If you are looking to buy a neck pillow you have about a thousand options. There are inflatable, foam filled, squishy and firm, (don’t wear your neck pillow outside of sitting on the airplane trying to sleep). You can even just sling your head around or bury it on the tray table. For infants though, not so much. There are limited resources for those who likely need the most support during a flight. If buying your child a full seat, you do have some options, but that mostly depends on their weight and age. For the youngest, smallest flyers, a traditional car seat is a safe but inconvenient option. When those children get to be larger and older, they can hold themselves up (usually with an iPad in their hands) then the Cares Harness is a great option.
But what do you do if you have a lap child? My wife and I have taken our daughter through 17 countries (15 before she had her second birthday) some of them several times. And for the most part I got the easy end of the bargain taking care of the luggage and arrangements while my wife was responsible for holding our daughter in her arms for all of those flights. They weren’t short flights either. Our daughter flew in my wife’s tired arms for itineraries that included 16 hours and 20 minutes from Dallas to Hong Kong, JFK to Milan, Shanghai to Chicago, and so many more.
We recently came across the FlyeBaby and wanted to give it a try. The product is one of the rare choices for parents who are utilizing the free travel period of “lap child” or “lap infant” for their children while they continue to fly. The device works like a sling attaching to the seat in front and the parent which allows for some flexibility while safely supporting the child. Our daughter was told old and too large to be considered a lap child, and would not work for a live demo, but we were able to get a demo with some close friends and their six month old daughter, Stella on a flight from Philadelphia to Athens. Initial impressions were mixed.
Directions – Parents get flustered when they fly and Stella’s were no different. The instructions seemed to suggest that sling should be attached upside down, but logic of course prevented baby Stella from facing the floor the entire flight. Still, parents are very careful with their children. Safety device instructions should be followed closely to ensure they are as effective as possible. The directions could have been clearer but are not reason enough to pass on the product.
Attachment Point – As the sling attaches to the tray table hook on the seat back directly in front of the parent and also around that parent’s waist, there are some obvious hurdles. First, if the person in front of you abruptly reclines their seat, then adjusts that seat for a meal, then slides it back again, then gets up to go to the bathroom and who knows what else, your baby is jostling around with that person’s seat too. The same issue occurs during moments of turbulence where the baby, though attached to the FlyeBaby but somewhat independent of parent and the attachment point, is moving up and down with the plane not dissimilar to a free floating object int he cabin. While it’s important to note that for take off and landing the baby must be held in the parent’s arms, it’s also worthwhile to mention that in times of turbulence a parent would be wise and kind to detach the child from the FlyeBaby and hold them close until the jostling ends.
Worth It – The thing that the FlyeBaby does best is take the weight of the baby while they are resting off of the parent’s arms (though they still support the child, simply to a lesser degree). It also allows the baby to look at the parent face to face and provides more space for the parent in an already cramped economy seat (unfortunately first class seats provide too much seat pitch to work). For parents taking just hour-long direct flights rarely, this is probably not worth the investment. But for those parents who live in a market where they will have to take a connecting flight, those who plan on taking their kids farther afield – this is an affordable upgrade to your trip.
While we can’t use it for our little one any more, we might just pull it out of the closet if we have Another Baby… Maybe.