TSA Traveling with Baby

Since September 11, 2001, travel by air has become much more complicated than it used to be. If you’re traveling with an infant or a small child, it’s become even trickier. The TSA has it’s own rules, and each airline has particular rules as well.  It’s imperative that you know this stuff before you fly! Here are some TSA traveling tips that hopefully will make your trip smooth and uneventful.

TSA Traveling Tips for Tourists

When buying your ticket, make sure you know whether you have to buy one for your infant or toddler. If she occupies her own seat, obviously she’ll need her own ticket. But if she’ll be sitting in your lap, some airlines will permit you to fly two-for-the-price-of-one. Now, if you’re not going to buying a ticket for the baby, the airline is going to want to verify that the baby’s identity somehow. These rules vary by airline, especially if you are flying internationally. If you’ll be traveling to another country, the baby will need a passport!


What’s ok to carry on to the plane?

TSA traveling
Happy smiling TSA agents!

There was a great deal of confusion about this issue in the beginning, but the TSA has taken pains to make the rules about baby stuff clear and concise. Formula, breast milk and juice are now exempt from the “3 ounce rule” that holds for other liquids and aerosols (not that you’ll be packing juice, right?) So go ahead and pump as much as you can and fill those bottles! Ice packs and baby food jars are also allowed in carry-on bags.

You have to tell the security agent that you’re carrying these things in your bag. They’ll have to go through the x-ray scanner.  Do not worry about this. X-rays will not harm breastmilk, formula, or anything that the baby will be eating or drinking.

Will they pat down the baby?

Yes, they can if they want to. The picture above shows TSA agents in Kansas City, MO, patting down an infant after her stroller set off an alarm for explosives. The incident got some press, but TSA did not apologize and procedures have not changed. The agency maintains that they can pat down any child, although children under 12 get to keep their shoes on. Infants and toddlers in strollers can be carried through the scanner in a caregiver’s arms.
TSA traveling

The photo on the right shows a TSA traveling agent checking for explosives and weapons that might be strapped to this young child’s derriere.

The fourth amendment to the American Constitution states

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

To date, TSA screening has not caught any terrorists at airport security, though a number of suspected terrorists have successfully flown in the US without being identified as such by the TSA. Several guns and weapons have been confiscated by the TSA, none belonging to a terrorist.

Thank you for flying with The Essentially Healthy Child!


Baby Jet Lag: How to Beat It

Several of my clients boldly take their babies on truly long trips – I mean several time zones! I’ve known families to fly with their little children to India, the Far East, and Africa. From these families I’ve learned the best tips I can find to overcome baby jet lag.

What’s baby jet lag?

It’s just like adult jet lag, only your little one sleeps more than you do, so it probably won’t be as tough on them as it is on you. The local clock says it’s 9 in the morning, but you feel like it’s time to go to bed! Same with the little one. There is simply no way to avoid it. Baby jet lag will probably last a minimum of 3 days, up to 14 days depending on how many time zones you cross. But there are ways you can reduce the shock to the system.

Flashpackerfamily.com has some great tips on managing jet lag for the little ones. One of the best ones is choosing a night flight. It turns out that if you choose a flight time when everyone will be sleeping (make that should be sleeping!)



Night and Day

baby jet lag
Tel Aviv – Jaffa

Most experts agree that the best way to adjust to a new time zone is to allow our own eyes to train our brains to adjust our circadian rhythm. Simply put: let daytime be light and let night time be dark. Our eyes train our brains to secrete melatonin at night so we’ll tend to get sleepy when it gets dark.

This is one of those occasions when I recommend breaking my rule about letting a sleepy child sleep. For the sake of making most of the trip/vacation more pleasant, it may be necessary to wake her up in the local time morning. Then it’s a good idea to take the child out during day time and encourage her to stay awake.

The opposite goes for night time.  Though she may be wide awake and wanting to play, I recommend keeping her room dark, quiet, and relatively free of activity. This is that poor sleep-substitute that I call “downtime”.  It’s better than nothing.

As for naps, to the greatest extent possible, try to time these according to local time.  And good luck.


Most seasoned travelers including deliciousbaby.com recommend meal times at local times. That means, if it’s time to eat breakfast in Tokyo, eat breakfast. In a perfect world, you would start doing this on the plane, but the reality is that you eat when they feed you. Of course, you’ve brought plenty of healthy snacks with you, right?

baby jet lag

Speaking of healthy snacks, when you and your child are up in the wee hours of the morning because you haven’t adjusted your circadian rhythms yet, someone’s liable to get hungry.  I’d keep it healthy and proteinaceous. Sugar not so much. It’ll help. I promise.


Nothing wears the crew out more effectively than lots of physical exertion.  This is not always the easiest thing to do depending on your location. It may come down to going outside and walking (temperature and weather permitting). Along with meals at the usual times and sleep at local time, this is the best way to restore some normalcy.

Finally, remember you’re going to have to do all of this in reverse when you return!

Toddler Travel: What You Need to Know

Baby travel is easy, toddler travel is hard. There are logistical problems that arise when your little travel companion can walk and explore. It’s easy for her to become overstimulated.  And then there’s that perfectly good sleep pattern you worked so hard to develop. Will it get screwed up when you and your bundle of sunshine hit the road on vacation?

Toddler travel is not normal travel

The first thing to consider is departure time. It’s a good idea to leave at a time just before the toddler is going to go to sleep anyway. This works great for road trips. For air travel, the timing may be trickier. There’s a lot more standing around and waiting. Best to plan for a flight that takes off at around normal bed time. This is why so many parents of toddlers book overnight flights. Mom and Dad might get some sleep too (well… maybe not)


Road Trip

toddler travel
Mini road trip

Remember when you made that road trip from Boston to Miami and you only stopped at gas stations? You’d fill up (yourself and the car), use the bathroom, buy more soda and junk food and head off? Those days are gone.  Driving with toddlers requires planning your stops, and gas stations won’t do.  It might be wise to find family and friends who won’t mind hosting you for a night.  No family or friends on the route? You might consider spending the extra money for a motel along the way. Toddlers just can’t sit for 8 hours at a time. Worse, if they fall asleep for longer than is their normal nap interval, it could totally screw up bed time when your toddler travel ends for the evening.

The airport

Unlike infants, who you can keep in your lap or a carseat, toddlers are very difficult to keep from touching things at the airport. Airports are what I call “essentially contaminated places”.  You can assume that most of the things your toddler touches during her explorations has already been touched by someone who is sick. On line for security or customs this wont be as much of a problem. The toddler can stay in an umbrella stroller, which you’ll be able to keep with you as a special accommodation. But at some point, she’ll probably want to get out and walk! I’d carry her if you can, or toddle with her holding her hand.  And use plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer!

The airplane

Hubpages offers great ideas for keeping her occupied once you’re on the airplane:


If your traveling one year old has a ticketed seat, bring the car seat on board. A great tip is to ask for a blanket from a flight attendant: take the blanket and place it under the car seat. Then take the other end of the blanket and tuck it into the pocket of the seat in front of you. This creates a sling, and prevents toys and snacks from falling all the way to the floor. This keeps dropped toys and snacks cleaner, and makes picking up dropped toys easier. When traveling with a one year old child, you will be picking up a lot of dropped toys!

toddler travel
This mom has the situation under control

They also mention that the barf bag makes a great hand puppet.  Just be careful: I learned from bitter experience that the airline does not place fresh barf bags between flights.

Work for busy hands

Toys, toys, and more toys.  This would be a good time to whip out a fancy new item that the little one hasn’t seen before. Or two. Or even three.  Anything to help her resist the temptation to get up and walk in the aisles.  And don’t forget that if she’s in diapers you’ll need the changing pad in your diaper bag.

The Toddler Travel Checklist

  • Wipes and hand sanitizer (3 oz or less – Remember the TSA!)
  • Changing pad
  • Toys and other distractions
  • Patience and a sense of humor

Have a great trip!



Travel to Hot Places With a Baby

For readers who live in northern latitudes, warm climates are dream destinations for trips and vacations. But what happens when baby comes along? Is it okay to travel to hot places with a baby?

Travel to hot places with a baby

Once you hear the answer, it’ll sound obvious: consider the millions of people who already live in hot places, and produce offspring. The basics are identical all over the world, Iceland to Ecuador.


Will the baby’s sleep be all screwed up?

The major issue is not the baby’s sleep but yours. The baby will basically operate on her own clock, sleeping when she’s full, waking up when she’s hungry.  The heat may take a lot out of her parents, however. So make sure that you’re getting to sleep early at night and resting enough during the day. Sure, you may miss some things on vacation, but you need to save energy for that baby!

Should I give the baby water?

The member of the family who needs more water is not the baby, but the mom, especially if she’s breastfeeding. It’s not recommended to give water to a baby who is less than 6 months old. Breastfeeding moms need to drink a lot more water than they do when they’re not breastfeeding. It’s important to remember that in hot places you will be losing more water than you may realize, from evaporation. I recommend drinking before you get thirsty.

Can I put sunscreen on the baby?

travel to hot places with a baby
Mom! Baby in shade, please!

Most experts say you should avoid putting sunscreen on a baby until she is 6 months old.  There are chemicals in sunscreen that could be toxic if their level gets too high.  Little babies are mostly skin, compared to the volume of their bodies, so the theory goes that they are more likely than you to absorb too much. The best thing you can do, even after six months, is to avoid direct sunlight. Keep the baby’s skin covered, and make sure she wears a big hat! If at all possible, baby sunglasses would be an awesome idea, and she’ll look adorable!

The same goes for going in a pool or the ocean. She should be held in your arms at all times, and be fully-clothed.

The hot places summary

  • Make sure mom and dad get enough sleep.  Baby will get hers, but she needs you to be rested.
  • Breastfeeding moms need to drink lots of extra water. No water for baby!
  • Keep baby’s skin covered and avoid direct sunlight

Traveling With a Small Baby

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.”


What about the baby’s immune system? Aren’t there germs in the air on airplanes?

traveling with a small baby
Traveling takes a lot out of you

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?

traveling with a small baby
Monkeys gotta travel too

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!

    traveling with a small baby
    Breast-feeding on the road
  • 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.


Happy Travels!


7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation For Your Baby

7 things you need to bring on vacation… A question I get surprisingly often is: How soon can we travel with the baby?

It turns out people travel a lot.  That’s a good thing, I suppose.  But travel with a baby or small child means a bunch of logistical problems that can magnify the cost of your trip.

In terms of keeping the little one happy, the biggest consideration is going to be how well he/she sleeps.

Now sleep always suffers on trips and vacations.  This is an unfortunate fact: the location is different.  There are almost none of the usual sleep association that I talk about so often with parents.  Maybe there’s even a time difference.  All these screw up the little one’s sleep.  But there are

7 things you need to bring on vacation


that can help the child sleep almost as well as at home.

1. A portable crib, such as the Pack ‘n Play

7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation

If at all possible, bring one of these.  Ideally, it should be a place the baby is already used to sleeping in, or at least napping in. These portable cribs have a way of giving the child the illusion of sleeping in her usual space, and this can solve a multitude of sleep problems. They fold up and don’t occupy a ton of space.

2. Sheets and Blankets

7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation

Again, it would be ideal if these were the ones the baby is used to sleep with. If any of these blanket-type things functions as a transitional object for the baby, even better!

3. Two changes of sleep clothes that you carry in your baby bag

7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation

Don’t make the mistake we made when we flew back from Florida in February with a 9 month old.  By the time we got to Boston, the Terminator had thrown up so many time he was wearing only a t-shirt when we arrived home.  Plan ahead, folks.  Prepare for travel sickness.

4. A Night Light

7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation

This is something most travelers just don’t thing about. They’re not for the baby, necessarily, although most nurseries have one on. The night light is for you! You’ll be trying to navigate your way to the child in the dark in a strange place.  You will not regret bringing one.

5. A Bouncer

7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation
No! Not THIS kind of bouncer!


7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation
THIS kind of bouncer








If idea #1 fails, you’ll need a back-up plan for a sleeping place.  It’s also great for naps.  Again, ideally, it should be a place that the baby already likes to sleep/nap in.

6. Car Seat/Carrier

7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation

I prefer the kind that removes from the base and becomes a carrier (not shown).  If your baby sleeps in it, it’s ideal for travel.  You can even take these on a plan, provided you’ve purchased the seat in which you plan to strap in the car seat.

7. An Umbrella Stroller

7 Things You Need To Bring On Vacation

Another indispensable item for getting the baby to nap on a trip.   These are small and very light-weight.  If you can’t get the baby to nap because of all the disruptions of being in a strange place, the umbrella stroller is the way to go.