Travelling with an infant can be stressful. Flights get delayed or cancelled. Long layovers. And you are stuck in a crowded airport, tired and stressed figuring out your wailing baby. However, infants are much easier to fly with than toddlers. They nurse on takeoff and landing, sleep much of the time and are not mobile and restless. Travelling with kids is never easy but it is possible. A week-old infant can travel as per the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) and as per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there is no specific age. More than the changing cabin pressure during flights which can trigger ear pain and the effects of high altitude, the biggest risk for flying a healthy infant is exposure to infection. Air travel can serve as a conduit for the spread of infections. Unfortunately, infants’ immune systems are not yet fully developed to combat these threats and most are not fully vaccinated against certain illnesses.
Decided to take your baby on a plane? No worries! Here are some of the practical tips on how to travel safely and have a pleasant journey- for you and the baby:
1. Booking terms
Always consider flight times. If possible, choose a departure time that closely matches your baby’s sleeping schedule. It’s worth paying extra and having a less cranky baby in transit. · When travelling with a baby, seat selection is very important. Pick an aisle seat for a shorter trip, for easy access to walk or change nappies. Try to call and book your seat in advance, if not possible, better show up early and nab it! With Emirates Airlines, infants less than two years old can be in the bassinet (available on request) or can be carried on your lap secured by a seat belt extension. Try to book a nonstop flight. This way, you will go through the boarding process once and you only have to deal with one flight. If not, choose a flight with a longer layover so you don't have to rush from one gate to the other. Make use of pre-boarding, so arrive at the gate early. Most airlines have a separate queue for people with small children and are allowed to board as a priority. Take advantage! Know your airline’s policy for checked and carry-on baggage, strollers, and car seats, especially what you can and can’t carry on the plane. Bring a reasonable amount of essentials as most airlines like Emirates Airlines, for example, have prepared baby meals and provide food and bottle warming services as well as infant kit which contains nappy cream, bibs, and wipes.
2. What to bring?
Bring proof of identification when traveling with an infant. Contact your airline in advance as documentation may vary. Pack as light as possible. Though it is difficult, remember, the less the better. There is nothing more exhausting than dealing with the packing and unpacking of ‘what if’ stuff. Think about your mobility. Make sure to include on your list a basic holiday first aid kit to help if he/she gets sick on a trip. Travel with enough to get to your destination, and remember that most of these extras are readily available. For long flights, make sure your little one is comfy, bring special blankets, plush toys - objects that can help put them to sleep easily. How to beat boredom? Choose a few of their favourite toys and books to pack in their bag. Wrapping a few items as gifts or a surprise snack are some tricks to distract them and will limit running around the plane and contact with other passengers. Since airline cabins are generally kept cold, infants should be dressed in layers and just take them off if they feel warm. Over-the-counter medications that encourage sleep during flights are not recommended, as they are generally not safe and sometimes can have the opposite effect. How to prevent ear pain? If possible, pattern their feeding during take-off and landing, otherwise a baby’s dummy might be of great help.
No travel is completely smooth and safe, but with a bit of preparation, you can overcome the anxiety and make this less stressful and more fun. Think first if travel is essential, otherwise, it might be best to wait. Get your paediatrician’s advice before you go.
Dr. Ma. Girlie Larroder Specialist Paediatrician, Mediclinic Deira