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Plane Travel With Your Child

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I had a question from a parent via our iPhone App about traveling overseas with a 4 month old.  I think it is actually quite an easy time to travel with an infant. By this age a baby not only is having a more regular sleep and wake schedule, they are also at the cutest age and are typically fairly easily entertained. They are so sweet and happy that it is also an good time for others to help you.  What person doesn’t want to come to your aid when you have a fussy infant.  You will see as your child gets older, there are less “helpers” for a crying toddler.

DownloadedFileI also think that this is a good time to travel as your child has presumably already received their 2 and 4 month immunization series and have mounted and antibody response to some serious illnesses.  With that being said, an infant is not immune to viruses like RSV and flu, so if possible I would schedule travel in early fall, spring and summer and avoid the winter.  I realize that that may not be do-able, but for a vacation I like travelling with babies during “non-sick” season.

It is also easier to fly long distances with an infant (lap child) when the flights might be less crowded and you can get a bulk-head seat which has “bassinets” or maybe an extra seat next to you that your infant car seat will fit in for traveling.  It can be expensive to buy a seat for an infant, and holding a baby while you are trying to sleep too just doesn’t work.  Hopefully you will be traveling with two parents to share the duty during an overnight flight.

Lastly, I get a lot of questions about needing to have a baby “sucking” for take-off and landing.  I really don’t think that is necessary, especially if your infant is sleeping.  When I am travelling I often see parents awakening a sleeping baby once the pilot announces  “we are preparing to land”.  The baby wakes up, and starts to scream,  and then the parents are convinced that the baby’s ears hurt.  I really think the baby is tired and unhappy due to  being awakened.

If they are awake and want to nurse , take a bottle or a pacifier that is fine but remember, “never wake a sleeping baby”.  I realized with my own children,  If I was “lucky” while they were all infants, we could fly  for 3 -4 hours while they slept and never peeped, either  for take-off or landing. On other trips we were not quite as fortunate and had a fussy baby mid flight, with presumably no ear problems. I think the “ear issue” is highly overrated. Their ears are no different than ours!

Best time to fly with babies is really between 4 months and 12 months of age.  Once they are walkers it gets a lot harder!!  I would not attempt an overseas flight with a 1–2 year old, but that is me. I would wait till they were 3!

That’s your daily dose.  We’ll chat again tomorrow!

Send Dr. Sue your question!

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