Summer is coming, and many families will be traveling. The idea of getting into a plane with your baby can be intimidating and stressful, but with a little planning and preparation, you can travel easily. I recommend your baby be at least 2 to three months old before he travels on an airplane. This will give his immune system a chance to grow strong enough to resist the germs in crowded airplanes and by then your baby should have received the first few necessary vaccines. If you can’t wait that long, your baby should be okay to fly after his 2-week checkup — provided she has a clean bill of health, and you had a full-term pregnancy without complications. Premature babies are especially susceptible to germs, so it may take longer before they’re ready to go on an airplane trip.
Here are some tips for successful traveling.
- Get the right flight. Try to plan your trip for your baby’s sleepiest time and try to avoid layovers.
- Seating. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that babies under 40 pounds be secured in car seats on airplanes, but it is not a requirement. To book an extra seat for your baby may depend on your travel budget. If you book an extra seat, you’ll be able to bring your car seat on board. The safest way for your child to travel is secured in a car seat strapped to the airline seat. Although many airlines allow infants to ride on a caregiver’s lap, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that infants ride in properly secured safety seats. Buckle your child in it just as you would do in the car. You don’t want to risk your child on your lap even during mild turbulence. If you do choose to travel with baby-in-arms then you should use a sling or other soft carrier.
Aisle seats make it easier for diaper changes or to walk a fussy baby, while a seat by the window gives you privacy for nursing. Many parents favor the bulkhead row because it can accommodate a bassinet- ask your airline in advance for this. The second-best place is near any engine. The hum of the engine will often sooth baby. Even if you don’t like the sound of it, you are more apt to sleep if your baby does. If you are traveling with a partner on a long flight, you might want to consider booking seats away from each other. That way, one can sleep while the other tends to the baby.
- Bring everything you think you’ll need. Make sure you have more than enough of everything in case your flight is delayed. That means extra diapers, extra clothes for your baby and yourself, extra snacks and extra formula (if you bottle feed). Don’t forget a big travel pack of wet wipes, hand sanitizer, Band-Aids, baby Tylenol and gas relief medication.
- Give yourself lots of time for surprises. Make sure you get to the airport with plenty of time to check in and get baby fed and changed. You don’t want to be so rushed that dealing with the inevitable missing pacifier or sudden diaper blowout becomes a major crisis.
- Dealing with tears. Try nursing or giving your baby something to suck to a few minutes before and during takeoff and landing to relieve the pressure in their ears. To ensure your baby will want to drink during takeoff try to avoid feeding immediately before your departure. Walking the aisles or adding or removing a layer of clothes might sooth them more. Always have your baby’s favorite music ready on your smartphone or IPod. If your baby is not consolable then walking him/her to the back of the plane would be the ideal way to avoid those glares from other passengers. But don’t worry too much; most parents know exactly what you’re going through!
- Airport security. Many modern airports are now installing whole body X-Ray scanners. While these are probably safe for adults, I advise that you do not pass through these machines with your baby. Request a standard search instead.
- In flight consideration. Airplane air conditioning can cause traveling babies to become dehydrated so always carry a full sippy cup and encourage your baby to drink often. If you are a breastfeeding mother, be careful not to get dehydrated yourself. Some airplanes have a bathroom with a fold down changing table. Ask the flight attendant if your airplane has one when you board.
Traveling with a baby definitely has its crazy moments, but it can also be wonderful and the handful of things we are most worried usually don’t happen. Happy travels everyone!