Babies on Planes: Suck it Up

The breeder/non-breeder divide gaped widely today, as metaphorically wide as the gorge of the Grand Canyon as seen from 40,000 feet, when a friend’s co-workers complained, in the middle of the cubicle farm, about the apparent epidemic of babies on airplanes.

I won’t insult you with the entire litany of their bitching, which you probably know the gist of already (babies are loud — the loudest forces on Earth, more powerful that a 747 jet engine; babies do disgusting things like drink milk from breasts — oh the horror of having to see a little sliver of female flesh in this prude American culture of ours; etc. etc.)

I’ve heard this bogus argument before, the one where uppity, ultra clean childless people try to say that babies and their sloppy, overtired parents should be relegated to the barfy back rows of all flights or, better yet, their own planes. No doubt some of you have heard it too, or will see hints of it (especially during the  stressed-out holiday travel season) via dirty looks from polished travelers in all their 3-inch pumps and suits and self-righteous glory.

Seriously, some advice from a seasoned traveling parent: Don’t take this crap — it stinks worse that what’s in that diaper. How many times, sans child, have you had to sit next to A: A large person who spills over into your seat, B: A smelly person (think sweat, too much Brittney Spears perfume, that bag of Burger King goodness), or C: The ubiquitous sick person, coughing strep throat or tuberculosis right into your face? We’ve all had to make sacrifices in air travel, and my baby is not the least of what should be expected and accepted when you stuff two hundred people into a flying claustrophobic tube.

I’ve seen lists of tips parents of babies pass along to each other to supposedly make it easier, to smooth the process not just for parents and baby but for fellow flyers as well. These lists usually contain some version of:

  • Pass around candy/earplugs/$50 Starbucks cards to each and every passenger to assuage your guilt and campaign for your baby to be liked.
  • Bring a breast cover or burka to ensure no one catches a glimpse of that mysterious, profane milk source (along with this comes the handy printout of cross-state laws and federal regulations you can pull out and read from when the prude/prissy stewardess requests your put that boob away and feed your newborn a Coke instead.
  • Dose your kid unnecessarily with Benadryl so they pass out entirely, hovering just above a coma state and therefore behaving really, really well.

I dispute these recommendations out of principle. Why should we have to go to these lengths just because we as breeders have undertaken to do the job of raising the next generation? Instead, if you feel you must do something extra to assuage your guilt about traveling by air with baby and court the non-breeders’ eternal goodwill, I propose the following alternates:

  • Pot. Pass out pot, and you will really be appreciated by your fellow passenger folk. Better yet, something hallucinatory that can be used immediately, in flight. That two-hour-long wail will barely be heard.
  • Don’t hide the magnificent beauty of breastfeeding. It is nothing to be ashamed of – you are feeding your child the best food on Earth, the way biology intended. What we need here is more freedom, not less. Wear a low-cut shirt that allows the glory of those milky orbs to be displayed. If the stewardess runs out of coffee creamer halfway up the aisle, offer to top off her pitcher so she can keep to her schedule.
  • Engage your fellow passengers in the joy of child-rearing: Options include playing Pass-The-Baby and It’s-Your-Turn-To-Change-A-Diaper! If you notice reticence, allow your baby to borrow your neighbor’s iPhone for teething.

In conclusion, I will leave you apprehensive first-time baby-toting flyers with this advice: Stay strong. Be confident. Practice saying the sentence “What are you looking at?” with a straight face while baby puke runs down your neck. It’s time to force the non-breeders to finally grow up.

5 responses to “Babies on Planes: Suck it Up

  1. If only it was that easy. I’ll admit, thus far, flights with my daguhter have been relatively easy. She hardly cried (even when she had a poopy), I breastfed her (and for my own comfort, I did use a nursing cover), and when I did have to change her I was lucky enough to be in a plane with a changing table. Flying with a baby is not as traumatic as many make it out to be. I really feel that the fat person, the smelly person, the sick person, or…you didn’t mention this one…the talkative person, are far more traumatizing to be stuck next to during a 3+ hour flight!

  2. One of my best moments as a parent… Hauling two kids into the first class bathroom (although we were seated two rows behind first and a cart was blocking the aisle to the rear), only to have a flight attendant announce while we were in the restroom that the first class bathroom was meant only for first class passengers.

    I stepped out of the restroom with my two and four year old and loudly announced to the flight attendant (and all of first class) that we used their restroom because I doubted they all wanted to smell urine in such close quarters for the next four hours.

    The flight attendant smiled in embarrassment and replied “Oh I didn’t mean you. ” But of course he did! He just needed to be called out on how rude he was to a mom flying alone and juggling toddlers.

  3. Just reading this one…again. Still laughing.

  4. I’m a mom of two tots and frequent business traveler and have had my share of challenging moments traveling with kids. Rude flight attendants, evil stares from passengers, and unfriendly security people to say the least. Having said that, I’m sensitive to the fact that, unless you’re in first class, flying these days is very unpleasant regardless of whether or not you’re bringing children: Gate agents seem to be always defensive and annoyed at simple seat change requests; flights are always full so there is little to none overhead compartment for your luggage, there significantly less options for flights which make missing a flight or weather related delays tortuous, long domestic flights most often than not don’t offer good options for meals to purchase so you may be stuck if you didn’t bring enough snacks; flight attendants in 80% of the flights I’ve been in seem incredibly tired, uninterested in being cordial to passengers, and always annoyed when you press the call in button to request a simple things like an additional glass of water – and it’s not just to families with kids but the bad attitude is towards everyone! I guess the nice and perky ones work in first class only. Thus, people dread flying and you get the worse in people. So I simply avoid flying with my family all together unless I absolutely have to or the destination involves a direct flight within 2-3 hours.

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