A reader sent in a question looking for some insight. I thought I'd open this topic up to all the Exceptional Parents here and hopefully together, we can help her out! Here's what she said:
Have you ever flown with [Little Olive]? I have taken B. (who is 15 months) on 25+ flights since he was 3 months old, and at first it was super easy since he would sleep. Now he won't sit still and wants to walk everywhere, which is really bad for take off and landing when I can do the least to distract him. I don't mind all the nasty looks from people around me because I have the nerve to bring my child in public, I just hate having to restrain him while he's so upset, and feeling like there is nothing I can do to make it a fun time. Do you know any quiet games or anything of that sort that I could play with him both at the gate and on the plane?
For starters, I think it's cool that you're not bothered by the nasty looks from other passengers. That takes some confidence, for sure. I'd probably start crying. ;P
Yep, I have taken my daughter on two flights. One when she was about 7 months, and the other when she was 11 months. Both times, the flights were early enough that her sleep schedule had been disrupted due to driving to the airport. She was very tired by the time the plane took off, so after a nice nursing, and with her pacifier, a blanket, and some cuddles, she was asleep before we left the ground. The flights were also short (about 2.5 hours) so her nap took up most of them. (Ahh...those were the days of long naps.)
However, if we were to go on a plane now, I can imagine we'd be having the same difficulties you are. Little Olive wants to walk everywhere, or have us stand and hold her. Since our kids are only three months apart, here is what I would plan if we were in your shoes: let him walk around at the airport as much as possible before boarding. Stick close to the gate, but don't try to have him sit on your lap. Also, if your seats are reserved (I know Southwest has open seating, which could make this next part stressful), don't rush to be the first ones on the plane. I know a lot of airlines do "preferred family seating," but unless your son is ready to snuggle in for a nap, wait till closer to the end and then board. The less sitting he has to do, the better. Have him get out as much energy as possible. :)
Once in your seats, pull out his favorite things. His favorite snack that he hasn't had in a while, a special treat that you don't normally give him, his prized books, maybe an old cell phone, some music on a headset or cd player, some crazy gadget that isn't even a toy...
Another thing that might work is saving his pacifier (if he uses one) for the times when he's upset. Instead of him having it beforehand, it might be enough to calm him down once you have to sit him on your lap. I used to do this at the grocery store. Little Olive cried when I put her in the cart, so I saved her pacifier till this point and it would help her handle the stress. (How dare Mommy put me down!)
If the distractions aren't cutting it, and it's time for take-off or landing, don't be afraid of putting your foot down and having him sit for a few minutes. It's hard though. It totally stinks when your baby is crying and wants "down", but if that's what needs to be done until it's safe, don't worry. You aren't being a bad mother at all. Unfortunately, you really can't have a logical conversation with him at this age. Of course you can totally talk to him, tell him what's going on, and try to soothe him; it just might work! :)
Now, I'd like to ask all the people reading this to offer any additional or different advice! Around this age, what has worked best for you? Any tips for the months ahead?