Our dynamic and hyper-connected world is an exciting place to be born in, and many infants become aware of that fact as soon as they arrive on board - metaphorically and quite literally.
Air travel is now more popular, accessible, and convenient than ever before. New parents, on the other hand, are no longer seen as "prisoners" of their new lifestyle, but quite the contrary. Many recent studies show that babies who adapt to the lifestyle of their families grow to be more flexible and undisturbed children and adults.
Flying with a newborn baby has outgrown the old prejudice and become a widespread practice, even in the very first months of the baby’s life.
We are now going to provide you with all the relevant information you might need before deciding to air travel with a newborn. Since every successful journey begins with careful preparation, it’s a good idea to read our tips for flying with a newborn.
Some airlines require at least two weeks of age for their youngest passengers, while others allow even two-day-old infants on board. If you're planning to fly with a newborn, which is only a few days old, it's advisable to consult with a physician beforehand and make sure the condition of the baby is stable.
Once the decision is final, both parents and airlines should be first and foremost concerned about the security of the little passengers. When it comes to planning a safe journey through the air, there are a few things you should bear in mind:
- Most of the airline companies allow newborns to fly free if placed in a baby carrier or in their parent’s lap. However, you may experience everything from a slight discomfort to serious danger in case of turbulence or need for emergency landing of the airplane. On the other hand, mothers who have recently gone through a C-section may also feel uncomfortable if they have to keep the baby on their lap for an extended period of time.
- For the same safety reasons, the baby bassinet or the baby stroller are not reliable options either, though some companies actually allow them on board.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advise parents to secure the travel of their children with an "appropriate child-safety restraint." When speaking of a newborn, the only suitable option seems to remain the good old car seat, which usually fits the passenger chair of the plane. In case you have any doubts about that, you can always check if your car seat has a certificate for plane use - it must be written down in the manual, or at least confirmed by the manufacturer. Also, you can check with your airline to see if they offer some discounts for the little passengers with their own seats - most of the companies do.
- Considering the fact that some flights last longer than others, you should proceed according to the situation. According to recent studies, infants shouldn't spend more than 30 minutes straight in their car seats. So in case you are planning a long haul flight with a newborn, make sure you take the baby out every half an hour. You can still hold your infant most of the time, but the approved car seat needs to be there in case of an emergency.
Once you’ve taken care of choosing and bringing along the proper car seat, you can continue planning other minor (and not so minor) details about the adventure of flying with a baby.
The documentation needed to fly with a newborn on board is strictly individual, depending on your departure and arrival destination, your flight, and even your family status.
Most of the internal flights will require either no documentation at all, or just the birth certificate of the baby.
If you’re attending an international flight, you will need to strictly check the requirements of both your own country and your final destination. In most cases, you will have to apply for a child’s passport, in which a picture of the baby alongside the mother or the father will be taken. If one of the parents is traveling alone with the baby, the other parent will have to sign an official consent without which the baby will not be permitted to leave the state.
Ensuring this documentation usually takes time unless you are willing to pay for an express service, so make sure you initiate the process according to your schedule.
Every parent knows that traveling with a baby means carrying along a lot of additional baggage, no matter the means of transportation.
When choosing a flight, always compare the companies' policies on infant baggage allowance, because the differences might be significant. Some companies may allow you to bring along a stroller or travel cot at no extra cost and some may allow 5-10kg additional baby’s baggage. Meanwhile, others may not even consider the fact that one of the passengers is a few days old and charge you according to their accustomed price list.
Normally, you will be allowed to bring along water, breast milk, formula or liquid juice when traveling with an infant, even if their quantities are greater than 100ml. The same rule applies to processed baby foods in cans or jars, as well as liquid-based teethers.
As every parent knows, the little ones require the most intense care. Newborns have a precise feeding and hygiene schedule, which cannot be neglected or postponed, even while traveling in the skies. Here are the basic things you need to know about meeting the essential demands of your baby on board:
- Feeding is undoubtedly one of the parents’ primary concerns when flying with a newborn. The easiest way to feed your infant on board is, of course, natural breastfeeding. It does not require any additional concerns, except for bringing both the mother and the baby on the plane. In case your child is drinking breast milk from a bottle, that usually isn’t a problem either, since most companies don't count breast milk as part of your liquid baggage. If your baby is bottle feeding with a formula, it’s wise to call your airline first and ask how that would work on board.
- Hygiene is also essential, therefore most of the companies (and airports) have taken care to provide a special space for mothers with babies to deal with it privately and comfortably. When on board, you can always turn to your flight attendant and ask about the location of the changing room.
- The sudden change of air pressure is especially unpleasant for babies since they are prone to be more sensitive to it. The easiest way to relieve ear pressure is offering your baby a pacifier, a bottle of water, or your breast, once the pilot announces that you are about to ascend or descend. Other means include homeopathic ear drops, warm compresses, warm oil, and even some painkillers - all of them should be prescribed by your doctor, considering the fragile age of your child.
- Emotional comfort is often neglected, but it is, in fact, a vital part of the successful journey. First and foremost, try to relieve your own tension because your baby will sense it, and it will react accordingly. A careful preparation and a little support from the staff is all you need to have a great time on an airplane, even with a newborn by your side on a long flight.
The first time flying with a newborn is also going to be the first great adventure and family travel you'll experience together - make sure it’s fun and safe.