Traveling with a Newborn Baby

Expert Pediatrics Q&A

Baby sleeping in child car seat
Would you travel with a newborn baby?. Jaunty Junto/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Q. We are expecting a baby next month and would like to take a trip, likely by airplane, to visit family a few weeks after our baby is born. Can we travel with our newborn baby? Is it safe to let her fly on a plane? Janet, Dallas

A. While you 'can' travel and fly with a two-week-old baby, it doesn't mean that you should.

Flying With A Baby

You will have to check with the specific airline that you are using.

American Airlines, for example, says that they don't allow younger babies to fly, including 'newborn babies (within seven days of delivery) unless parent or guardian has a medical certificate indicating travel is authorized.' So a two-week-old would be allowed to fly.

Again, that doesn't mean that it is a good idea, though.

Traveling With A Baby

It's not so much the oxygen levels, the pressured cabin on the plane, or the effects of high altitude. Also, there is no proven risk between airplane travel and SIDS.

Instead, most experts advise that you limit a newborn's and younger infant's exposure to large groups of people so that they don't get sick. Traveling through an airport, on an airplane, and then visiting a lot of family would likely expose your child to viral illnesses and other infections, which is the main issue about safe travel with a baby.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are also an issue at this age, as your baby hasn't had time to get vaccinated and fully protected against these infections.

From measles and pertussis to the flu, it isn't usually a good idea to expose a newborn baby or young infant to these diseases unnecessarily.

Travel would also be stressful for both a new mom and the baby at that time, especially if your flight was delayed or canceled. Add to that all the supplies that you need for your newborn, including clothes, diapers, bottles, etc., and of course, a car seat for the plane, and travel can be especially difficult.

Unless travel was more essential, like if you just adopted a baby and need to get back home, it might be best to wait until your baby was older, with a more mature immune system and on a more predictable schedule, when he was two to three months old.

Keep in mind that neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the FAA have specific recommendations or advice about traveling with newborn babies besides the general advice about the proper use of a car seat.

So if you are determined to fly with your baby, you should likely:

  • get your own pediatrician's opinion
  • bring some help with you
  • get a nonstop flight
  • fly during an off-peak time

And most importantly, be prepared for everything.

Would a bus or train be better? Not really, since you would be exposing your baby to just as many people as you would on a plane.

Driving with a Baby

Would driving with a newborn baby be a better alternative?

Although driving would be a better alternative to flying with a newborn, since your baby would be exposed to far fewer people, driving would still be stressful for both mom and baby.

Especially on a longer trip, you might have to stop every few hours for feedings, diaper changes, and simply to comfort your baby. Unlike flying, driving with your baby is less a health and safety issue, as you might be exposed to fewer people.

Parents of a newborn are likely going to be a little sleep deprived, though, not putting them in the best condition to drive a long distance.

The bottom line is that you should likely put off traveling until your baby is a little older unless traveling is essential and can't be put off.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Restraint Use on Aircraft. PEDIATRICS Vol. 108 No. 5 November 2001, pp. 1218-1222

Health risks to air travelers. Sohail MR - Infect Dis Clin North Am - 01-MAR-2005; 19(1): 67-84

Weinberg, Michelle S. Vaccine Recommendations for Infants & Children. CDC Health Information for International Travel (Yellow Book). 2016 Edition.

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