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I have been pregnant for 38 weeks and 3 days. I booked my plane ticket a while back to go to New York in December and I am bringing my baby with me, but by the time we go to there and he will be about 7 weeks old. My question is whether he will he be safe flying? Are there any precautions I should take?

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@anongoodnurse's answer is great, but I want to add some things from personal observation:

  • I have flown with a baby as young as 4 months, and it was not an issue. The younger the baby is the easier, since they sleep more. I think a 7 week baby will be fine (provided no health issues, not pre-mature and so forth).

  • ask you pediatrician if there is any vaccinations he would give earlier ( I think we had an 8 week appointment, s/he might want to do those vaccinations earlier)

  • I have never been in trouble nursing on planes. I have flown with Delta, KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, Virgin America and Alaskan. I never covered up.

  • If you don't nurse, you can bring milk/food for your baby that is over 3 oz/100 ml through the security checkpoint (in US and most countries), but you must be travelling with the baby, and you have to be able to open the container. I have heard of people being asked to drink it, but they should have a chemical checker thing they wave around above it.

  • I would recommend buying a seat for children over age 1 if you travel more than 4 hours. For Infants you will mostly want to hold them, though it is SAFER to have them in an airline approved car seat.

  • In the US, the airlines does NOT provide you with an infant seatbelt (which attached to your own) in my experience. I have only seen this flying in Europe.

  • If you bring a car seat, be SURE it is approved by FAA when travelling in the US. If you travel internationally, be SURE it is approved by the air travel authority in the carriers home country (for instance, British Airways did not care one bit if our car seat had an FAA approved sticker on - luckily it was still appropriate).

  • If you don't buy a seat, you still need a ticket for the baby. Adding: Some 3rd party websites does not allow you to purchase lap infant tickets. Some carrier websites does not allow it either. Best bet is to book by phone directly from carrier. (I have not tried booking lap infant tickets from a non-online travel agency). Flying domestically in the US a lap infant (under 2) is usually free. Flying internationally most times I have paid 10% of ticket price (and got an extra 10lbs bag allowance for checked bags) for lap infants.

  • You can use the birth certificate as ID if you fly domestically for the TSA check if your baby doesn't have a passport. You need a passport flying internationally regardless of the age.

  • All airlines I have been with allowed me to bring a carseat and a stroller for free. Even if I did not bring the carseat on the plane, we have been needing them at the destination, and have much preferred this to renting. For strollers, most airplanes/airports allow you go gate check the strollers, that way you can have your baby in the stroller all the way to the gate, and will get the stroller back at the gate too at your destination/ I have not been in the US airport that did not do this, but I have been in international ones where you had to pick up the stroller at the luggage. Car seats/stroller (not gate checked) will sometimes need to checked in/retrieved at the odd size luggage counter, it depends on the airport.

  • Bring multiple changes of clothes for the baby, and if possible a change for you, in your hand luggage. First time baby 1 had a poop explosion was on an airplane...

  • on that note: bring twice as many diapers as you think you need in your hand luggage. Especially if you have a stop over - we got delayed in London for a day with a 3.5 year and a 13 months old, I was glad we had packed lots of diapers in our carry ons!

  • +1 - This is such good advice! Experience is really a very good teacher. – anongoodnurse Oct 6 '14 at 18:32
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    "you still need a ticket for the baby" - this is only for counting/manifest purposes, and does not affect the cost of your flight: changing from a "normal" ticket to an "infant-in-arms" is free with every airline I've flown on – warren Oct 8 '14 at 13:54
  • @warren yes, what I meant was that you cannot show up with an infant unannounced. Flying internationally with a lap infant may incur a cost, though. – Ida Oct 8 '14 at 16:06
  • @Ida - sure you can: it's part of why they do gate announcements telling you to check with the gate attendant if you're flying with an infant, but do not have the words infant-in-arms on your boarding pass. – warren Oct 8 '14 at 16:13
  • @warren I have never seen that, and I don't think the security check people allows you to the gate area without a ticket. I would not run the risk, personally. – Ida Oct 8 '14 at 16:20
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Please note that some airlines will not let you breastfeed on a flight, regardless of what is said when you purchase a ticket.

For the first few weeks of a newborn's life, usually the baby's doctor prefers that she be kept in relative isolation (friends and family). Flying is a particular risk because of crowding and recirculated air.

After that, it's fine to take her out into the public provided that the baby is healthy.

Flying is also problematic for infants and young children because of the pressure changes that occur in the cabin and the decreased relative oxygen concentration in the cabin at usual flying altitudes.

Regarding cabin pressure changes which can cause pain in the baby's ears, it's recommended that babies swallow frequently on takeoff/climbing, but especially on descent/landing. Parents can help her do this by feeding/pacifier or nursing. The lower cabin pressure also means gas expands in her intestines, so make sure to burp her well when you do feed her.

Oxygenation can be a problem if your baby has any heart or circulatory abnormalities, if she is premature (at 38 weeks, she is no longer premature), has complications during delivery, or if she has an underlying respiratory condition, in which case your baby's doctor might recommend postponing air travel until age 1 or later, or perhaps earlier with supplemental oxygen.

Though it was common in the past to hold an infant throughout flight, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that infants ride in properly secured FAA-approved safety seats, which might mean the airline recommends you buy a seat for her, or they might seat you next to an empty seat for free. (Unless the flight is sold out, airlines will usually accommodate this request.) Either way, try to get a seat in the front of the cabin (more leg room and less noise).

Most pediatricians do not recommend sedating your baby for traveling, partly because babies can have a paradoxical reaction to sedation (instead of sleeping, they get hyper).

Doctors usually have hand-outs with recommendations for parents for situations just like this. You might ask about this.

Please read the information in the links below, and remember, information you get on the internet isn't a substitute for your doctor's recommendations. Make sure your baby is safe to fly by checking with her doctor.

Children and Airplanes: Are We Having Fun Yet?
Mayo Clinic
Ask Dr. Sears: Traveling With a Newborn

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    Which airlines will not let you breastfeed? That sounds ridiculous and criminal. Also, any airline I've been on allow the child to ride in your lap and you don't need a seat. None of my flights have been in the US. – Dave Clarke Oct 5 '14 at 10:25
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    Ah. I should have guessed that it happened in a conservative country. – Dave Clarke Oct 5 '14 at 15:03
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    That is absolutely stupid. You can tell older children to swallow so their ears will pop rather than hurt, but all you can do with a newborn is to feed it, so it will swallow. Disallowing this actively hurts the child. – sbi Oct 6 '14 at 8:13
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    @anongoodnurse: Sorry if I came across as if taking it out on you. I didn't mean to. I am just saying that not allowing breastfed children to be breastfed during flight is absolutely stupid. It's a stressful situation for the baby, plus you want to make it swallow during takeoff/landing – which means feeding it. I hadn't heard of such a stupid rule before, though. It might be something to do with American prudishness. Here in Berlin, you will see women breastfeeding on the playground, in the subway and wherever else babies might be found. – sbi Oct 6 '14 at 18:21
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    @anongoodnurse I'm pretty sure that by now (2014) this isn't an issue any longer; major strides have come in the last two or three years. My wife breastfed on every flight we took with an infant the last few years and never got a single glance. I wouldn't necessarily use a bottle for a seven week old, as there could still be nipple confusion issues depending on the child. (That said, I'd definitely prepare myself as to how I would respond to a misguided flight attendant; being careful to do so respectfully is important.) – Joe Oct 9 '14 at 21:46
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I've known people who did fly with newborns at around this age, and it's certainly possible to do; note the caveats Ida and Anongoodnurse note.

I'd add one more, which is why I wouldn't do this. A seven week old still has an underdeveloped immune system. A baby doesn't have a fully functional immune system until around six months, and until three months it is recommended that for any fever over 101 (exact value varies) you immediately take your child to the emergency room, to protect against potentially dangerous meningitis.

Airline travel is often linked to increased sickness, particularly of respiratory infections, because you're in an enclosed space with lots of other people, many of whom are not from your 'local' area; probably a full half of them are from wherever you're travelling to, after all. Different regions of the country - even different cities - will typically have slightly different bugs, or different flavors of even similar bugs, and thus I for example am a bit less protected against New York viruses and bacteria than I am to Chicago variants. While your child hasn't built up an immunity on her own to the local flora, your own immunity is important here, as you pass in your milk antibodies to what you've built up immunity to.

This means that not only the air trip, but even the visit, to New York will involve a higher risk of infection to your child. It's not necessarily going to endanger your child's life, but you're at a higher risk of going to an ER, and it won't be your comfortable ER with your local pediatrician at hand the next day.

If you do go, make sure you know exactly where the closest good children's ER is, and plan how you'll get there if your child has a fever at 1am. Meningitis is a significant danger (an infection of the spinal cord or brain) and the risk shouldn't be taken lightly.

I myself would recommend holding any travel - air, car, etc. - of a significant distance until the baby is 3 months old, and has enough of an immune system to be reasonably able to respond to common minor ailments without needing to head to the ER right away. Certainly discuss this with your doctor before you do it, as they'll be able to better inform you of the risks and how you can lessen them, as well as what you should do if your child does get sick.

  • These are important considerations. – Ida Oct 10 '14 at 18:19

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