Part One in our series on travelling with kids, this post looks at babywearing in the air and at the airport.
Why Babywear? Why not use a Stroller (as well or instead)?
I am one of those parents who will do almost anything to avoid taking a stroller out in public. I’ve gotten over my (ill-judged) shame of using one, but I really prefer not to. Strollers are big, they don’t maneuver through doorways, corridors, crowds or stairs very well. If you have to take one through security, you may have to pull everything out of it, fold it, send it all through the xray machine (hopefully sans child) and put it all back together again at the end.
If you feel more comfortable with a stroller, then by all means use one! You can check it at the gate, although be aware that the carrier will not warant that your stroller will make it to the other side free of damage. Personally, the only use I see a stroller as having in this circumstance is (a) it’s ability to carry loads of stuff and (b) its ability to put a baby to sleep. Since you’re limited by the airline as to how much you can take part (a) is largely irrelevant. A good carrier will take care of part (b) for hours. I don’t find a stroller worth the trouble when travelling.
On the plane, your stroller is useless! Backwrapping with a long wrap on a plane is really difficult in my experience, so I’d recommend a mei tai instead. Front-wrapping with a pre-tied carry is fine, but not as quick as a mei tai. Sitting with a sleeping child on your lap with a mei tai is a great way to manage a long-haul flight. Put the baby to sleep with long walks up and down the aisle (and avoid deep vein thrombosis at the same time), then sit! Alternatively, breastfeed your child to sleep in the carrier and watch a movie ; Ring slings and pouches are also great for quick ins-and-outs, especially on the plane, but I like to have a carrier on hand that can handle long-term airport napping.
In light of recent events, if you are travelling with a very small baby, please be aware that the need for safe cosleeping applies on a plane as well as on land. Sleeping while you are babywearing is not safe with small babies. I believe that with a toddler it is unlikely to present a danger if you are seated on the plane, however. If you are travelling with an infant, ask for the baby bassinette when you book your ticket so that you will have somewhere safe to place the baby when you need to sleep. Travelling is exhausting for parents too!
Security: Yours, Babies and Theirs
Babywearing in the airport (or any other crowded public venue) gives your child security when dealing with the unfamiliar. Whether you’re in an unfamiliar country, timezone or routine, this security can be important to help your child adjust. Knowing that you have a sure-fire sleep maker on hand can help your child adjust to time zones and save your sanity as well. You also have the security of knowing your toddler (or preschooler) can’t get lost in a crowd when they’re tied on!
Unfortunately, there is no coherent policy on babywearing at security checkpoints. Some airports will require you to remove the child(ren) while others won’t. If you are asked to remove the child from your back or front, it will be because the security personnel are checking for weapons/explosive devices. There are several suggestions you can use to help negotiate the situation if it’s going to make life very difficult for you to remove your wearee:
- Explain that your carrier is only made of cloth (where applicable)
- Suggest that the security person, in addition to waving the metal wand over the carrier, touch the carrier
- They may be satisfied with placing a hand between you and the baby to make sure your child isn’t packing heat in there 😉
Sometimes, they won’t be satisfied with these suggestions. You will have to remove the child in these circumstances. Try to time the security run for when the child is neither sleep or in a run-away mood. Easier said than done. I recommend bribing with interesting snacks 😉
Managing Luggage: Some Combinations
One of the harder things about travelling with children is managing luggage. I have travelled solo with both one and two wearees and here were some combinations that worked well for me:
- Baby on back, messenger style nappy bag containing grown-up items as well, rolling suitcase
- Toddler on back, baby on front, messenger nappy bag, rolling suitcase
- Large backpack on back, baby on front, rolling suitcase
Whichever carriers you use, make sure you’re comfortable with using them in confined spaces and remember that if you don’t do back carries, learning to do them BEFORE travelling is a great idea!
Our next installment in this topic is on travelling with special dietary requirements and How Do I Carry All That Stuff?
Have you worn a child in an airport? What was your experience with security? What was your experience with carriers?