It's that time of year when expats in the UAE head home for the summer to catch up with family and friends. Perhaps this year you are doing it as first-time parent with a baby in tow! Are you thinking how will I manage check-in? How will I use the facitilites with luggage AND a baby? How will I juggle everything at security when they ask me to unpack my bags, remove belts and shoes and walk through a metal detector? How will I scoot around Dutyfree shopping? Finally, how will I entertain and deal with an unsettled baby up in the air as people are trying to sleep?
Enter Babywearing to the rescue!
As you get out of the taxi, strap the baby carrier on, put the baby in, settle them into the carrier and then BOOM, off you go to check your bags in and make your way through the airport obstacle course. As you wear your baby in a well fitted carrier both you and baby, you can last for hours together. At times you may need to dance and distract them with a toy or a cracker, sing to them, speak a little quieter as they nap, but generally they will feel secure and content as you travel.
We spoke to babywearing mums from UAE Babywearing about how they use babywearing to save their sanity during travel. Here are some of their words of wisdom...
On Babywearing Through Security
You never know when you are going to be asked to take your baby out of the carrier. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't do.
Last time I flew alone, I used my Soul Tai (mei tai). When I was travelling alone, the security asked me if it had metal on it, I said no, and so they didn't make me take it off when walking through the scanner. Not sure if I just got lucky on that occasion. They made me take it off when I had my husband with me to pass the baby too though.
I've done a little bit of everything. When my son (now 4.5 yo) was a baby I had him in my stretchy wrap. I don't recall being told to take him out. When he got bigger I had him in my Beco Butterfly first in a front carry and later on I had him on my back. Don't think I was told to take him out of that one either.
Last time we travelled my youngest daughter was only 6 weeks old. I had her in my ringsling. I kept her in it through security in Dubai but was searched in private cubicle I took her out once we were seated on our flight.
A breeze in the carrier! I've only once had to take my baby out of the carrier before going through the scanner. The carrier makes navigating through the airport so much easier in general, because you know you can't lose your child and have both hands free to hand over travel documents, carry bags, have a snack, etc.
Some airport securities ask you to take it off (hello U.K.) but some don't. Also my ergo has pockets in the front so I can carry phone and passports easily up front and don't need to delve in my bag every time we need them! I wear him whenever we need to walk or queue, and let him run around as much as possible at the airport before we board.
Not always necessary to take off at security in uae but mostly is required to in uk and other countries. Babywearing is great for breastfeeding while waking through the airport and not loosing time.
For travelling it really depends which carrier - I've used wraps, ring slings and SSCs. The only one I avoid now is ring slings as you 100% have to remove baby through security (due to the metal ring I guess). Every other carrier I've been allowed to wear straight through security. We often get swabbed for explosives and once I was asked to "lift his bottom" so the officer could feel my tummy between us. I did have a lady at Heathrow tell me I had to take my son off my back once, this was as people were putting bags in trays and emptying pockets. I politely ignored her and walked on through just fine! An officer did once tell me not to wear boots while travelling as that can cause extra checks plus mean you have to remove your shoes! So I always try to wear sandals or toms when I travel now.
On which carrier works best
I use a SSC as it's easier to pop on and off when you need to.
I really like using the ring sling as it's easy to take baby in and out and it takes up a minimum amount of space when not in use (which is key when travelling with 4 kids!). So it will be my choice again for our summer holiday.
An SSC because it's easy on and off, comfy when you're sitting in weird positions and both hubby and I can use it.
I use a structured because you don't know if they'll ask you to take it off during security.
Ring sling is the best option for quick up.... but for a long layover I would recommends a soft structured carrier and a shorty wrap.
I liked using a ring sling when they are a tiny baby and a Tula soft structured carrier when they are bigger.
I like using a short Woven wrap for travelling actually as it can double as a blanket while on the plane or during airport transfers.
I've used both my Kokadi Flip and my Manduca for travel. Kokadi Flip at 8w and 6m, Manduca at 11m. Flip was fabulous with a newborn as quick and easy but also comfortable to wear for a lot of the time I was in the airport(s) but I prefer the Manduca now he's bigger.
On entertaining baby in the carrier
While in the carrier, I walk up and down the aisle, bounce her or sing and talk to her, or my husband plays with her while I'm wearing her (or vice versa). I also attach toys, e.g. a cloth book or teething beads to the carrier and wear teething beads and a scarf around my neck for her to play with.
He was occupied enough by going through the airport looking at people and surroundings.
To make it entertaining for my baby I put toys at the end of those pacifier string so he get something to play with and I wear those teething necklace.
On Managing Hand Luggage
I use small hand luggage on wheels so that there is no extra weight and a small handbag across my shoulder with purse and boarding pass handy.
I travel with a backpack with mine and kiddos stuff that I need immediate/easy access to with passports and tickets etc in a travel wallet, and a 4 wheel carry on for the rest. I prefer front carries through the airport on my own.
On storing your carrier once you are up in the air
They don't let you wear it for take off and landing, you have to wear the seat belt (that's been my experience for every flight) so I always keep it handy and not in the overhead lockers so as soon as plane is landed I strap them in the carrier so no faffing when everyone is moving around.
Pack everything into my bag so that we don't scramble to get everything after we've landed. Make sure baby has something to suck on to equalise her ears, either put/keep baby in the carrier and fasten my seat belt or put on my seat belt and Baby's seat belt if they asked me to take her out of the carrier.
On using babywearing once up in the air
The carrier is ideal for naps and to calm baby down or to walk around with her. I prefer to let her sleep in the carrier instead of using the bassinet (she's now too big anyways!) because every time the seat belt sign goes on, you have to take her out of the bassinet, which could potentially wake her up.
Once on board I wear my baby for naps and we walk or bounce to sleep
I've never worn him in it while in the air, but I've seen others wander with babe in carrier to sleep etc. I've always popped him into it on the plane before we disembark, once we have landed.
On what do you do during take off and landing
I had to take the carrier off for take off and landing so I put it under the seat during that time to keep it close by.
I took her out of the carrier and feed her through take off and landing.
As we descend I strap it around my waist ready so I can secure baby once we've landed and the seat belt sign goes off.
I usually get my bits and pieces down and sorted, then get him in. When travelling alone, people have always been happy to help me get my things down or hold my baby so I can get them. On smaller regional flights I've usually just disembarked last so I have space to get him on - it can be hard on some of the tiny planes in NZ when they're full!
I've been told you always have to remove baby for take off and landing and this is because these are the times a crash or emergency evacuation is most likely. They don't want the baby strapped to you - if you're knocked unconscious and they have to get the baby off the plane quickly - well you wouldn't want them trying to figure out how to undo a FWCC!
I always try to ensure plenty of time for changing planes and then I disembark last! It means I can put my baby on my back without and audience and don't have to worry about squeezing out when people can be so rude rushing off planes.
Overall I've had so many good experiences babywearing in airports. Staff and passengers love interacting with my children and it keeps my hands free for pulling luggage, drinking coffee and duty free shopping
A massive thank you to you lovely ladies for sharing your babywearing tips whilst travelling through the air. If you have some of your own handy tips that you want to share please do so below!