I spent yesterday flying across the country with Cullen. In his ten short months, he’s become quite the frequent flier, but this was my first time doing it by myself. My husband flew out with us, but then left on Sunday to head to LA for business – leaving me and Cullen on our own for the long return flight. The flight out wasn’t great. Cullen took a long time to get settled into his nap, and it involved a good amount of crying. I know that angry passengers like to throw glares and eye rolls out when babies are fussing, but every minute that a baby is crying on an airplane feels like an eternity to the parents. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great, and I was feeling pretty nervous going into our solo trip home.
The flight attendants made several announcements that our plane was 99% full, and we’d need to stow extra bags and board efficiently. Even though people will small kids can do priority boarding, I always try to be one of the last ones on the plane. The less time I am cramped into a tiny seat with a baby, the better! I finally made my way through the very crowded plane to my row, only to realize that the ONE empty seat on the entire plane was directly next to me. How did I get so lucky?
I had a window seat and there was a friendly man on the aisle seat – with about two feet of glorious empty space between us. Within a few minutes of boarding, I knew it was time for Cullen to eat and nap. I am in no way modest about breastfeeding. Seattle is extremely BF-friendly, so I never hesitate to whip out a boob whenever necessary. For some reason, being cramped on a plane near a strange man made me feel a little weird, so I did my best to cover up with a blanket (despite Cullen’s attempts to rip it off). He ate and then happily sat in my lap – half drowsy, half milk-drunk. Just quietly sat and sucked on a pacifier while rubbing his blanket with his hands. Whose child was this?
At this point the man in the aisle seat turns to me, and in a smooth European accent (that I couldn’t identify), he says – “I think it’s so wonderful that you’re breastfeeding your beautiful boy. I have two sons and my wife breastfed both of them until age three. It’s such a healthy gift you are giving your child.” Someone pinch me. Is this really happening? Have I somehow ended up with the miracle of an empty seat AND the world’s nicest man next to me? I felt much more at ease knowing that our fellow row-mate wasn’t bothered by sharing his space with a baby.
After about 30 minutes of hanging out, he finally put his head into my chest and passed out for his nap. I dozed on and off, but it’s hard to really sleep when you’re trying to hold a baby securely. He startled a few times and readjusted himself, but each time I’d bounce and shush him back to sleep – resulting in a glorious two hour nap. Absolutely amazing.
Eventually he woke up and I decided to distract him with breakfast. I took advantage of the empty seat next to me – sat him down and buckled him in. I’d packed a baby food bowl of bananas and peaches, and I spooned him his breakfast while he happily clapped “more” for each bite. He reached over several times with slimy banana hands and squeezed the arm of the man next to us. He just smiled at him and kept telling me how lucky I was to have such a cute, healthy baby. I continued to think about how lucky I was to not be sitting next to a cranky old man eating a bag of McDonald’s.
After breakfast, I spent the rest of the flight entertaining Cullen with various toys, his sippy cup, several iPad apps, and quiet singing and bouncing on my lap. After four very long hours, the pilot finally came over the intercom and announced we were descending toward home. I had done it. I’d survived my first flight along with Cullen, and a five hour one at that!
He had a brief meltdown in the last 15 minutes, but I couldn’t really blame him. I was ready to be done too. I definitely don’t plan to do a lot of solo flights going forward, but I’m glad I got this one out of the way so now I know it’s possible. Let’s hope the travel gods are just as kind to me next time!
Read more from Emily on her personal blog Daily Garnish, where she creates healthy vegetarian recipes, recaps her latest running adventures, and chronicles life as a new mom to her son and two crazy dogs. You can follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest too!