There’s a lot of mythology attached to traveling with a small baby. The truth is that there’s no time in your child’s life when traveling with her will be easier. There are only a few important things to keep in mind, and your trip will go great. Most of the concern has to do with flying on airplanes. If you’re driving, or taking the train, or even the bus, people seem a whole lot less concerned, although in truth the concerns should be the same as air travel. I’ll detail these later in this post.
How young is too young to be traveling with a small baby?
I get this question a lot from prospective parents. Most often they are asking me because they know their baby is due right before they have to take a long flight for an important family event. I know I sound like I’m joking with the answer I give, but I’m not:
“You can drive to the airport from the hospital when you’re discharged if you have to.”
Need a SLEEP COACH?
What about the baby’s immune system? Aren’t there germs in the air on airplanes?
The baby’s immune system is a lot more robust than you think. For one thing, her immunity to most things came from mom, across her placenta in the womb. You’re going to be holding the baby in your lap the entire flight, protected from all the germy people around you. If you’re nursing, even better: the immune system-boosting properties of breast milk are well known. People ask me as well whether the baby should have any vaccinations prior to travel. The only infection that I know of that the baby could possibly be vaccinated against early in life that could be passed by a sick person on an airplane is whooping cough (pertussis). There’s a very small risk of this. In any case, you’ll be keeping the baby away from sick people. If you have the misfortune to be seated next to a person who is coughing (very unlikely), ask to be moved. Everyone will understand.
What about her little ears? Won’t the pressure changes on the plane bother them?
There is actually the #1 question/concern that parents have about air travel. Happily, there’s an easy way to manage it: make sure the baby is sucking on something during take-off and landing. The baby can nurse or take a bottle. If she can be swallowing, she’ll be more likely to equalize the pressure between the cabin and her middle ear. So changes in pressure wont be a problem for you.
What are the REAL concerns with travel?
Everybody is worried about the air in the aircraft cabin, or her ears take-off and landing. My concern is the airport and the airplane. You see, thousands of people traipse through airports every day, substantial numbers of whom are sick. These sick people touch common surfaces such as the ticket counter or the arm-rests in the gate areas. Then, if you touch the same surface, then touch your baby, now it is though the sick person has touched your baby! Obviously you won’t permit strangers to touch your baby. Even playing with her toes is not okay! The same goes traveling with a small baby through bus stations or restaurants where you might stop if you’re driving.
Keys to safe traveling with a small baby
- Designate a “toucher”. This will be the person tasked with touching the baby. The toucher should make a supreme effort not to touch anything that is not the baby. Have someone else touch all the potentially contaminated surfaces. And in public places like airports and airplanes, all surfaces are potentially contaminated!
- Bring hand sanitizer, lots of baby wipes, and use them all very
frequently. Even if you follow the step above, stuff happens. Sanitize often. The TSA says your sanitizer container has to be no larger than 3 ounces, so please respect this or they’ll make you surrender your pump bottle at security.
- Finally, what about sleep? This is the least of your concerns: small babies will sleep a lot, particularly in moving vehicles (winged and otherwise), and their stomachs will wake them up when they’re hungry.