewhat good seats, and that you get to sit together as a family, prebook. It may cost you a little bit more, but it's worth it. If you're flying long haul you may also want to consider booking a baby cot/crib so the baby has somewhere other than your lap to lie down.
4. Get seats near the bathrooms. It's sod's law that the baby will have a nappy (diaper) explosion on the plane! Trust me, the closer you are to the bathrooms the better! You really don't want to have to bring that messy thing from one end of the plane to the other!
5. Bring something for baby to suck or chew on for take off and landing. Like I said earlier, that pressure is an awful lot for babies to cope with at such a young age. What you bring obviously depends on the age of the baby and your preferences, but some things that have worked for me in the past are: a bottle of drink, a dummy (pacifier), a teething ring, and dried fruit.
6. Bring entertainment. Babies are required to sit on your lap throughout the flight, attached with a special seat-belt that hooks on to yours. Older, more mobile babies, may get a bit restless. Bring a few age appropriate toys and activities they can play with on the tray in front of you. When Aoife was a baby I used to bring one or two toys, one or two books, plus get her something new and interesting (usually a sticker book), so she had the comfort of the familiar but also something new and exciting to look forward to.
7. Bring spares. You know that nappy explosion I talked about earlier- I bet you it has leaked! All over your baby, and all over you. A change of clothing in the hand luggage is essential. I usually bring a full set of clothes for the baby and a new top for me. Even if your baby doesn't have an accident, you may want to change him into something a bit cleaner before he meets grandma. Also bring more formula and/or snacks than you think you need, because delays are common. And if your baby uses a dummy, you'll probably want to bring more than one of those too. Those pesky little things tend to get lost.
8. Leave the plane last. I find the whole rush to get out of the plane hilarious. It hardly even touches the ground and everyone stands up, get their bags, then hang around doing nothing for 5 minutes until the cabin crew opens the doors. Then off they rush to get to baggage reclaim first. In contrast, Alan and I usually hang back, leave the plane last, and get to baggage reclaim just as the first few bags show up on the belt. There really is no need to rush. And your baby will probably feel a whole lot better for not being squashed with all the others and rushed for no reason.
9. Have a plan in place for the destination airport. Bear in mind that there may be a long walk involved. If you've brought a pushchair, you may not be able to pick it up until you get to baggage reclaim, so have an alternative in mind suitable for the age of your baby, for example a sling or baby carrier, reigns, or ride-on hand luggage. If you're planning on carrying the baby in your arms, make sure you can still carry/roll the hand luggage (particularly important if you're travelling alone).
Lastly, and most importantly...
10. Relax and enjoy the trip. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes for a calmer baby than you being calm yourself. The baby will pick up on you being stressed and react to it, so plan ahead, be on time (or better still early), and try not to let fellow passengers wind you up. The calmer you are, the more comfortable a flight you'll have.
If you have something to add, please do so in the comments.