When Is It Safe to Travel with a Newborn?

Tips for safe travel by car or plane with newborns

A baby sleeps in a blanket and airplane-shaped bed.

Tips for safe travel by car or plane with newborns

Traveling with a newborn can be challenging, especially for new parents. The first question that often arises is this: When it is safe to take a long trip with a newborn?

While there is not a one-size-fits-all answer, there are some general guidelines to consider.

It is generally safe for babies a few weeks old to travel short distances, given that they are healthy. But you will probably want to stick close to home as much as possible for the first few months after your baby is born to ensure his or her safety and health.

Many pediatricians recommend waiting until your child is at least 3 months old before traveling long distances. This allows for their immune system to be better developed, making them more resistant to infections. This applies to babies who are born full-term and have no other health conditions.

“Infant immune systems are precarious at first. You do not want to risk exposing them to an illness during long travel,” says Nicole Gorton, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Hillcrest in San Diego.

If you are planning a long trip with your infant, prioritize their comfort and well-being throughout the journey.

“Traveling with a newborn requires careful planning and consideration,” Dr. Gorton adds. “Consulting with your pediatrician is a good starting point. Whether traveling by plane or car, prioritize your baby’s safety, comfort and well-being.”

Also, stay flexible and be prepared for delays, changes in plans and the unexpected. Babies can be unpredictable, so maintain a relaxed mindset and adapt as needed.

Air travel with newborn

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against any unnecessary air travel for babies shortly after birth. Air travel increases a newborn’s risk of catching an infectious disease. Babies born prematurely may have problems with the change in oxygen level within the air cabin.

If you are planning to travel by plane, keep in mind these precautions to ensure a smooth journey:

  • Check your airline’s policy regarding traveling with infants, as they may have specific rules and regulations.
  • Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby during takeoff and landing can help relieve ear pressure and prevent discomfort.
  • Consider using a child safety seat, which is safer than carrying your baby in your lap. You will have to buy an extra ticket, so check for discounts.
  • Consider what time zone you are visiting. Shift the baby’s sleep schedule beforehand. Just know this could lead to some early mornings or late nights, depending on which direction you are traveling.

Traveling with newborn by car

When traveling long distance with a newborn by car, these safety measures are crucial:

  • Your child should always ride in the back seat, in rear-facing infant car seat that meets safety standards.
  • Ensure the car seat is correctly installed to provide maximum protection in the event of an accident.
  • Plan for frequent breaks during long car rides to allow your baby to stretch and feed.
  • Minimize exposure to crowded places or individuals who may be sick.
  • Set up a sunshade in the window. Too much sun can hurt their eyes and skin and make them too hot.

Pack smartly

When traveling with a newborn, a well-packed diaper bag is essential. Make sure you have everything you need, including your child’s medications, if applicable. Pack more supplies than you think you will need, as unexpected situations can arise.

Fill out an emergency sheet with your child’s health history or save it on your phone.

Consider the following:

  • Pack enough diapers to account for potential delays or longer travel times.
  • Include wipes, diaper rash cream, and disposable changing pads.
  • Pack a few extra outfits, including socks, hats, and burp cloths, in case of accidents or spills.
  • Carry bottles, formula or expressed breast milk, bibs and burp cloths.
  • If breastfeeding, consider a nursing cover for privacy.
  • Blankets and swaddles can provide warmth, comfort, or shade as needed.
  • Pacifiers and toys can soothe and entertain your baby during the journey.
  • Use hand sanitizer before and after diaper changes or handling food.

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