Homeward Bound

by Courtney Sirotin on March 3, 2012

Post image for Homeward Bound

Ever nurse a toddler on an airplane? Yeah…I’m doing that right now. Dylan and I are on our way from Georgia to New Hampshire for a two week stay with my family.

I never set out to nurse 1.5 year old. Going into this whole breastfeeding thing I had my goal set at one year and was planning to cut myself some slack if I only made it to six months. So how did this happen?!

I have flown back and forth from Georgia to New Hampshire alone with a breastfeeding baby who will not take a bottle (or nurse under a cover!!!) every two months since Dylan was two months old, so if anyone ever needs any tips on how to survive an extreme case of baby-breastfeeding-air travel, let me know. I could write a book! (p.s. Don’t tempt me or I just might!)

I’m lucky that I’m actually flying WITH people this time. I’m currently sharing a row with my mom and my nephew, Ryder.

Dylan just switched sides so now my mom is holding up a nursing cover in a very awkward way to block Ryder’s view of me. We are a sight.

Adding to the comedy is the fact that my parents bought Dylan a cowboy hat during their visit and it somehow keeps ending up on my mother’s head. If you know my mom, you know this is not a normal look for her:


She saw what I just wrote and wants to explain that the reason she keeps wearing it is because Ryder keeps asking her to hold it and she can’t be bothered so she sticks it on her head.

My sister, Dad and niece are a few rows back. It’s beyond nice to have a team when flying with a toddler. I’ve had so many awkward encounters with this whole nursing on a plane thing. All I can say is, good thing I am not easily embarrassed.

The most awkward experience was the time Dylan was almost one and we were seated next to a very stuffy and uptight middle aged woman with a stupid silk scarf tied around her neck (lest she show a centimeter of skin) who randomly told me, after we’d just settled in, that she’s okay with sitting next to a baby but isn’t it awful how some women actually nurse on airplanes?

Keep in mind that I didn’t really have a choice and knew that I would have to nurse him eventually during the flight and without a cover. I am so careful about being discreet and trying to hold up the cover in a way that blocks anything shocking without covering Dylan’s face (his pet-peeve), but with a restless baby, accidents happen.

I thought I saw an empty seat and asked the flight attendant – within ear shot of the stuffy lady – if I could switch seats only to be told I could not, so I had to go back and suck it up. I wish I could tell you it turned out okay but it was 100% awkward, start to finish.

Still, that was a better experience than the time I got stuck at the airport for over eight hours alone with Dylan in a Baby Bjorn while lugging a diaper bag and giant carry-on that didn’t have wheels. He wouldn’t eat, sleep or nurse and I was worried he was going to become dehydrated. Around midnight I gave up and left the airport in tears and never made my flight. I never wanted to fly again but I had to go back the next morning. I spent the entire night in agonizing dread. Ugh! I want to cry just thinking about it. 🙁

My advice for anyone traveling with a baby or toddler is to be prepared. Since he’s napping and I have a free hand, I’ll go ahead and give you a list of my top travel tips!

How To Survive Air Travel With A Baby Or Toddler

  1. Pack extra clothes for your child and stuff them into a large Ziplock bag to prevent them from getting wet in the event of spills from bottles or sippys. Also pack extra food and diapers in case you have to spend eight unexpected hours at the airport.
  2. Stock your smartphone with new cartoons and fun apps. This will be more useful to you, and lighter, than bringing lots of books and toys. That said, do get a few new books and/or toys to occupy your child during takeoff and landing when you can’t use your phone. Make sure you have a full charge on your phone and pack your charger in your carry-on.
  3. Make sure that your baby and carry-on(s) are easy to maneuver in the event you’re stuck lugging them around for a long time (like eight hours).
  4. Seek out the family restrooms in the airport and use them to regroup. You can nurse, change the baby, organize your stuff and go to the bathroom yourself in those safe havens. Relatedly, make sure you change your baby’s diaper and go to the bathroom at the very last minute. Some airlines don’t even have changing tables on their planes!
  5. Plan to check your stroller at the gate. Having a stroller while manuevering through the airport is priceless.
  6. Once you get seated on the plane, put a bottle of water, something to look at (magazine or phone) and a snack in the seat pocket in front of you in case your baby falls asleep (this would be ideal) and you’re pinned down the rest of the flight. Also, use the extra clothes in the Ziplock bag as a comfy armrest for you or a pillow for the baby.
  7. If you have to nurse on the plane just accept that it will be awkward for you but comforting for your baby. Be as discreet as possible because while it is natural and all that, you don’t know how the people around you feel about it (hi, stuffy lady) and there’s no reason to make them uncomfortable if you can avoid it. Besides, no one should get a free show, right?

Hope those tips help! Bottom line: be prepared and then let go because in the end, air travel, like anything with a toddler, is completely unpredictable! The best thing you can do is have a sense of humor about it. That’s my mom’s philosophy anyway:


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

JASON SIROTIN March 4, 2012 at 3:41 am

Awesome post honey! I think many people will find this helpful. Miss you. Love you.


COURTNEY March 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Miss you too! Let’s do facetime later!


JORDAN March 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I can’t believe the stuffy woman said that to you…people are ridic! Tip number 6 is dead on – trying to go through a bag that is stuffed under a seat while holding a sleeping baby = mission impossible.


LEIGH April 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Thanks for this post. We’re flying tomorrow with our almost 17-month-old and I’ve been pretty nervous about it. If you can handle 8 hours alone, my hubby and I will be fine, especially with your tips!


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