iPad entertainment

Flying with a baby or toddler

traveling with the little one

Note: These are all based on our experience flying with our baby and what has worked for us. You know your baby best!

A few weeks ago, I was looking at the ceiling with deep thoughts: long haul international flight with Benjamin, then a few days shy of becoming 20 months old. How will I hold up? How will he hold up?

Actually, it’s not my first time flying with a small companion. I took Pristine to the Philippines when she was 16 months. Our travel back then looked like this: a 3 hour bus ride from Nagano (bus left at 3 am), a 4 hour flight from Narita to Manila, 1 day hotel stay in Manila and finally, an hour and a half flight to the south, where my parents live.

Ben is older this time but why am I very nervous about this trip? It’s because Pristine is a girl and Ben is not. If you have a toddler boy, you know what I’m talking about or what I’m nervous about!

Well, we survived and now here to tell our story! Here are few of my best travel tips for flying with a baby or toddler!

Choose a flight at night so it wouldn’t have to change your baby/toddler’s sleeping routine. For this recent flight, we chose a flight that left Dubai at 10 pm. We had a three hour layover at Doha International Airport (Qatar) before we changed planes for Japan but big sister Pristine as well as little one Benjamin were both asleep, just like when they’re at home…

Layover at Qatar

…err, only a bit uncomfortable and wee too cold! Don’t forget to bring your jackets as some airports (especially in the Middle East…Doha and Dubai at least) are too cold.

Use lots of imagination when you pack. Imagine you’re in a confined area and you are not allowed to go anywhere (that could happen inside the plane during turbulence!). Make sure that all baby essentials is inside the diaper bag, stowed under your seat or the seat in front of you.

Don’t forget to pack extra basic clothing for yourself too! Accidents can happen around little children! Dress strategically.

If you are still breastfeeding, choose a top with easy access to the mobile cafeteria!

Bring your children’s favorite toys – in our case, the iPad.

iPad entertainment

Entertainment only for a limited time – this was before they discovered a whole new world outside of the iPad. Once we arrived in Narita (and during our entire stay in Japan), they could care less about the gadget other than when they are inside the car, strapped in for a long road trip!

Check-in ONLINE as soon as possible. This will will allow you to choose the best seats (even if you’re flying economy) and if you’re flying with your partner, it will guarantee that you’ll be seated together. On our flight to Narita, we didn’t use the online check-in service and ended up having seats away from each other. Good thing, kind passengers gave up their seats so we all can sit together. On the way back to Dubai, we checked in online and chose the first row seats of economy or the bulkhead: better leg room + first to be served meals!


Just a little bit more leg room in the bulkhead seat

Stay off the plane as long as you can! When the boarding gates are open and you’ll hear a friendly shout, “Calling passengers with small children!” – don’t be tempted!

Actually my husband is smart on this and he is right. We stayed behind, near the gate to allow our toddler to run around to expend all his extra energy and boarded the plane last. That way, there’s no reason to entertain your baby in your tiny little space until the plane takes off!

Refreshed just before landing

The smallest in our group woke up very refreshed an hour before landing!

On our flight back, we let him loose in Narita. He ran as much as he wanted and once the plane took off at 10:30 pm, he was fast asleep. He slept for 9 out of the 11 hours flight back to Doha.

Make sure that the diaper bag with all the baby essentials is tucked in safely and within your reach.

Babies and young children do not know how to clear their ears to reduce the pressure during takeoff and landing. Have your child chew on something when the plane takes off. This can reduce pain in their ears due to cabin pressure. Now is the time to feed if you are breastfeeding.

If you are breastfeeding, NEVER CHOOSE AN AISLE SEAT! I know it might be convenient when you want to go to the toilet or when you need to get items from the overhead cabin BUT when the baby’s head is sticking out the aisle when you’re feeding (and you fall asleep) – the flight attendant’s trolley could hit your baby’s head! Ben’s head sticks out when I feed him because he is not a tiny baby anymore so I had to switch places with my husband so I am in the middle and big sister Pristine is on my other side.

The baby bassinet is only useful if your baby can’t sit by himself yet. Beyond that age, it is actually dangerous! There is no strap on the bassinet to hold the baby and though it’s placed in front of you, you could fall asleep, especially on long, red-eye flights and the baby could fall!

The flight attendant on our way back to Dubai offered a baby bassinet with good intentions but I immediately I knew Ben is too old for it. The bassinet is short and true enough, when I placed him in it, his ankles were up and sticking out. I could not sleep while he was in the bassinet because I know he could wake up anytime, sit, look for me in panic and fall. The bassinet is at least a meter off the floor. I am wondering why the bassinet is placed that high!

ADVICE: As per other traveling families’ stories, it would be more convenient to buy your baby/toddler a seat on the plane (if you can afford it – and then bring a car seat!). Then you can use that empty seat as a makeshift bed. You can be more secure catching up on sleep yourself if your child is within your reach AND buckled up!

TIP: Once the plane has taken off, I try to look around for empty seats, at least 2 seats without anyone on it. If I find one, I transfer there with the permission of the flight attendant so I can have extra space for me and the baby. But of course this only works when the plane is not full!

On our way to Japan from Doha, Qatar (our flight was via Doha from Dubai), Benjamin was asleep while we were on our 3 hour layover. I was terrified. What if he will wake up and in turn wake up everyone on the plane when we board that 11 hour flight to Narita? Thankfully, only after an hour mostly spent looking at the small entertainment screen in front of us, he was asleep and only woke up an hour before we landed!

The next time we travel, most probably, Ben is not that small anymore. Say, next year, he will be turning 3 and it would be easier BUT, here’s a list of things that would’ve made our flight better and yours too!

1. Pre-order special baby/child meals – I say ‘special’ because Ben is allergic to some food. I thought he could share with my meal and eat the basic stuff that he is ok with: potatoes, rice or any meat and fruits but small children are served first and the airline people arranged bottled baby food! A 20 month old child is not a baby anymore and has graduated from bottled, pureed baby food! The adult meals come much later.

2. Bring a baby carrier – we brought a light stroller which was convenient until Ben decides he’s got enough of being rolled around and want to walk, walk, walk! Toddlers can be very rebellious. At least when’s he’s in a baby carrier, he can be in my eye level and I can talk to him closer. It’s also easy to walk around with two free hands when your baby is on a carrier. Something that looks like this: Boba Toddler Carrier * It would have been easier too to take around Tokyo’s busy train stations and streets rather than a stroller!

3. Invest on a Sit ‘n’ Stroll – The next time we travel when Ben can have his own seat on the plane, I’d love to have him sit on a car seat that can be expanded into a stroller. It would make my life easier. Period. sit n stroll 4. Take a few photos inside the plane – I was too preoccupied thinking how to survive the long flight (useless thoughts like, what if the baby poops during the time when the fasten seat belt sign is on?) that I wasn’t able to take a photo of him playing on the plane or sleeping. I remember taking photos of Pristine before and she is delighted to see it again when she was older.

If we come to think of it, babies and toddlers are simple creatures. They have basic needs: sleep, food and comfort (security and warmth from mom or dad). However, expect that traveling can’t be always easy even if all their needs are met. The new environment (planes! airports! people!) can excite them and make them go crazy (I’m almost tempted to buy a leash after Ben ran like the Flash and disappeared during our layover in Qatar Airport!).

I read somewhere that parents MUST plan the trip with the youngest traveler in mind.

After all, your happiness will depend on their happiness! If he is not in the best mood, chances are, your mood won’t be as perky! But, relax! It’s better than you imagine it to be. If it’s not, then you have a good survival story to share!

Any travel tips I missed? Do you have one (or more) to share?

The baby eczema nightmare

It started out as a small speck of a rash.

It slowly progressed, the rash on the left cheek getting bigger and bigger and eventually transferring to the other cheek.

In about a month, baby Ben’s skin condition worsened despite two trips to the dermatologist and to a pediatrician who prescribed him steroid creams and oral anti-histamine.

I’ve been on my wits end trying to think what could be the cause – food allergy? Clothing? House dust? Was it due to something I’ve eaten (because I am breastfeeding)? To rule out food allergy, I’m keeping a food journal to record everything he ate and his reactions to it. We’re keeping his food simple and natural: just fruits and vegetables. No gluten, nothing bought. Allergic reaction so far only to pears and dairy. Too bad he really loved yogurt! But this is really expected since big sister Pristine was also allergic to dairy (and eggs) when she was small. For his clothes, we are using biodegradable laundry soap and clean the house with vacuum cleaner and wet and dry mop EVERYDAY to rule out the house dust factor. We do not have pets or carpets.

A few days ago, the rash developed into a hideous “weeping eczema”, oozing clear fluid that made me panic. It was raw, bloody(because he tends to scratch it at night) and really looks painful. It’s so heartbreaking to see him like that – whatever happened to the promise of the smoothest skin ever for babies?

A fellow mom from Dubai recommended a pediatrician and allergist Dr. Michael Loubser who she thinks could help with our nightmare. The problem is – the lovely doctor has a really good reputation hence, having so many patients and could not take new patients in. What’s a desperate mom going to do?

I emailed the doctor, begging him to take my son in. We got an appointment but the soonest would be on 2nd of July. That’s nearly a month from  now!! What will become of our precious baby’s face then? I called and asked again describing baby Ben’s condition. They promised to put us in priority in case someone cancels. I prayed hard.

My prayers had been answered. The following day, the clinic called telling us we can see the doctor first thing in the morning the next day, thankfully, my husband’s day off.

Baby Ben looked like this the morning we drove him to the doctor.

The rash wasn’t wet or weeping anymore but it’s still red, itchy, dry, scaly and very uncomfortable for him. The doctor examined him thoroughly, gave us a treatment plan for eczema and new meds. Apparently, his eczema got infected and needed antibiotics. He also needs a lot of moisturizers and a bit of olive oil mixed in the water at the end of his bath.

He has only been in the new medication for a day but we’re seeing a huge positive result! I’ll post a photo of his recovery, hopefully he’ll be back to having that famed flawless baby’s skin in no time!

How do they do that?

Yet another post about motherhood.

While I was putting my son to sleep at 3am after a diaper change and feeding, sleep was a remote possibility. When you’re waking up and sleeping again only to wake again so many times in the night, there is really no proper time to sleep and I wasn’t particularly feeling sleepy. Being a new mom (again) is an exciting time for me, after eight long years, here I am back to smelling that sweet baby smell and enjoying my newborn so much that I turn into a stare fool and could not take my eyes off him. But honestly, it is also exhausting – even with my mother on my side who tremendously helps me around. She has helped me regain my strength and nursed me back to health after my c-section surgery.

I am happy but still exhausted. Then I think of my sister in-law or my close friend Rose and Charlotte who didn’t have anyone with them when they had their babies. They did everything on their own. Taking care of the baby, the laundry, cooking, the dishes, they had to do all of that by themselves. They are still on their own right now.

I feel bad. I am spoiled. I do not even have the right to say the word exhausted.

When my mom leaves in about two months (when the baby is almost 3 months old and still small!) I am going to be juggling things like a first time circus juggler. Excuse the pessimism but I simply could not imagine to be able to do everything!

I am scared.

My friend Rose said you gotta do what you gotta do and make do of things when no one is around to help you. And she also said, I can do it (especially if there is no other choice)! I’m going to hold on to that positive advice. And stop myself from counting down the days when help isn’t going to be available anymore.

When my mom leaves, we have the option of hiring a housekeeper or keeping baby Ben into someone’s care outside of our home because I have to go back to work. Both tough decisions I wish I didn’t have to make.

All men love boobs, even little ones

My last encounter with a newborn was already 8 years ago and I surely forgot what it’s like. However, it is not difficult to conclude that newborns are simple little beings and are only entertained by one thing and one thing only – boob.

Ok, make it two things: left and right boobs.

Baby Benjamin has given me another chance to enjoy motherhood once again. I spend my day looking after his needs and reveling at this miracle that came into our lives, thankful for the little things – seeing him sleep and contented with the simple things in life.

New born must haves

I’m in the last days of pregnancy and nesting instincts have kicked in – a bit, I think. So I’m just getting ready with the new born must haves to prepare for the arrival of our little bundle.

It’s been 8 years since the last time I had a newborn around and believe me, as strange as this may sound, I already forgot how it feels or the things I should get ready. I do still remember the sleepless nights and fatigue though. Those things can’t be forgotten!

Anyway, I’m trying to squeeze my brain here recalling the things I might need (just the basics, really):

1. Clothes – those cute little clothes for the little one that’s perfect for whatever the season. I prefer breathable cottons, WITHOUT tags and ties or snaps to close so wouldn’t have to go through from the head.

Clothing needs would also include towels and wash clothes.

2. Receiving/Swaddle Blanket by Swaddle Designs – The soft, lightweight muslin allows for better airflow and temperature moderation thanks to it’s light open weave. Not only are they excellent for swaddling, these beautiful wraps can be used as burp cloths, sun shades, nursing covers and lightweight blankets.

3. Infant Car Seat – a must when taking the baby home from the hospital.

4. Diaper Cover – I was using cloth diapers for Pristine for two months and I plan to do the same for baby #2 so these diaper covers is a must. I brought all I used before.

5. Baby bath and baby toiletries – to keep baby clean and sweet smelling everyday!

6. Baby wrap/sling – I have not tried baby wearing with Pristine 8 years ago but it’s something I always wanted to try. It’s great right now that there are a lot of brands to choose from though I am not sure which one works best! Suggestions welcome…

There’s nothing like keeping a baby close to you and having two free hands at the same time.

Wish list:

1. Graco Sweet Peace Soother Swing – My siblings and I, when we were newborns, were soothed by using a makeshift cloth hammock back home. Since I couldn’t just nail something in the cement wall here, this is the nearest perfect solution.

2. Nursing Glider (Rocking chair with Ottoman) – I can imagine falling asleep myself in this mama rocking chair while nursing the baby any time of the day.

That’s about it. Anything more I think I missed? (coz I feel there are!)

Just to mention the things I won’t really need but appearing constantly in ‘newborn must haves’: crib, bottles (I plan to breastfeed exclusively), bottle warmer, breast pump (I express breast milk manually) and baby wipes (I plan to use cloth wipes) and baby wipe warmer.