Dr. Aliza: As you begin to consider making flight arrangements for you and your baby, we recommend that you visit your doctor at least one or two weeks prior to your trip to ensure that your baby is healthy and doesn't have an ear infection or other illnesses. Most airlines require babies to be at least one week old, with a clean bill of health (or a medical certificate) from a doctor in order to travel. Make sure to check each individual airline's age requirements, as they may vary.
Take into account that during the first six weeks after birth, the baby's immune system is not very strong -- and is especially vulnerable to the many germs that circulate in an airplane.
When packing for your trip, make sure you put plenty of the following in your diaper bag or backpack:
- Diapers, wipes and diaper-rash cream
- A plastic bag to hold dirty diapers
- A bottle of hand sanitizer
- Bottles and extra pacifiers, and teething ring (if appropriate)
- A baby blanket
- Baby comfort toys
- A few extra changes of clothes (You might also consider dressing your baby in layers, since airplanes and airports can be cold.)
- An extra top for you
- A travel-size diaper-changing pad
- A bib, bowl and spoon, if your baby is eating solid foods
If possible, book a nonstop flight that corresponds with your baby's sleep and feeding schedules. A change in your baby's schedule, along with multiple take-offs and landings, may make your baby fussy and uncomfortable.
Don't be afraid to inquire whether or not the airline provides traveling parents with bassinets that sit in the bulkhead row during longer flights. (This will help you and your baby travel more comfortably.) The Federal Aviation Administration recommends placing your child in his/her car seat while in the air, but many airlines allow parents to hold a child under the age of 2 on his/her lap.
Arrive at the airport early to ensure that there is plenty of time to check in and get through security.
Most airlines pre-board families with small children and babies, giving parents extra time to set up a car seat for their children and get them settled. Prior to boarding the aircraft, parents are also allowed to gate-check strollers -- a must-have for any trip.
To reduce the chances of your baby getting plugged ears and sinuses, nurse him/her during take-off and landing. (Give older babies a teething toy or sippy cup to suck on.) If you are unsure whether or not it's safe for you to travel with your baby -- or if your baby is fussy and rubbing his/her ears after a flight -- consult your doctor.