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Those Frenchies make it look so easy — but notice, they’re also pushing umbrella strollers.

A few days back I wrote about the Hell that is air travel with a baby. I’d like to transform that experience into something positive for anyone who’s foolish enough to do the same. Herewith, my tips for making travel with a baby more bearable. Note: I’m only using “he” because that’s what my baby is.

1. Bring your baby’s lovey/bedtime buddy/security blanket. Even if he doesn’t sleep, the presence of an object he associates with being calm will help when he’s stressed or exhausted. There were a few times I gave Ned to Baboo and I could feel him relax in my arms. (The baby, not the bear.)

2. Bring Benadryl and Tylenol (or Ibuprofen). The former to not only help make the kid drowsy, if you choose to do that, but in case he has an allergic reaction to something. The latter in case he’s teething or gets a big bump that would benefit from some pain relief. Note that over-the-counter liquid meds *are* subject to the 3-1-1 rule, so you’ll need to put them in a smaller container.

3. Bring new toys. The sillier and more intriguing, the better. Even when he was flailing himself about due to exhaustion, Baboo loved the blinky light-up penguin pin my mother wore. It changed colors. Oooooooo!

4. Bring one or two absolute favorite toys. Similarly to the lovey, these have the potential to make the kiddo happy when he’s at the end of his rope. Old friends! All is not lost!

5. Seriously, bring two people to help you. It’s just… Good.

6. Ditch the diaper bag for a backpack. Excellent advice I received from a former coworker. It’s easier to organize, transport and deal with when you’re stuck for hours in a tin can and need to be highly mobile before and after that. It hangs really nicely on the back of a stroller, too. Just remember to lift it off before you pick up the baby if you don’t want the stroller upended.

7. Use gallon Ziploc bags to organize the diaper backpack. One for diaper stuff, one for feeding stuff, one for a change of clothes, a bunch of spares for soiled clothes, used bottles, and poopy diapers (you want to be nice to other travelers, right?). Before you go through security, you can use one to sequester your diaper bag liquids and gels so you don’t get lectured by a snotty TSA agent whilst juggling a baby and all his stuff and your shoes. Yes, this happened to me, and then they didn’t go through my diaper bag. Okaaaay…

8. Bring an umbrella stroller. Prior to this trip, we only had one of those behemoths that’s great for around the neighborhood, but extremely cumbersome for journeys of any length. You’ll use this to transport your kid through the airport (you can gate-check it) as well as to take him on soothing walks once you get to your destination. We have this one and love it.

9. Bring all his sleep aids (in your carry-on, duh). For us, this meant packing a noise machine, the spare Ned, and a ridiculously heavy projection mobile. It also meant Baboo went down for naps like a happy little angel straight from Heaven.

10. If your kid will be sleeping in a pack-and-play at your destination, practice at home for a few weeks before you go. I cannot tell you the peace of mind this gave me. I started in his room, moved him to our room, and even took him to my mom’s the week before we left. It was mildly stressful for him, but better that than highly stressful later on when we’re all supposed to be having holiday fun.

11. If your baby is on solids, rejoice: Baby food now comes in squeeze-out pouches! They ain’t cheap, but they’re damned convenient, and largely organic. If you wanted, I suppose you could also make your own using these or something similar.

12. Antibacterial wipes. Call me paranoid, see if I care: Airplane tray tables are dens of horror, bacterially speaking. So are the armrests. And the window shades. And guess what babies love to do? Touch! Everything! And then put their fingers in their mouths! Wheeeeeee!

13. Get Ye a cart cover. Again, call me paranoid, I don’t care. If a $25 piece of finely tailored polyester prevents my kid from getting sick while we’re grocery shopping and traveling, well then spank my bottom and call me happy. Bonus: It works on changing tables and high chairs, too.

14. If your baby is on formula and you don’t want to buy one more piece of junk you’ll only use twice, make your own single-serve formula packs. Snip the corner off a sandwich-size Ziploc baggie, fold the corner up and tape it down. Seal it well, of course, and fold one end of the tape under to make a little tab. Open the top and put in enough formula for your baby’s most common feeding. Seal carefully, buy a bottle of room-temperature water from a newsstand, add the amount of water you need, take the tape tab off, stick the baggie funnel in the bottle mouth, open the top of the baggie, carefully shake in the formula, and off you go. Sounds cumbersome, and yes you could put the formula in the empty bottle, but then you’d never get the formula lumps off the bottom of that bottle, now would you? What’s, that you say your baby won’t take room-temperature bottles? Maybe you should practice getting him to do so before you fly. Also: flight attendants will happily warm and rinse bottles for you.

15. Dedicate a carry-on to essential baby stuff. Sleep aids, extra food, bottles and formula, another change of clothes for the baby, a fresh shirt for you (I know someone who spent half a transatlantic flight in an overcoat and no shirt because Junior got pukey), your spare bedtime buddy. Because anything can happen when you travel, and wouldn’t you rather be prepared than have a screaming baby on your hands?

16. Ask if there’s a family/medical security lane. Larger airports seem to have them, and they will save you time and stress.

Well, happy trails, my silly friends. And remember the most important travel tip of all: Keep breathing and try to laugh as much as possible. Air travel is absurd, but it can also be amusing.

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Flying Baby Circus

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I couldn’t help myself. I walked up to the woman holding a dazed-looking baby and said, “It’s a special kind of Hell, isn’t it?”

We were in LAX, with dozens of travelers streaming by unseeingly and/or madly texting during their rush to baggage claim. I felt compelled to acknowledge our membership in a club nobody really wants to join, but generally does anyway. Sometimes it’s the peer pressure that gets you, or in my case, the urge to be with far-flung family.

I joined the Flying With Babies Society for Christmas — smart, right? And we left town on the busiest travel day of the year — smarter still! And of course Baby Baboo was entering another round of teething. Awesome.

After some debate, our pediatrician’s blessing, and a few trial doses at home, we had decided to give him Benadryl in hopes of guaranteeing him some sleep. On both flights, he slept like an angel for precisely half an hour and then woke up bitching about not being able to sleep longer. He also flung himself about like a possessed rag doll, occasionally pausing to squeal at some new delight, such as the light-up penguin pinned to my mother’s shirt.

Side note: If you can arrange to travel with both your partner and a helper, do. Having a third pair of hands means someone can come help you change the baby while your beloved goes to get all of you a painfully overpriced sandwich/coffee/water for a bottle. Most importantly, non-parents of stressed babies are better positioned to provide comic relief. If you feel you have to travel by yourself with a baby, just… stay home. Or get a scrip for Valium.

But I digress. Once we had successfully negotiated check-in, security and boarding for our outbound flight, I was feeling pretty good about keeping my shit together while the baby slowly fell apart. (Nothing has made me feel as guilty as knowing I am the cause of my baby’s misery.) And then I sat down and thought, “Damn, I forgot how small these seats are.” And then my husband handed me the baby, and my inner dialogue ran to much saltier words.

The next four hours were a blur of trying to get the baby to sleep and trying to keep him happy while he was awake. To his credit, he did his best to get to sleep, but it’s been so long since he slept in my arms that it was really hard for him. Also, there was a baby four rows up who knew exactly when my baby was about to doze off. I know he knew because he started screaming every time my little angel’s eyes were about to droop shut.

For the record: We felt terrible for that baby and his mama, who was traveling alone with him. Also: I feel the need to commend myself for not getting up to offer her some of our Benadryl for him. On the other hand, maybe she had given it to him only to have it cause a paradoxical effect.

My brother and his wife live in LA with their two awesome daughters, and I feel the the hassles were a fair price to pay to see our boy playing with his cousins during his first holiday season. Generally, though, I wouldn’t recommend flying with a baby, and I’d be hard-pressed to do it again while Baboo is pre-verbal and in diapers. Wrassling with wipes, diaper cream and a wriggly, upset baby in an airplane bathroom is truly the seventh circle of Hell. Or the first. Whichever one is worst.

And yes, Virginia, you read that right: There are changing tables in airplane bathrooms.

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