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Traveling With a Newborn Baby: By Plane

eating on a plane image Are you planning on flying with your new baby? Be sure to talk to your baby’s doctor first. She may recommend that you wait until your baby is three months old or older. This is because a newborn’s immune system is not yet fully developed, making her more susceptible to colds and other infections. At the airport and in the closed quarters of an airplane, your baby will be exposed to a lot of germs. The doctor can give you guidance as to when it is safe for your baby to take her first flight. When you are ready to plan the trip, follow the tips below.

Health Problems

If your baby has a health condition, such as lung problems or a cold, be sure to talk to the doctor. Depending on your baby’s health, you may need to postpone the trip. If your baby has an ear infection or a cold, the doctor may suggest giving your baby pain-reliever.
Something else to keep in mind is that airplanes have low oxygen levels. This does not cause problems with healthy people. But if your baby has a breathing problem, the doctor may want your baby to have supplemental oxygen.

International Travel

There are many factors to consider if you are planning on traveling abroad. Check the Centers for Disease Control Travelers' Health website for specific information about the country you are traveling to. Also, talk to the doctor to find out if your baby needs any additional vaccinations.

Tickets

On most airlines, it is free for children two years of age and under to fly if they sit on a parent’s lap. It is safer if you reserve a seat for your baby. You can place her in a rear-facing car seat in an airline seat and buckle her in. Most car seats are certified for planes. Check to make sure yours is. If you do plan on bringing the car seat, tell the airline staff when you buy your tickets.
Where should you sit? Some people recommend sitting in the bulkhead seats because they offer more room. If you are going on a long flight and need a bassinet (which the airline supplies), the bulkhead seats can accommodate it. You can always get advice about seating from the airline staff when you book your reservations.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Website

Get the latest airport security information by checking the Transportation Security Administration website before your flight. On the page Traveling With Kids, you can learn about what is acceptable to bring (eg, breastmilk, formula, medicines) and what the security process is like. Remember, too, that you will need to carry your baby through the metal detector. Even if your baby is sleeping in her stroller, you will have to pick her up to go through security.

Carry-on Bag

Before packing, check the TSA’s website to learn about their restrictions for carry-on luggage. Be sure that you are clear about what you can bring and how you should pack it (eg, some items need to be in zip-lock bags). Here are some ideas for supplies:
  • Diapers, baby wipes, diaper rash ointment, and trash bags to throw away the diapers
  • Extra clothes
  • Feeding supplies (eg, bottles, nipples, formula, bibs)
  • Pacifiers
  • Age-appropriate toys (eg, rattles, plastic rings)
  • Any medicine that your baby needs
In addition, you may want to bring your own portable stroller so that you will have it at the airport and when you reach your destination.

Clothes

Dress your baby in comfortable clothes that are easy to remove for diaper changes.

Arrival Time

Get to the airport early to give yourself plenty of time. This will help to reduce stress, especially when you and your baby go through security.

Drop-Off Spot

If you are traveling with someone, have your companion drop you and your baby off at the door. This will make your voyage a lot easier. Be sure to have a meeting spot so you can reunite with your companion.

Checked Luggage

With the baby supplies and your own luggage, you will have a lot to carry and keep track of. Try to check in as much of your own luggage as possible to reduce your load.

Diaper Change

Before boarding the plane, change your baby’s diaper. The airport restroom is much more comfortable and convenient than the cramped bathroom on the plane. You may want to check to make sure that the airline does have a changing table in their bathroom. In some cases, you may be able to change your baby’s diaper in the seat.

Noise

The plane is a noisy environment. Placing cotton balls in your baby’s ears can help to muffle the sound. Do not use ear plugs because your baby could choke on them. You can find ear muffs especially made for infants for sale on the internet.

Crying

If your baby begins to cry, check to see if her diaper needs to be changed, if she is hungry, or if she is uncomfortable (eg, too hot or too cold). She may also be bothered if the sun is shining on her face. While it is distressing when your baby cries, remember that not every passenger will be able to hear her. The plane’s engines are noisy and muffle other sounds. Do your best to stay calm. If allowed, walk down the aisle with your baby.

Ear Pain

Ear pain happens because of the changes in air pressure. But not every baby experiences ear pain. It is more likely to happen if your baby has a cold. In that case, the doctor may recommend that you postpone the trip or she may give you a pain reliever to use.
Breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, or giving your baby a pacifier can help to relieve ear pressure. The pressure becomes the most problematic when the plane takes off and when it begins to descend. You can ask the flight attendant when the descent will begin, since this differs depending on the plane’s altitude.
If you have tried feeding and using a pacifier and your baby still seems to be in pain, try rubbing her ears.

Exit

Once the plane has landed, you may want to allow other passengers to exit the plane before you. This will give you room and time to gather your belongings.
With proper planning and patience, flying with your baby can go smoothly. Remember that you can ask TSA staff and airplane attendants for help. They have helped many families travel successfully, and they are a great resource.

RESOURCES

Travelers’ Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

Traveling With Children Transportation and Security Administration http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/index.shtm

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. Safety and prevention: flying with baby. Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Flying-with-Baby.aspx. Updated May 18, 2012. Accessed July 19, 2012.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Travel safety tips. American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/travelsafetytips.cfm. Updated June 2011. Accessed July 19, 2012.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traveling safely with infants and children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Travelers’ Health website. Available at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2010/chapter-7/traveling-with-infants-and-children.aspx. Updated February 9, 2012. Accessed July 19, 2012.

Children’s Physician Network. Traveling with baby. Children’s Physician Network website. Available at: http://www.cpnonline.org/CRS/CRS/pa%5Ftravelai%5Fpep.htm. Updated September 7, 2010. Accessed July 19, 2012.

Transportation Security Administration. Traveling with kids. Transportation Security Administration website. Available at: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/index.shtm. Accessed July 19, 2012.

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