Sunday, August 18, 2013

To Fly or not to Fly - Assessing your Child's Temperment

I know, I know, 'Babies on a Plane' could very quickly turn from a mild-mannered vacation to a full-blown horror movie, but most likely you and your family can succeed.  Here are a few things to consider when combining children and travel.  There are lots of logistics involved in airport travel, so I'll go step by step with the how-to's of infant travel, starting with you and your child.

Hiking with Neva from a young age was a great way to bond, and get her used to being outdoors.

Assessing your child's temperament is an important step, for your sanity, your child's sanity, and everyone around you.  In general, I would say (with absolutely no credentials or scientific backing) that the majority of children should be fine with flying.  The biggest problem that I've seen are with over-protective, first-time mothers.  Giving into the child every time they cry is a recipe for bad plane behavior.

This boils down to parenting style, and there is no right or wrong way, per se, but spoiling and not giving a child an appropriate level of freedom does bring about clingy, crying children.  It's instinct to want to give our child the best of everything, but we are also the trained adult, guiding an adult in training.  Giving them what they need and not focusing on what they want will make them more independent.  Don't worry, Grandma will always be there to help them out with things they want.

As long as the children don't have colic, frequent ear infections, or other physical ailment, most children do well.  It's easier to get them started young so they have the experience of what it feels like.  Here are what I find to be common problems:

1.  Fear of the loud plane take-off sounds

The womb is an extremely loud place, about as loud as a jackhammer at 50 feet away, so babies are used to sound.  Keeping the house quiet when they sleep makes it miserable for parents because they are locked into keeping the baby home in the evenings, and they feel like they can't so much as whisper when baby sleeps.  I believe that a baby should go everywhere with you (obviously, hence the blog).  If she gets tired, she'll sleep, hungry, she'll root, etc.  It's instinct for children to let you know what's going on, and they enjoy sharing in your experiences.

Neva excited to share some traditional Japanese ramen noodles with me.

The day after I brought Neva home from the hospital I started the ritual of vacuuming and doing all of the loud house chores as she slept just so she'd be used to sounds while she slumbered.  The plane noise can be startling, but if you are breast feeding them, they won't even notice that it's different from any other noise.  If your kiddo is naturally jumpy around loud noises, maybe some noise dampening headphones would do the trick, as long as you practice wearing them at home.

Putting a variety of different music on while children are sleeping is another good white noise.

2.  Ears popping from cabin pressure

This one is an easy one as long as your little one doesn't have ouchy ears.  Neva hasn't had an ear infection yet, going on almost 4 years, but I know it can be common for some children as their ear canal is growing.  Take note if your child is tugging at their ears often.  If they have healthy ears, breast feeding at take-off and landing is the easiest way to keep them occupied when they are very young.  If they are past breast-feeding stage, drinking water helps.  However, if they are accustomed to flying, the sensation won't be a new one, and they will have learned how to cope with it.

The suck from a straw, bottle or breast-feeding is a gentle way to relieve air pressure build up.

3.  Upset tummy

My intent was not to talk about breast feeding, but in my experience, breast feeding Neva made the actual plane rides enjoyable for both of us during her first year.  For children with sensitive stomachs, try to only give them food that you know works for them.  Don't bring well-known gas-forming foods like broccoli or spinach.  And then there is colic, which is a very painful intestinal problem for children 3 weeks - 1 year old.  It's basically extremely painful gas and intestinal irritation.  Formula-fed babies are more prone to it, probably because high levels of soy protein can give anyone gas, and baby tummies are even more sensitive.  If you have a baby with colic, assess how they act on a normal basis, and maybe consult your physician for preventative measures.

No broccoli for baby before a flight!
4.  Personality

Every child is a unique snowflake, right?  So, I'm sure there are some kiddos that don't do well, despite meeting the above points.  Ask yourself how they do on car rides or bike rides.  Do they fall asleep shortly after getting buckled in?  Do they coo and look at the world flying passed them?  Do they enjoy being around lots of people?  If yes to all of these, they'll be plane superstars and everyone will say what a good baby you have.  If your child cries in the car, and the very thought of driving a long distance causes you to develop a twitch and rising feeling of doom, then maybe you should consider an alternate mode of transport.

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