Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rear-Facing Car Seats and Other Nuisances

Air travel with an infant is bad enough but a 12 and a half hour flight is especially bad. Add to that the usual flight delays, excessive taxi-ing on the ground and all that good stuff and you have a very unhappy infant and an even unhappier mom. I am a slightly over-prepared sort by nature and so I had been researching the whole how-to-fly-internationally-with-an-infant for weeks. You can do one of three things:

1. Ask for a seat with an attached bassinet (Won't work as my baby is too big for the bassinet)
2. Hold your infant in your lap for the entirety of the flight (12.5 hours? Are you kidding me?)
3. Buy another seat and attach a car seat for the baby to sit in.

To make my life a tad bit easier I chose option number 3. My car seat is airplane-compatible however, because I have a 7-month old this means I need to use an infant car seat, which by definition is rear-facing. I soon learned that this rear-facing nature would become the bane of my existence.

Rear-facing car seats are recommended for infants upto the age of 1 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and recently the guidelines have been revised to include children up to the age of 2. This is based on data assembled from car crashes and it has been shown to be the safest way for babies to travel.

I lugged this car seat all around the airport, along with a stroller, a diaper bag and a handbag (thank goodness for strength training). I pre-boarded (hey, I have an infant. I can do these things now), attached my rear-facing infant car seat to the airplane seat and breathed a sigh of relief. Phew. I survived.

Not so fast.

Within fifteen minutes a host of flight attendants swarmed around me.

"Maam. This car seat has to face forward."

Me: Um, no. It's rear-facing.

Stewardess: No, maam. It has to face forward.

Me: It is an infant car seat. They are all rear-facing. Forward-facing car seats for infants do not exist.

Stewardess: No, maam. It has to face forward.

Me (in my head): Are you not listening to anything that I am saying, dammit?

Me (out aloud): Okay, let's try to place it facing forward.

Obviously it did not work. These seats are designed to sit stably only when rear-faced. Forward facing will quickly result in toppling forward. Which it did when I succumbed to the stewardess' pressure.

Stewardess (seeing the topple): This won't work

Me: Ya think?

Stewardess (thoroughly confused): Hmm. What should we do?

Me: Look, I have used this seat before on flights. Please let it stay rear-facing. It is stable.  According to the manual this is the correct way for the seat to attach.

I was starting to get scared that she would take away my car seat and I would have to hold my squirmy, does-not-like-to-sit-still little guy for the entirety of this fast-becoming-quite-miserable flight. I put my game-face on to show that I meant business and that this seat was going to stay.

Compromise achieved. Game-face was a success: Hold the baby in your lap for take-off and landing and he can stay in the seat during the remainder of the flight.

I'll take that.

I came home and started Googling to see if I had done anything wrong. Turns out that I had not. Apparently this happens all the time. Airlines, especially international airlines, see rear-facing car seats and their knickers get all twisted. Most people opt to carry their infants in their laps and only use forward-facing car seats once their kids are old enough. As a result airlines are just not used to the concept of infant car seats and are thoroughly perplexed when they make an appearance. So annoying! Moral of the story: When wanting to install an infant car seat in a plane, have your facts ready and be persuasive.

I am flying back next week and am anticipating a brawl. Better get my game-face ready.