Sure, it’s daunting to even walk out the front door with baby and gear in tow. But getting on an airplane with baby and gear in tow? No worries, it’s doable!
Ideally, your baby should be at least 2 to 3 months old before he flies. This will give his immune system a chance to grow strong enough to resist the germs that often make the rounds in airplane ventilation systems. It also gives the two of you enough time to settle into a routine and master the art of breast- or bottle-feeding.
If you can’t wait that long, your baby should be okay to fly after his 2-week checkup – provided he has a clean bill of health and you had a full-term pregnancy without complications. Premature babies are especially susceptible to germs, so it may take longer before they’re ready to go on an airplane trip.
If you’re breastfeeding, bring a cover up, as many airlines request discreet nursing. Most nursing moms feed and fly without incident, though I did see a story on the web recently about a mother who was asked to cover up by the flight attendant. A window seat will offer the most privacy for baby and you. Make sure to wear comfy clothes, and if you are nursing, your favorite nursing shirt and bra. Traveling is tough, so make it easy for yourself wherever you can. For diapering logistics, a bulkhead seat is handy; it’ll give you room on the floor to lay down a changing pad. Remember to tell your travel agent that you are traveling with a baby, so that they don’t give you seats near the emergency doors.
Wondering about your car seat? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that babies under 40 pounds be secured in car seats on airplanes, but it’s not required. Holding baby in a secure sling is allowed, and it also gives you the opportunity to nurse discreetly. Alternatively, you can purchase a seat for baby and use your car seat. The car seat will work rear facing for babies under 20 pounds. For lots of information about FAA-approved car seats and other safety information for toddler-size children see this link.
Many parents worry about the changes in air pressure that naturally happen when you fly. It’s true that “popping ears” during landing especially can be somewhat painful for infants, but it won’t cause any damage, just discomfort. However, the pressure changes can be very uncomfortable if your baby has an ear infection. If so, you may need to postpone your flight. For feeding, make sure to burp baby well.
As always, if you have any questions about whether your baby is healthy enough to fly, ask his pediatrician for advice. Note that airlines do not allow any baby younger than 1 week to fly without a doctor’s signed waiver.