Boobs on a plane

Last week at work, I was having a conversation with a couple of colleagues who travel a lot. When I say a lot, I mean they were both in agreement that "17 Charlie" is the optimal seat on 737s, and apparently seats in the last row on "intercontinental birds" have leg rests because they're designed for flight crew use, making them optimal for passengers when not otherwise occupied by a backup flight crew. Who knew?

Anyway, the issue of traveling with babies invariably came up because, well, I have a baby, and I'm going to have to travel with her very shortly. One of my colleagues has older children, so he remembers the parental pain of flying with rugrats. The other is yet childless, and he visibly winced when I mentioned that we'd be flying with Baby Avery to New York City (5+ hours each way) at the end of October.

I understand this wince, because I was once the wincer. Being on an airplane with someone else's baby for hours can really just suck all the bearableness out of an already joyless experience. For frequent fliers, this is even more true simply because they have to deal with it more often.

As a once-frequent, once-childless flier, I'm pretty committed to doing what it takes to keep Avery happy and quiet during a flight. In a few years, this will mean unapologetically whipping out some sort of tablet device and unabashedly allowing her to damage her hearing by watching cartoons with earbuds in. Unless a miracle happens, I know it's pretty unlikely she's going to be entertained on cross-country flights by children's books. I mean, we read to her and everything, and I want her to love books. But sometimes you just gotta use the tools at your disposal. #nojudgementplease

Right now, however, a tablet does us absolutely no good. That's why, on the cross-country flight to NYC (in T-48 hours as of this post), I will unapologetically be whipping out boobies. How do I know that breastfeeding on a plane works? First, because I tried it on the flight to Las Vegas with Avery (the two hour practice flight before the New York flight). Radio silence on take off and landing. Golden.

Second, because it also just makes sense. Like all of us, babies' ears are subject to pressure changes. But while grown-ups have experienced this unique discomfort on many occasions, and have strategies (like gum chewing or holding your nose closed and blowing a la scuba diving) to clear our ears, for babies it is a total "what the fuck?" experience with which they have no way of dealing independently.

But nursing ... nursing works like a charm. The sucking and swallowing motion is perfect for pressurizing baby ears, not to mention that it's something familiar and comforting in the midst of an otherwise batshit new experience.

When I mentioned to my childless colleague that there was a relatively simple and highly effective solution to the screaming baby problem on takeoff and landing known as feeding (because let's be honest, a bottle serves the same function for those who bottle feed*), I could actually see the lightbulb go on in his head. I'm pretty sure that he's now a big-time public breastfeeding advocate. Love it.

While my colleague is newly converted to the wonderful world of boobs on a plane, I understand that some others may have a harder time coming around to this. If I happen to be sitting next to a less enlightened soul on the NYC flights, I have this to say: (1) This has got to be better than screaming; (2) my right to take out my boobs on a plane for the purpose of breastfeeding is protected by federal law, so go f*** yourself.


*For mommies who bottle feed, please don't take this post as one of those incredibly insufferable "breast is best" diatribes. If you have to deal with the incredible hassle of hauling bottles and formula on an airplane (not to mention through airport security), you have my infinite respect. But we all do what we have to do, right? #mommyfistbump


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