National News: Woman Holds Baby on a Plane

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As you may have seen, we just flew our first couple of flights with our two month old.  On the first flight the four of us were all seated together in a row of three with the baby as a very content sleeping lap infant.  On the second flight, a regional jet this time, my five year old and I took the upgrade to “first class” (which really is a bit of a misnomer on a regional jet) in order to have slightly more room than row 21.  This meant that we were seated away from my husband who didn’t get the upgrade, and as such when I was trying to put up our bags upon boarding I had to have my five year old help briefly with the baby since she I wasn’t wearing her (since she was having none of that at the moment).


My instructions to my older daughter as I put the baby in her lap were simply don’t let her fall.  Anything else that could happen in the 10 seconds I needed help was probably survivable.  However, in my rush I failed to remind her that she still had to support the baby’s neck, so the baby pretty much instantly started sinking with her neck flopped backwards.  Passengers around us saw this happening while I was putting up the bag and several immediately offered to help and essentially started giving their parenting resumes to me as they offered.  “I have four kids”, “I was a nanny”, “I am a Grandma”….  Well, I just handed my baby to a five year old who doesn’t understand neck control, so clearly 98% of the rest of the plane is probably more qualified to hold her for a few seconds!

In the end I had the baby back safely before I could take anyone up on their offer, but it was comforting to know that so many others were immediately willing to help in a pinch even though they didn’t know us and I didn’t know them.  They may not have been thrilled to be seated next to a baby, but they didn’t let that show, and they didn’t hesitate to offer to help when they saw a need.

This event was fresh on my mind when I started seeing a story on social media of a new mom, Rebekka Garvison, who was flying solo with her four month old from Chicago to Atlanta to visit her husband who is in the Army.  This four month old, Rylee, apparently was not happy on the 5:30AM flight, and not surprisingly given the hour, neither were many of the others on the plane who were listening to her cries.   After interpreting the body language of the people she was originally seated next to, the mom spotted a pair of seats that were open and asked the flight attendant if she could move to those seats, which was permitted.

As luck would have it the woman in the window seat of that row was Nyfesha Miller, a woman who had raised several children of her own and has a soft heart for babies.  Baby Rylee’s mom had tried the pacifier, toys, etc. and the baby just wouldn’t stop crying for her.  However, Nyfesha asked if she could try, and Rylee immediately quieted and eventually fell asleep in her arms for the duration of the flight.

The photos that the mom shared of the “stranger” holding the sleeping baby on Facebook went viral, and the story went on to hit national media outlets like Good Morning America, Inside Edition, and more.

Baby on Plane

From Rebekka Garvison’s Facebook Page

Who knows what was in the magic touch that Nyfesha had that morning, but just the fact that she was probably calm and was a fresh set of hands could have made the difference for the baby.  As a now self-proclaimed veteran mom of fussy babies, I know the power of a fresh set of hands.  That’s part of the beauty of traveling with a second person with an infant – there’s someone to trade off with if things aren’t going as well as you hoped.

When I first saw the photos from the flight earlier this week on some of my online “mom groups” before they hit national media, I thought the story was very sweet and heartwarming.  Now that the story has made national news my feelings the new mom, the helpful stranger, and the baby have only gotten warmer as more details about them have come out, but I’m left a little perplexed by the attention the story has gotten.

Is it really national news that a woman offered to help hold a baby on a plane?  I mean, I vastly prefer that sort of news to that of all-too-common violence and doom and gloom segments, but is it really so rare of an occurrence to help another traveler in need that when someone does have the heart to offer assistance that it gets shared on Facebook over 100,000 times and TV stations cover the event?

My hope is that it really isn’t that rare, but maybe the fact that this story had photos to go along with it made it more newsworthy.  If news was regularly made up of stories like this I would probably have the TV on more, but I’m sad for our nation and our culture if offering to help a mom with an upset baby is such an isolated experience that it warrants so much coverage.  That said, I am simultaneously thrilled with the coverage and hope it encourages more people to offer a helping hand to a traveling parent in need, especially when they are flying solo with their kid(s).

Not everyone will probably want someone they don’t know assisting with their children, but even just the offer to do something small like help put up luggage or pick up a fallen toy can make a big difference in someone’s day.  If you aren’t able to do that, just a kind smile or nice words makes the world so much better than an audible sigh, eyeroll, or worse.

Babies can be tough to listen to when they are upset whether they are yours or not, but they are also pretty special.  I 100% agree with Nyfesha who expressed that she felt honored to be able to hold the baby and assist.

Plane travel is unique in that for a moment in time you are in very close proximity 100+ people.  Much closer proximity than for most of the rest of your day.  These are people who you have never met before and probably will never meet again, but for that time you are essentially a part of each others lives.  We often like to put on our headphones and stare at our devices and pretend the other people aren’t there, but they are.  Every now and then look up and take notice.  Maybe you will be lucky enough to have a chance to make a difference in someone else’s day.



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  1. I don’t think it’s a commentary on our culture in the way you seem to think. People love to share and re-share adorable animal and baby photos, videos and stories on Facebook and other social media sites. And some “news” companies think if something has a lot of page views, that is the same as actual news – they don’t want to be seen as not up on the latest social media hit. It’s in the same vein as the waitress who gave free breakfast to the firefighters recently or the dog that waited with the other dog for a week until it was rescued. People like feel-good stories like that and share them. It *is* a kind of counter to the “it bleeds, it leads” news cycle and a break from the endless blather about the next presidential election that’s over a year away. I think people like to reassure themselves and each other that there are good people and deeds still being done in the world, even if you don’t see it on the news or in your own life every day.

    • Lisa, I don’t disagree at all, but I guess it is sad (to me) that we need reminding that there are things like kind people helping with upset babies. I love that they are shared as a counter to the bad, but I wish acts like this were so commonplace that their occurring and being shared was the norm and not the exception. I think when it went from being something circulating Facebook to something on Good Morning America it just sort of stopped making total sense to me. Again, love the story, just still puzzled or saddened a bit by its ‘rarity’.

  2. beautiful post, Mommy Points! A simple kindness can make a huge difference. My husband and I try to notice how we can be of appropriate assistance when traveling … we really are each other’s sisters’ and brothers’ keepers.

  3. I think the point is that it isn’t a rarity. It’s a “feel good” story that most people love to hear or read about. Just as we love to read a post about your baby’s first plane ride – it’s not a rarity – most of us have done it. But it stirs memories and is a pleasant read.

    • Denise, I like that way of looking at it and hope you are right. It is a good story. I guess I imply rarity since it was shared so often and on such a large stage. A baby’s first flight isn’t treated in the same regard because it isn’t that unique. It may be interesting to those who come across it, but it certainly won’t make national news as it is a pretty common happening. That said, I like your interpretation much more than mine.

  4. Traveling with a kid, much less 2+ is so hard, its amazing people aren’t more accommodating. I read stores on FT and other forums of people actually talking about being rude/mean to parents. It’s nice to see that not everyone seated around those of us with children on flights aren’t so rude.

    • Agree – I just remembered this, but on my first flight with Little S last month a woman behind me yelled “I don’t care about your kid” to another passenger after that passenger tried to switch seats so she could sit next to her three year old. It was a pretty ugly and unnecessary scene for so many reasons.

      • MP: What is the whole story behind the woman who yelled? Was she asked to take a middle seat in exchange for her preferred seat on the aisle or by the window? Was she asked to move from her traveling family or companion? How was she asked? As none of your readers were there, we can only guess.
        With some advance planning this “mommy” should have been able to have her three year old sit with her. There seems to be an ever growing class of travelers who make assumptions they are deserving of entitlements and special treatment. Why is this scenario increasingly more prevalent now when I don’t recall it being an issue 10 to 15 years ago?

  5. Great article. I too have seen this picture floating around in Facebook. I usually travel alone with at least 3 of my 5 kids. While they are a bit older (13, 11, 9, 7 and 2), I still find most people are nice on our flights and do offer to help carry and stow bags for us or pick up a dropped (or thrown) item. My 9 year old has a broken leg and on our last flight a couple weeks ago, you would have thought he was royalty by the way he was treated! I am really thankful that we haven’t encountered any super rude passengers as it it stressful enough trying to travel alone with kids.

  6. Anytime I’m wading in self-sympathy for “struggling” through the experience of air travel all alone with a coffee in my hand, a laptop bag over my shoulder, and a little roller bag, I remind myself that moms (could be dads, too, but seems to usually be moms) are all around, with a sleeping little one in their arms, maybe another in tow, they’re carrying bags (and diapers) for all, and probably lugging an awkwardly folded-up stroller for good measure. You all are amazing.

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