There are a lot of reasons to consider traveling with a baby. Family, emergencies, fun.... But parents often don’t know how to decide whether it’s safe! Today I’ll tackle things to consider surrounding newborn babies in flight. You should check with your airline as well - some have age restrictions! There are other factors to consider as well, including length of flight, where you are going (rural, urban, healthcare access), whether there were any issues in utero or with delivery. No matter what, this isn’t a black and white decision. Your primary care provider can best help you decide what is best given your situation, so I recommend a pre-flight visit with your baby’s healthcare provider before going!
Ok, on to what to consider before flying!
Consideration #1: Infection
It's best to avoid travel with an unvaccinated young infant if possible. A baby has a weak immune system and there are lots of germs at airports! If you do travel, make sure to wipe down all surfaces and wash hands/sanitize frequently. I would also recommend looking up a trusted children’s hospital where you are going in case your baby does get sick while you are away. Bring a thermometer and any sick care gear (suction device, etc) in case you need it!
Consideration #2: Change in oxygen and cabin pressure during a flight
There are differences in cabin pressure and oxygenation on the flight as compared to sea level (similar to being at 5-8,000 ft elevation, roughly equal to 15% oxygen as opposed to normal sea level oxygen which is 21%) but the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks most healthy infants can tolerate this change just fine. The previous recommendation was to wait until 6 weeks to fly, but newer research suggests that babies can adapt well to this change. There's always the risk that there's an undiscovered medical condition that shows up with this oxygen change during the flight, but this is rare especially if you have had good prenatal care and checkups for your baby after birth. It’s especially a good idea to wait until after 2 weeks of life to fly because some more concerning conditions show up in this early period.
Consideration #3: Maintaining a safe sleep environment during the flight
Safe sleep rules still apply! It’s probably safest to reserve an extra seat and bring a car carrier (as long as it’s designated safe for flying and you’ve ensured everything else is safe - see this helpful article by the AAP here). Some airlines offer airplane bassinets if you reserve ahead. Either way, someone should be checking the baby frequently to make sure they look ok and are breathing normally.
Consideration #4: Ear pain
This one is something that’s true for infants and older children (adults too) so it’s not something to worry about, just to be prepared for! If you DO fly with a 5 week old, make sure to have them feed during takeoff and landing if possible to help their ears adjust.
If you aren’t comfortable, don’t do it! Never feel pressure from family to make decisions that feel unsafe to you. Either way, flying is safer as they get bigger/stronger so delaying doesn’t mean giving up on travel!
Do you have any tips for travel with children (either infants or older ones)? Please email, or leave a comment on IG or Facebook!