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Baby's First Flight

If there's any time you're likely to board a plane with your infant, it's over Thanksgiving  -- the most heavily traveled holiday of the year. To help make sure your flight is as smooth as possible:

Buy your baby his own seat. Kids under 2 usually fly free, but unless you can snag an unclaimed seat, you'll have a squirmy babe-in-arms from takeoff to touchdown. It'll be more comfortable  -- and safer  -- if you purchase a ticket (ask about a discount). Install your child's car seat (make sure it's FAA approved), and keep your hands free for feeding, diapering, and playing.

Pack the right stuff. In your diaper bag, include:

* At least three more diapers than you think you'll need (those airsickness bags in the seat pocket in front of you make tidy little dirty-diaper receptacles).

* A changing pad (but keep in mind that on a short flight you can pretty much let a wet diaper go; today's disposables are so absorbent, your baby's bottom will be no worse for the wear).

* Your wallet and travel papers: Just claim one of the pockets for your own stuff so you don't have to juggle a purse.

Prep for the security check. These days, even babies must be individually screened at the airport. When you pass through the metal detector, you'll need to take your child out of his stroller or carrier and hold him yourself.

Time feedings to pamper little ears. Nurse or bottle-feed during takeoff and landing: Swallowing will ease the pressure in a baby's ears. In flight, when it's easy to get dehydrated, offer small sips of water between regular feedings.

Keep him happy on the plane. Surprise him with a toy or board book he's never seen before. If space and time permit, walk up and down the aisles with him for a change of scenery. And don't forget his favorite blankie!

Ignore the glares. Your baby's probably going to lose it at some point. Don't worry about the other passengers: They know how to calm themselves. Focus on making your little travel companion happy again. At the very least, he just might sob himself to sleep.

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