Delilah Takes to the Skies

August 17, 2020, Hailey Cain

 I want to begin by saying that COVID-19 has put a lot of strain on family life and has forced families into making some tough decisions, especially when it comes to travel. The CDC recommends that the best way to keep your family and community safe is to stay home and avoid travel whenever possible. Traveling puts you, your family, your community, and the community where you’re traveling at risk for 14 days if you were exposed to the virus. However, families have been forced to make tough decisions on when, if, and how they should travel and thankfully there is a lot of information about how to make travel as safe as possible when it is unavoidable. Due to  personal reasons, I had to travel to California. Driving down there was not an option so we ended up flying.

Writing about my experience is not meant to encourage others to travel, but to try to help those who may need to fly with an infant and feel stressed about what it might entail. 

Since Delilah was born almost the exact day Oregon went into quarantine, I’ve joked that her car seat and diaper bag have been the least used baby items we purchased.

Other than a few trips to the grocery store when my mom couldn’t watch her they’ve only been used to take her to the doctors.

That also means I have not had a lot of opportunities to develop the super mom skills that come in handy when out and about or traveling with a baby. For instance, I’m still awkward trying to get her stroller unfolded.

Needless to say, there were a lot of things I was stressed about in preparation for the trip. Not only did we have the worry of exposure to COVID-19, but it was also the first time we would be traveling with Delilah.

First, I was worried about what to pack since we had never stayed away from our home where we have everything Delilah could possibly need. I started packing Delilah’s suitcase almost a week early and that was after making a checklist that I rewrote more than twice.

Second, I was extremely worried about pumping and bottle-feeding Delilah during the trip. Because we pump and use bottles to feed Delilah it requires a lot more stuff than if we were breastfeeding or using formula. And I didn’t know how it would work to go through security with enough expressed breast milk plus my pump and what we need to feed her.

But I was mostly stressed about how to keep Delilah safe in the crowded airports and planes.

Our flight out was scheduled for about 10am but the airline warned to have extra time for social distancing through security and boarding in smaller groups. I planned to get to the airport around 7:30am, which meant leaving home around 5:30am. It was going to be a long day.

Delilah slept most of the car ride to the airport so I was able to knock out my first pump of the day on the drive, and she would have a bottle ready when she woke up. It was a relief to see that the lines for security weren’t long at all and there was plenty of room for social distancing. To make things easier going through security with all of our things, I decided to carry Delilah in her baby wearer in the airport. And that way I didn’t waste space in the suitcase to pack it.

Security needed to manually inspect and swab the bag with baby food and expressed breast milk, but it wasn’t stressful at all with the light traffic in security. After going through security, we had just found our gate when Delilah woke up and was ready for her bottle.

One thing I didn’t think about before this trip was that Delilah was not used to seeing us in our masks, since we so rarely left the house the last few months. She seemed really confused when she woke up and first saw us in our masks. It looked like it was making her upset to not to see our faces and it took some time for her to get used to the masks. But she got used to them quickly and, overall, she did okay with them throughout the trip.

Also, during this time, airports are making size exceptions for containers of hand sanitizers so people can sanitize their hands often even if travel size containers are unavailable. We also bought sanitizing wipes which made it super simple to clean our seats on the plane before we sat down.

Shortly before we boarded I put Delilah back in her baby wearer to walk around a bit and luckily, she fell asleep. She slept all through boarding, which didn’t take too long even with social distancing and only 60 people on the flight.

On the plane we had a whole row to ourselves with plenty of rows around us. I chose to sit in the back of the plane in case I needed to stand up if Delilah got fussy. She slept all through take-off which was such a relief to me. She woke up after a while but the whole flight was only an hour long. We were starting to descend by the time she woke and playing with her toy was enough to keep her smiling.

During our layover we found the next gate right away but then we came to another aspect of travel I didn’t think through 100%. It was about time for Delilah’s next bottle and my girl is just a little bit picky when it comes to the temperature of her milk. By that I mean she won’t drink it if it’s cold and will only sometimes drink room temperature milk. Sometimes fresh pumped isn’t even warm enough for her.

Luckily, we were near a Starbucks and they were more than happy to give us a cup of hot water to warm her milk bag. Our other only other option would be to run it under a hot faucet in the bathroom to warm it up.

Delilah was awake for the take-off of our second flight and she handled it really well. I was worried about her ears hurting or her being wiggly and not wanting to sit down during take-off but she did just fine. I had read online that sucking on a pacifier helps a baby’s ears during take-off and landing so I think that helped her out a bit too.

On the second flight my mom held Delilah because I needed to pump. Thankfully I had my portable pump with cups that fit in a bra so I could pump on the plane and it wasn’t a completely mortifying experience. I used a breastfeeding cover when hooking up my pump and to be honest that was the most challenging part. I never use a cover at home and couldn’t see if the cups were lined up right.

All in all, pumping on the plane wasn’t too horrible. However, I did get distracted and overfilled the pump cup and got milk all over myself, but it has happened enough times that I stopped caring enough to be embarrassed.

When the second flight landed, I was so thankful that Delilah had done well and was able to sleep on the plane. I was also so grateful to have help from my mom on the trip. I don’t know how I would have managed without a second set of hands!