Nursing Through A Flight Debacle

Whenever I fly in January, I am reminded of the Blizzard of 2010, when I flew home from California to discover the East Coast was buried under many feet of snow and my 6-month-old and I got stuck in Ohio.

Actually, I learned about the mess when we landed in Chicago, where I was supposed to connect to Pittsburgh. I phoned my husband to say we’d gotten in early, that I could perhaps grab the earlier connecting flight, and he said, “Um, Katy, there are no flights.” 

I thought he was making jokes until I got a text from my friend, cross-country skiing down 5th Avenue’s five silent lanes. I remember taking my baby to sit down and nurse so I could gather my thoughts and quell my mounting panic. Then, we finagled our way onto a flight to Cleveland, two hours away from home but certainly closer than Chicago.

I didn’t even have a jacket, let alone a car seat. These things were checked somewhere in a holding tank for the flight that wasn’t going to Pittsburgh. But I had to get home! My husband touched base with our skiing friend (who owns a four-wheel-drive car) and they planned to journey to Cleveland to get us. Mine would be the last flight to enter that part of the country for nearly a week.

My husband had to carry the spare carseat above his head while he waded through waist-deep snow to the closest paved road 2 blocks away, where our friend met him in her SUV. It took them hours to get to Cleveland. (It took hours for us to wade back through the snow later, holding the baby and the carseat above our heads while we waded two blocks…)

When my son and I finally landed in the Cleveland airport, we hunkered down with other stranded travelers waiting for help to arrive. And I nursed and nursed and nursed my baby. Strangers were very interested in him and his food consumption. I remember having an easy, educational conversation about nursing.

“What will you do?” the strangers asked, “How will you get formula for your baby?” No shops were open, and I haven’t seen baby stuff for sale in airports, anyway.

“Well, he doesn’t need any formula. I make all his food,” I was proud to say.

They asked, “Can you nurse a baby that old? I had no idea!” I assured them I could, that he could keep nursing for a long time. When he nursed to sleep in the baby carrier, the stranded crowd commented on how peaceful he looked, how he was such a trooper and how it seemed so easy for me to take care of him.

I did allow that I was hungry when they asked again, and we all scraped together our change to split a bag of peanut M&M’s from the vending machine.

One by one, we jumped into our rescue vehicles and parted ways. But I always look back on that experience as one of the first where I felt truly confident as a parent, where I was totally comfortable nursing my baby despite circumstances.  I had none of the paraphanalia I’d become comfortable with, was down to my last diaper and last diaper wipe, but I knew I had everything that my baby truly needed. Nursing brought a wonderful sense of peace.

Of course, the following two weeks cooped up in my house with my baby drove me batty, but I always like flying in wintertime because it helps me remember that pocket of serenity when we were in between crises, calm as I’ve ever been.

Have you had any positive nursing experiences while traveling? Share them with us in the comments!

2 comments to Nursing Through A Flight Debacle

  • that’s so amusing – December of 2010 – we were in Martha’s Vineyard for the holidays and we’d flown in. Well NE got hit with a snow storm, and our flights off the island were all cancelled. So we were able to get into a new flight out of boston later the next day, and we decided to take the Ferry over to the mainland. Got on the ferry and just barely got across. They cancelled all ferries after that due to wind conditions from the storm. Thankfully we’d arranged for a limo/towncar to meet us at the port because they cancelled all the busses. We finally got to Logan airport, got checked in (yay for first class bump with the reschedule we got through security nice and quick) – but then flights were being cancelled. We kept watching waiting for ours to be cancelled. Finally, ours was the last flight, delayed for 2 hours but never cancelled – only flight that got out that night. My youngest was 7months old, and she spent the whole time in my structured carrier and nursed when she needed to. Some college girls looked on with curiosity (i was an I cup after all ) but otherwise no issues. Was nice to be able to do that when necessary. Kept her calm for a lot of the trip. Granted, I used pumped bottles when on the plane because There just wasn’t enough space for me and i’m a clutz, but in the airport – boob was a great thing to have!

  • That’s so awesome! What a great chance to educate a captive audience :)

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