Question: My question pertains to what my mother experienced on a recent cross-country flight. She was seated next to a couple flying with a baby. The baby, who was on her mother’s lap, was perhaps 6 to 8 months old, and cried the entire five-hour flight.
What bothered my mother more than the crying was that the parents didn’t change the baby’s diaper or give her anything to eat or drink the entire flight. At one point they gave her a bottle with water in it, then promptly took it away.
What, if anything, could my mother have done in this situation?
Answer: As a parent, I would also think that a bit odd. Most parents I know take more food and diapers on the plane than they might ever possibly use. However, I would give the couple the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the baby ate a huge meal right before boarding. Maybe she wasn’t in dire need of a diaper change and her parents decided to wait it out rather than attempt one in the plane’s bathroom (which can be rather scary). Also, some babies have medical conditions that require feeding tubes, which aren’t always visible.
That said, your mother could have started a conversation with the parents. It’s tricky — I normally don’t advise people to be nosy about other people’s parenting methods. But tactfully offering help, like
"I know how hard it is to fly with a baby. Are you OK? Can I help get her bottle ready or anything?" would be all right. Your mom also could have asked a flight attendant to stop by and see if she thought anything was amiss.
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.