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Monday · August 15 2005

Here's my experience transporting an infant between Chicago and Netherlands Antilles via air or what we like to call “How to smile and laugh with 3 wipes left in 17 cubic feet of lavatory space when your son overfills his diaper at 37,000 feet.”

After gate checking the car seat and stroller, we agreed Stacy would take the seat more towards the window for nursing privacy and I'd get the more aisle accessible seat for high-altitude diaper swapping convenience. On the way down, we had a 4 hour leg from O'Hare to San Juan and a 2 hour leg from San Juan to Curacao. Coming back, we were supposed to have 3 hours from Curacao to Miami, a quick layover after clearing customs and then 3 more hours back to O'Hare. More on that in a bit.

Chicago to San Juan: Charlie slept for 3 of 4 hours and ate for most of the rest. The only bump was my first dookie change in cramped quarters high in the air. This is a breeze, I say.

San Juan to Curacao: We had a fairly short layover in San Juan, but the flight was scheduled for early evening hours (5pm-7pm), the time of day we don't need to look at our watch to check because we just say, “Oh, it's 6pm isn't it? That's why he's so pissed off.” We had a smaller prop plane, and we hoped the loud prop noise and darker lights would calm the boy down, but he knows when it's designated angry time and he had to punch the clock. Stace spent some of that flight walking the aisle and I shook the rattle in vain attempts at distraction, but this was our first real chance to be that family with the whiny baby. So we took it. Good to get that out of the way.

—- Insert 10 days of sun, swimming, and free food and drink —-

Curacao to Miami: This flight was delayed 5 hours, so we got our first taste of waiting in an airport with a baby, but it was an easy time since Stacy's family was still around and happy to entertain him. The airline offered us a free food voucher at the snack bar, but that was probably better left unaccepted. Curacao airport, 9am food choices under the heat lamps: egg rolls, nacho chips, beef croquettes, cheese “pastry” puffs. Careful.

Charlie began the Curacao/Miami leg with one baseball outfit on and finished with another. I nodded off to sleep while Stacy was feeding him through take-off and a bit after. She nudged me and said, “He just filled his pants.” “Really?” “Yeah, you could definitely hear it.” And unfortunately, we had visible exterior evidence to prove it.

Stace wrapped him in a blanket and I carefully moved up through first class with Charlie to the front bathroom. I didn't have a change of clothes for myself in my carry-on, so I was careful to keep my distance, but still get the door open and the changing table down while holding him. I opened his onesie to check the damage and the damage was all over his tummy. He giggled in glee. If you've changed one of these blowouts before, you know what a mess it can be on your baby table at home. In an airplane lavatory, it's just that much more fun. It took me a good 10 minutes, but we got out fresh and clean.

Miami to Chicago: Our original flight was scheduled to get us home at 4pm. Since the first leg was delayed, we were rescheduled onto a new flight that would get us home at 8. That may have happened except for the lightning storm, followed by the hydraulic leak, followed by the new plane at a new gate, followed by the new crew since the original crew was now beyond their daily work allowance. This all took place during Charlie's favorite hours of 5 to 7pm, so everyone got to hear how loud our boy can scream when he wants to. For the 2 hours before we boarded, we camped at the gate next to a family that had far more problems than baby fussiness.

From what I gathered listening to their public argument — henpecking, psychodrama mom and divorced, aloof, professor dad visited has-issues-with-a-capital-I daughter in Ecuador, where daughter had been visiting who knows who following her release from the mental ward mom had her committed to. Daughter lived in New York, where nobody had come to visit her for 5 YEARS, but parents were dragging her back to Chicago, despite the fact that they all seemed to loathe one another. Daughter said I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE WITH THAT BITCH and mom said BUT I LOVE YOU AND YOU NEED HELP while Dad turned at me holding fussy Charlie, gave an exhausted smile and said, “One day they grow up to be like this.” I'm gonna do all I can to make sure that's not me, pal.

We got on the plane a bit after 10pm and had no energy left to deal with any unhappiness from Charlie. He mostly cooperated and conked out for about 2 hours. We landed, got the luggage, grabbed a cab and were home shortly after 1am ready for the next day.

What did we learn?

  • Extra clothes for baby are a must have. Packing an extra t-shirt for yourself is not a bad idea either.
  • Gate checking the stroller is the saving grace of travelling with an infant.
  • Connecting flights are sometimes unavoidable, as they were in this case, but a direct flight is worth alot of money over buying a cheaper, multiple hop ticket.
  • Whether or not you should breastfeed your child is a personal choice. However, there is no doubt that you will travel easier if your child nurses instead of needing bottles. Not only do you have an endless supply of food that will last through all flight delays, nursing keeps the boy quiet during take off and landing and lasts a long time. This is one time you want it to take forever for your kid to eat. If he slurps down a bottle in 8 minutes and is still squirming, you're in trouble.
  • When possible, travel with at least 20 other family members like we did. It makes taking care of and entertaining your child that much easier. However, you're still the one everyone turns to when the shit hits the tummy at 37,000 feet.

Archived: Offspring » August 2005
What you had to say:
August 15 2005

oh my lil charlos!!
always got those hands in his mouth- and just in time- a couple weeks- he can start tasting food!!

August 16 2005

Noted for future reference!!!

What if I don't HAVE 20 family members??

August 16 2005

"He giggled in glee. " hee hee hee.

I try to be much more understanding now of "those families"

August 16 2005

Thanks for the tips at the end of the post!

© 2005 Jason Keglovitz