Traveling with a baby? Here’s what you need to know

Mom traveling with a newborn on a plane

Mom traveling with a newborn on a plane

Traveling with a newborn might seem easy since they sleep all the time at this age. However, it’s not your little one’s feet kicking the seat in front of him what should concern you, but rather the health risks associated with exposing your pint-sized baby to public spaces.

And with the holidays coming up, you may be thinking, is my baby ready for his first flight?

How soon can my baby board an airplane?

Realistically, you can start traveling with a newborn as soon as he is two days old (considering you don’t need to apply for a passport).

Most airlines will allow babies this young to board the aircraft, but we recommend you first call and make sure. However, in general, doctors will discourage unnecessary air travel shortly after birth.

Airports, like bus and train stations, are hubs for diseases. Exposing an infant to large crowds, and public places like these, where there are many disease-causing germs lurking around may be putting your baby at risk.

“Newborns have developing immune systems, and air travel might increase their risk of catching an infection,” says Dr. Ana Hernandez-Puga. Some babies this young have not had their routine vaccinations, making them even more vulnerable.

A lot of infections can be spread by touch, but even if your baby doesn’t touch public surfaces, others can spread by air. Common diseases that are spread in public places are the common cold, the flu, or RSV (a respiratory infection that can be quite serious in young babies).  With the 98.6 million Americans projected to travel within the year-end holiday season, this is something to consider.

That said, if your family will disinherit you from their will if you don’t show up at Aunt Lisa’s with “the little doodlebug” for Christmas dinner, Dr. Hernandez-Puga recommends you discuss the situation directly with your pediatrician, and come up with a plan just right for you.

Newborns can travel — you just have to be extra careful

Oh and when we say travel, we don’t mean soaking up the sun in the Bahamas next to the tiny, sensitive-skinned bambino. Although this might be exactly what you need in order to feel human again, doing this next to your baby is not only a bad idea, it is dangerous and can really hurt your newborn.

But if you and your family are feeling adventurous or need to travel with your newborn, here are some other things to take into account.

Pressure from the cabin: How does it affect baby’s ears?

Yes, the baby can feel pressure from the cabin. “This It is generally not an issue unless the child has an ear infection, in which case the child should be seen by his/her pediatrician for further management advice,” says Dr. Hernandez-Puga.

“Parents can encourage the baby to nurse, or suck on a bottle, during descent of the plane just like an adult may chew on gum. If the baby is asleep during this time, it is safe to let them sleep,” the doctor notes.

If your baby’s ears seem to hurt after traveling by air, encourage him to suck on a bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup more often. If it doesn’t go away, call your doctor before you offer acetaminophen or any pain medication.

Safety tips for traveling with a newborn

  1. Get to the airport early. It can take so much longer to get to your gate with young kids.
  2. Avoid large crowds by traveling at non-peak times. The more people, the more likely the baby can be exposed to germs and infections.
  3. Keep baby wipes and hand sanitizer on hand, and wash your hands frequently.
  4. Avoid letting baby touch unnecessary surfaces like tables, chair, poles, etc. If they do, use the baby wipes or hand sanitizer immediately.
  5. Keep baby on you — that is with a sling-type carrier. This will help discourage people from touching the baby, as well as keep the baby near you at all times.
  6. Bring more wipes, diapers, changes of clothes (for both of you), and plastic bags than you think you’ll need. You never know when you’ll be delayed.
  7. For older kids, pack a bag of small toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight.

Other safety tips to consider when traveling with kids

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows children under the age of 2 to be held on an adult’s lap, but keep in mind that lap children can only be held by passengers who are at least 15 years of age.

If one adult is traveling with more than one infant under 2 years of age, a seat will have to be purchased for each additional infant.

If you are able to, consider taking a car seat on board. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families explore options to ensure that their child has his/her own seat, and uses a car seat that is certified for air travel.

Most car seats today are air-travel certified , but you need to double check. The cost of the extra seat may be high for some, but if you are able to choose a flight with plenty of empty seats, you may be able to have a seat assigned to your baby once you board.

Sterilizing baby items while traveling

Some doctors agree that there is no need to regularly sterilize your baby’s items such bottles, nipples, or pacifiers.  It is recommended after buying them, and getting them out of the box, to consider sterilizing them.  But a good, hot dishwasher cycle, or good hand wash with regular soap and hot water, will do the trick as well.   

“One exception to this is, if you have well water, you’ll still need to sterilize your feeding gear by boiling everything for about five minutes. So when you travel, find out where your water supply is from. If in doubt, better to be safe than sorry and sterilize,” advises Dr. Hernandez-Puga.

And remember, always wash your hand before mixing formula, pumping, or bottle feeding your baby.

The bottom line: It’s your choice to travel with a baby

Above all, remember to enjoy the holiday season and make time to bond with your newborn. For some new moms leaving the house is a challenge in itself, never mind packing and getting on a plane. However, some parents seem to take things more effortlessly and would rather travel now before the little munchkin becomes mobile. So make your choice, and if so, bon voyage!


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