Yes, I realize “ridiculosity” is not a real word. But the illusion that my baby is safe with a seat belt around her tiny waist is also not real. Some of my favorite airlines, including Etihad, have these silly infant belts they require to be worn during take off and landing around a baby or toddler sitting in its parent’s lap. I detest these belts, and wish there was some sort of international standard for infant-in-lap safety that was logical.
On many flights, including most U.S. carriers, flight attendants typically instruct me to hold my child in my lap facing in or out. During take-off and landing I often try my best to breastfeed Veda, anyway, so it works well and she often ends up falling asleep in my arms, anyway. Even better is when I have her wrapped snugly to my chest in a baby wrap, so if the plane lurches forward when it hits the runway there is no little baby head also lurching forward into the seat so close in front of us. This is my take-off and landing baby holding idea- my baby securely fastened to me in a wrap where she isn’t going anywhere.
Then there’s the dreaded infant belt that some carriers require. When I’m handed one, something close to rage always bubbles up inside of me, because I intuitively know this thing is actually more dangerous than anything else. It’s basically a regular belt with a large loop in the middle that is to be pulled through the parent’s own belt, attaching attaching it to the parent’s belt after it’s clasped. The rest of it is a regular adjustable waist belt with a metal clasp that is supposed to go around baby’s waist.
The first time a flight attendant asked me to do this, my baby was a new born. You want me to strap a regular seat belt around her waist? Confounded, I did so, and laughed at how ridiculous this thing was- my baby could easily slip in or out the bottom, and was attached to my own belt like an umbilical cord. If for some reason I couldn’t hold on to her tightly, she would flop around and bang all the hard plastic in site, dangling from my belt. What is the purpose of this thing? And then there’s the fact that if she were dangling from this seat belt or pulled from my arms in this thing, the belt could actually harm her tiny little body, cutting into her or knocking the wind out of her with enough force.
We would never use a regular safety belt around an infant’s waist in car. Why would we do that in a plane? I always question the flight attendants who hand me the belt and instruct me to strap my baby to my belt. Usually their standard response is, “That’s so baby is safe and secure.” Really? I can’t help myself from pointing out the obvious to them, but it doesn’t seem the flight attendants see the ridiculousness that I see.
So, what I do now on those Etihad or Emirates flights is wear my baby in my baby wrap anyway, and then underneath that I attach the stupid belt to avoid arguments with the flight attendants. That way at least I know my child is actually secured to me and safe in the baby wrap, which won’t leave her dangling or banging anything if the plane were to lurch or hit the ground to hard. The flight attendants can have the illusion that my baby is safe, and I can protect my baby from the stupid belt cutting it to her or hurting her by having her tightly wrapped to me.
What I don’t understand is why the airline industry doesn’t have a standard safety procedure for this internationally. Everything else about the safety drill seems the same- put your own oxygen mask on before baby’s, here’s where the life vests are, etc. Why is this one standard so inconsistent across airlines, to the point where some that require this belt, in my opinion is actually putting my child in danger?