The upcoming holiday season is a popular time to fly across country to visit family. In response to several e-mails about traveling by air with infants, I contacted my children’s former pediatrician who offered some answers to those questions:
Q: How old does my baby have to be before he/she can travel by plane?
A full term healthy baby can travel electively at a few days of age. As long as the baby is stable and feeding well airplane travel is OK at a week of age.
Q: What about the infant’s ears?
Infants and children will experience otalgia (earache) due to changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing. Have the baby bottle or breast feed during takeoff and landing. Even if the infant has an ear infection flying is not detrimental to the baby’s ears.
Q: Can I give the infant something to “calm” him or her before the flight?
I would not recommend anything. For older children a small dose of benadryl may make the child drowsy but sometimes it can have a reverse effect and “wire” them.
These additional tips were contributed anonymously by our pediatrician’s daughter who has traveled extensively with her children:
“Take enough diapers, formula and food for an extra day in case of flight cancellations or delays.
Try not to give children foods high in sugar or caffeine when traveling – calming foods like milk, cereal, crackers and vegetables are best.
When changing aircraft, let children run loose in the airport so they will be more settled once they get confined in the aircraft.
Bring a stroller and check it at the gate so it will be available when you get off the aircraft. I recommend picking up a used stroller at a yard sale to use for traveling because they get beaten up.
If you don’t purchase a seat for your infant, you may need to check your car seat with your baggage. I recommend putting the car seat in a piece of luggage or asking the agent for a large plastic bag to put it in. This will reduce some of the wear and tear that will inevitably happen.
Many car rental companies offer a free car seat to AAA customers renting their cars. Inquire before you rent, that way you won’t have to bring your own car seat.
Request an aisle seat when booking your ticket. Children like to move around during long flights. If you’re in an aisle seat, you won’t have to disturb the fellow passenger who wants to sleep during the flight.
Bring small toys, books, stickers, markers, crayons, etc. to entertain children on long flights. People traveling with children are permitted to bring a diaper bag in addition to one piece of carry- on luggage.
Always give children something to drink or eat during take-off and landing.”