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My wife and I are expecting a child at the end of February. My sister-in-law is planning on getting married in early May in Macedonia (we live in the US). This is our first child and we're more than a little concerned about trying to take a child so young on such a big trip especially since we'll only have been parents for a few months.

My wife really doesn't want to miss her sister's wedding so the current plan is I remain behind with the baby (and a supply of pumped breast milk) while my wife makes the trip over and back as fast as possible (probably a minimum of 4-5 days).

Has anyone else had experience traveling with children this young?

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The earliest plane trip I took with my first child was when he was about 2 months old. It lasted 4 hours and I did it solo (no co-parent)! Then when he was 9 months old, we did a trans-Atlantic crossing with my husband. My second son was 9 months old when we took them both on a trans-Pacific flight. That was long. :) They had a special bassinet with straps to hold them in that fasten to the bulkhead. Sometimes the staff will try to seat you beside an empty seat so that you have more room. It doesn't hurt to be early and ask at check-in.

It's so much easier traveling when they are little because they mostly sleep. The hard part is keeping strangers from touching them and keeping your own hands clean. Bring hand sanitizer to help control germs on your own hands. The Mayo Clinic does not recommend air travel with infants younger than 6 weeks when their immune system is most vulnerable, but your child should be about 2 months old.

As they get older, they move more and want to explore. This makes long flights more challenging. Two adults travelling with a baby is much easier than one. However, the flight attendants I have encountered have been very helpful. If you are traveling alone and need to trust your baby with someone else, be sure to tell them not to touch your baby's hands or mouth.

Breastfeeding makes things very simple. Infants can be sensitive to changes in air pressure. Nursing/feeding during take-off/landing can help with this. Crying, that full-volume mouth wide-open screaming cry, actually helps relieve the pressure.

Most infant car seats are approved for air travel. Absolutely bring their car seat on the plane! If you are lucky, they will keep the seat beside you vacant. The car seat is the perfect place for them to sleep and gives you a break so you can eat your own meal or sleep without worrying about dropping them.

In short, if you are comfortable travelling, make sure your vaccinations are current before you go. Bring hand sanitizer. Leave as much time as possible to process your passports. And don't be afraid to set boundaries. By the end of 2 months, you'll feel like a pro.

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Bringing a car seat presumes buying a seat on the plane for the baby which is not required. Upto a certain weight limit babies can sleep in a cot affixed to the wall infront of the seat on the front row of the plane. The cot is part of the fittings of the plane and must be reserved with the arline when allocated a seat. The baby must be held during takeoff and landing and during turbulence but our kids have slept well in the cot on several long flights. –  Stuart Woodward Nov 8 '11 at 18:03
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Sometimes you don't have to buy a seat if there is one vacant. Ask. If you have the car seat with you, but can't use it because there are no vacancies, the seat gets "sky checked". It is better to be prepared than not. –  nGinius Nov 8 '11 at 22:37
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I didn't travel with my Alice when she was that age, but had the opportunity to get paid for a one month trip into the rainforests in Costa Rica with a bunch of teenagers to teach them about rainforest botany. My daughter would have been about five months old at the time of the trip. I sobbed as I got on the plane because I would miss her so much, but took my hand pump, pictures and an international calling card. The pump was more so I wouldn't go dry while I was gone than so I could store anything. I had prepared my husband with an ample supply before leaving. It was hard to leave her but for a botanist/teacher it was the trip of a lifetime. Let your wife know that if you stick with this plan, she isn't alone in making such a decision.

If your concern is more about when to fly, I did take Alice with me on a domestic flight (about four hours) and subsequent bus trip (another three hours) just the two of us about a month prior to the Costa Rica trip so we could see my parents for the holidays (my husband could not join us due to business).

It was no big deal. I tried to time things so she would nurse while we took off and descended (helps with ear popping and gave her an immune boost) and brought a few entertainments if needed. I also set it up so the flight was during her usual sleep hours so she hardly even noticed we were on a plane. She was great! I was probably grumpier than she at the time of arrival at my parents place (after the bus trip there is another hour and a half on a ferry before getting to their town).

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At that age it is incredibly easy to take them on flights - it only gets difficult when they are mobile. Also, while they are breastfeeding, pressure changes don't seem to affect them, whereas when they are older but haven't yet learned how to equalise pressure they can get distressed.

As mentioned in other answers, for take-off and landing you will have them on your lap, and if you book in advance, get a sky-cot as you can never rely on an empty seat next to you.

Even aeroplane toilets are pretty easy to change a baby in - just make sure your changing bag is well stocked with everything you need.

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I hope that the toilets on international flights are significantly larger than on the domestic flights I took my son on. Despite the presence of a folding changing table, there was exactly enough room for me to fit in there with my son. There was not enough room to bring in a diaper bag, or even reach into one and find a diaper if I had been able to fit it in. –  Beofett Nov 30 '11 at 15:08
    
I think the only ones I couldn't manage would be the Edinburgh London City short hop - Embraer 145 is a tiny plane. Even the Airbus A320 series is fine. –  Rory Alsop Nov 30 '11 at 15:49
    
We were on Southwest, so it was a Boeing 737. It probably doesn't help that I'm a big guy, and had to stand hunched over because the ceiling was too low for me :P –  Beofett Nov 30 '11 at 15:57
    
@Beoett: My experience is that the transatlantic planes have exactly as much toilet space as the flights within Europe. The latter is technically still international but probably equals US domestic flights. Only business class have bigger spaces (wow). –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 30 '11 at 16:44
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My daughter, our first child, made a visit to the Bahamas from the west coast of the US when she was six months old and came with us on a trip to Southeast Asia when she was nine months old. It really wasn't a big problem for us, since an infant who isn't mobile is in general a lot easier to maintain (and is easier to get to sleep for most of the flight). The trans-Pacific flight was actually easier in some ways, as Singapore Air had a bassinet that clipped into the bulkhead that we could have her sleep in, which really improved things. It also helps that they placed us in a bulkhead row as a matter of policy.

Note that your current plan of you staying behind is going to require work to ensure that your child will take a bottle. Neither of my kids would have anything to do with a bottle, which would have made that very difficult to pull off. That's probably largely due to me being lax in practicing with a bottle, so make sure you stay on top of that if that's the way you're going to go.

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As someone who lives in Holland and who regularly goes to New York to visit his family, I can tell you right now that any flying with a small child is going to be problematic. With my first child, we took her on a plane when she was 4 months old (for a 4 hour flight to Israel, for a friend's wedding), and then when she was 9 months old (to New York, when my father suddenly passed away).

The short answer to your question is that in theory, even babies only a few weeks old can fly on an airplane, but there are a lot of things to think about (forgetting about the germs that fly around in the circulated air, which is also something to think about if your child is sensitive to that sort of thing):

1) Bring toys to keep your child entertained. You won't be able to keep them completely focused on the toys for the duration of the flight, but it'll help distract them when they start to get fussy.

2) Bring a car seat with you on the plane, especially if the flight is longer than a couple of hours. Yes, you may have to pay for an extra seat, but guess what - you're going to be doing that sooner or later anyway. And by bringing a car seat with you, you assure yourself that you have a safe place for your child to sit while you look for the pacifier or bottle in your carry-on.

3) Check your stroller in. Some airlines will allow you to check this in without hitting you with an extra baggage fee. The only thing to worry about - the stroller will either be the first thing waiting for you as you get off the plane, or the LAST thing they get off the plane (I had both happen to me at one time or another).

4) Breast-feed or give a bottle when taking off and landing. Supposedly this helps alleviate some of the air pressure problems your child might get. If nothing else, by feeding your child when you're about to take off, you might be able to buy yourself an hour of rest before you have to entertain your baby again.

5) Accept that some people are going to be pissed, and do what you have to do when you bring your child on a plane. I once walked up and down the aisle with my daughter in my arms in an effort to comfort her in the middle of the flight. There were quite a few angry looks, but that's all that they can do (at least without facing arrest on landing).

6) Ask the attendants for help when necessary. Most attendants will have no problem giving you extra hot water to heat up your formula, for example.

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When I was pregnant, I talked with my pediatrician about traveling with my baby as early as 8 weeks. Here are some of his concerns (and some of my own) for traveling with a newborn:

  • Airline Regulations: Some airlines require a doctor's note for a very young baby to fly. (For American Airlines, this age limit is 7 days or younger.)
  • Airplane Germs: Since the air on a plane is recycled, your newborn is exposed to more germs than usual. Avoid flying with a newborn during flu season, or before 4 weeks.
  • Unfamiliar places: My pediatrician suggested you not go on vacation with a newborn, because being on your own in a new place would be stressful. Visiting family would negate this point, if you plan on staying with them and getting plenty of help.

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