I planned this story weeks ago to coincide with my first trip travelling with my infant. I intended to give you all lots of tips and tricks for flying with a 5-month old. I polled friends and Facebook for suggestions before leaving. My two carry-on bags were filled to the rim with diapers and toys to entertain DD, but per usual she threw me a curve ball and I ended up not needing a single item in the bags. What worked for me? I nursed DD into a milk coma. At each takeoff I nursed her for as long as it took for her to go to sleep. She slept for about 90% of the flight and was content smiling at the other passengers the rest of the time. My story could end here, but that would not make a very long blog post so instead I’ll share with you what I learned during my 10 days of travel.
Travelling is exhausting
I envisioned travelling with DD to meet her family as the first of many great adventures we’d go on together. I couldn’t wait to take her to all my favorite places and meet all my favorite people. It never crossed my mind how exhausting it would be for her or me. DH and I both have big families spread out over four cities in Kentucky and Indiana. It took a lot of planning, but I believe I introduced our LO to everyone: grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. We spent a lot of time in the car driving all over town. Every time DD fell asleep in the car seat she’d wake up in a new city with a new person staring at her. I extended DD’s east coast bedtime (9PM EST) to match her current west coast bedtime (6PM PST). I thought this would help lessen any jetlag effects. It also made attending a wedding and evening visits with friends and family after work more convenient, however, this did not seem to affect DD’s wake up time which was still SUNRISE!!!!! This made for one tired momma.
Sleeping in a different bed, room, and house is difficult
My mom did everything possible to make us comfortable and feel at home during our stay. We had our own room set up with my old twin bed and a pack-n-play for DD. Grammy (my mom) made sure we had a stroller, infant bathtub, activity chair, and she even gave DD a “lovey” musical dinosaur that she absolutely adored. (For those of you not familiar, a “lovey” is a physical object in which children can use to comfort themselves, also known as a transitional item during sleep training.)
It was nice to have some of the same items from home available and it definitely made everything easier, but sometimes it is just not the same. I missed my king size bed and DD and I had not shared a room for 4 months. She figured out quick that fussing too much at night resulted in me feeding her so we could both get a little more sleep. She seriously gained a pound from all the nursing at nights and on the plane. There were also unique and unfamiliar sounds in the house that were difficult for both of us to get used to. The one item that really truly saved us was the portable sound machine that I decided to pack last minute. It drowned out all the noise and lulled DD to sleep each night. It even masked the German Cuckoo clock in my parents’ house that cuckooed EVERY 30 minutes.
Falling out of routine is a disaster with an infant
We started sleep training shortly before the trip, but had not mastered it yet. However, DD understood her routine: bath, massage, jammies, nurse, lullabies, bed. Being away from home and having others around to help/watch with the bedtime routine often made it difficult for DD to settle and go to sleep. One night I nursed her for several hours just trying to get her to sleep for a little bit; I gave up at 3AM and we both ended up sleeping in a chair for a while.
Meeting new people can be overwhelming
There is no way to sugar coat it, meeting so many new people, despite them being family, was completely overwhelming for my LO. We had several get-togethers on both sides of the family and she got passed around like a hot potato, giving everyone a chance to hold her. I’m sure it was hard for her tiny, little, 5-month old brain to process all the new people. After a while she just refused to have anyone that was not me hold her or take care of her. This trip was supposed to be a break for me and an opportunity for family to spend quality time with our LO, but she was not having it. This was the most unexpected and disappointing part of my trip. We live on the opposite side of the country from our family. I wish I could be closer, but our military life does not allow for that now or any time in the near future. I hate that DD does not get to see her family often (or at all) and it broke my heart to see her get fussy when they showered her with their love and affection. Unfortunately, I’ve become the only family she knows. I’m her Mommy and sometimes Daddy. I’m her Grammy and Mimi. I’m her Aunts. I’m her Cousins. I’m her whole family. We have a wonderful family though and they have been very supportive. I’m hoping that the older DD gets the easier it will be for her and that family will mean something different to her than photos on a shelf and faces on an iPhone.