So… two weeks ago, Baby K and I boarded a plane.
To say I was nervous would be a major understatment. For weeks I went through blog posts, and quizzed friends about their plane experiences, and just generally PANICKED! And then before I knew it, there we were at Heathrow Terminal 3, turning our backs on London and heading to Islamabad.
Usually, the part where you go past security takes me ages to do, because I just can’t bring myself to say bye to my mum! This of course is followed by a few tears when we finally do say bye. But this time… I just knew that if I added tears to what I was already feeling, I might have a full-blown breakdown in the middle of England’s busiest airport before we even get near the plane!! So mum and I had a quick, tear-free hug (for which she looked grateful too) and off I went, swerving Baby K’s pushchair as if this was just a regular day at the park. No biggie.
I think I was pretty well-prepared for the flight. I thoroughly read Heathrow’s airport security rules for babies and took what I could, ensuring I left home earlier than usual to allow extra time at security. Good thing I did as my baby bag ended up being “set aside” for further investigation. But it turned out to be because I’d left my tiny hand cleaning gel in there by accident!
I gave Baby K Calpol 20 mins before take-off so any potential ear-popping wouldn’t cause too much pain; to my surprise, the Calpol totally knocked her out (which never happens at home) and so she slept right through take-off.
Please note: NEVER give your baby any medicine during a flight that they have not had before. This is just me sharing my experience and no substitute for medical advice!
Unfortunately, I didn’t re-drug her for landing and she was in some pain then. She actually scratched her ear so hard, she left a little scab! But I kept encouraging her to suck on her dummy which did seem to ease it somewhat.
I also took two toys with me: one was her trusted “light up bear” and a new book that makes sounds when pressed. I got the idea for two toys (one familiar and one new) from Harps who blogs at Baby Brain Memoirs (great blog, do check it out!)
I took my Calin Bleu woven wrap (which I’ll be reviewing alongside my Moby wrap soon) and would 100% recommend a wrap for travelling. For one, they are lighter than carriers and can fold up and go into your baby bag easily. Also, bear in mind that although you can take a pushchair/stroller/pram all the way up to the plane when boarding, it then goes with the main luggage and you don’t get it back again till you get to baggage reclaim on the other end. So wearing your baby when you land gives you your hands to carry your baby bag, have your passport ready, etc.
I had also booked a bassinet in advance, and even purchased a SkyBaby Mattress.
I have mixed feelings about this product. There are a lot of pros: 1) it doesn’t break the bank like you find most baby products do! It costs around £30. 2) its very light and rolls up, fits into its bag and clips onto your baby bag. Very easy to carry around. 3) perhaps the biggest plus point for me was that I used it inside the bassinet… which, unfortunately, was filthy. I was so upset/disappointed at forking out over £600 to travel on an airline that couldn’t even get their bassinets cleaned?! So I put her blanket down first, and then her in the SkyBaby mattress, meaning she never actually touched the bassinet.
But there are some cons too: 1) its a little flimsy. This is supposed to be suitable from birth, but it was a little “loose” on 7 month old Baby K. Every time I fastened it, it popped open after a while. 2) its not really suitable for older children, so I wish it could fold up into a cushion, or something similar for her to use later. As it is, for a one-time (or possibly twice) use product, it does work out a little pricey.
All in all, the almost 8-hour flight went very well… MUCH better than I could have anticipated. Ultimately, however, I don’t think my meticulous planning had much to do with it; it was a night flight so Baby K didn’t need to be fed during it, and she pretty much slept for most of it. Secondly, she’s not crawling/walking yet, so I didn’t really have to worry about chasing her down the aisles! I bet the journey back to London in a few months will make an entirely different blog post.
Let’s Talk Jet lag
In all the planning and packing and nervousness, etc., I completely forgot that we were going to a different time zone, and that babies are humans and they too can get jet lag. And that jet lag is a b**ch. Yep, forgot that too.
It took a whopping 10 days for Baby K to settle back into a routine again. Back in London, she would be down for the night at 8pm, which gave me a few hours to do things before going to bed too. In Islamabad, it was all over the place; some nights she wouldn’t fall into deep sleep till 2-3am! A couple of times she knocked out at 10pm, but she would only be “napping” and up again at 11.
I was completely unprepared for this, though in retrospect it seems so obvious that this would happen. Nevertheless, I’m part of a parenting group on Facebook where Ladan, one of the members (also a good friend), told me it could take 7-10 days, and lo and behold, she went to sleep at 9pm on the 10th night!
FYI: if you’re breastfeeding then Ladan also runs a brilliant support group on Facebook called Ummah Babies that you should check out.
And just like that folks, we are back in Pakistan!