We sat on the tarmac and listened to a baby cry for at least 30 minutes while our take off was delayed. I swore I'd never be that parent and wondered why they let that baby cry?
Years later, I realized that babies just cry, and sometimes this can't be helped.
You can prepare for the flight with bottles, toys, and snacks, but flying is hard on little ones. They can't communicate their feelings and it's extremely hard for them to sit still for hours. Hell, it's hard for adults to sit still for hours, and we have every tool necessary, from tunes to tablets.
Regardless, I finally felt what those parents were going through. Every time my daughter screamed or cried, I felt bad. First for her, second for the people around her. On the whole though, she was great. Many people complimented her after we landed, and she smiled, yelled, and pointed at them.
My wife and I paid very close attention to Abby's every whim. Each dropped toy, and every new request for a cracker, or bottle. When we lifted into the air, my wife really forced the bottle issue, and Abby took to it well. Maybe she realized it was helping her ears, or that it felt good. Maybe she was hungry. Either way, that really helped. If she kicked the seat while trying to stretch out, we pulled her feet away gently and so "no, no honey."
It was stressful. But I'm glad we got that first flight under our belts. Now we know what works and what doesn't.
As I was writing this, a few girls I work with mentioned a story about a woman who made goody bags for each passenger that would be sharing the same flight as her twins. Wow! Interesting idea, but just getting my kid ready and packing our own suitcases kept us busy enough.