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Air travel with an infant: what to pack

Preparation is the key to a smooth and safe journey

Photo (c) nadezhda1906 - Fotolia
Parents of infants may cringe at the thought of bringing their tiny tyke on board a crowded airplane, but a little preparation can make the journey safer and less stressful for everyone involved.

To help ensure your little one stays safe in the sky, it's crucial to plan ahead for the needs of your infant, says University of Alabama at Birmingham pediatrician Candice Dye.

“The safety of your infant should be your number one concern,” Dye said. “As long as you are thoughtful and make preparations early, traveling with an infant can be easy.”

Consult your physician

Dye recommends waiting until infants are at least 2 to 3 months old to travel, as certain health risks can be avoided by making sure they have received their first set of immunizations.

But it’s always important to consult your pediatrician before traveling with an infant, she says, especially if your child has a chronic medical condition.

Pediatricians can recognize risk factors that might put your child in harm’s way. Dye says children with tubes in their ears are usually given the green light to travel, but talk to your surgeon before traveling if the tubes were recently placed.

What to pack

Should an emergency arise, it can be helpful to have certain items close at hand for easy access. Here’s what Dye suggests packing:

  • Medications. In your carry-on bag, pack any needed medications so that they will be available at proper dosing times and in case of travel delays.
  • Birth certificate. Your child’s birth certificate should also go in your carry-on for ID. Dye suggests planning extra time for getting checked in, as well as getting through security and boarding.
  • Stroller. A stroller can take some of the stress out of maneuvering through a busy airport with an infant in tow. Strollers should be checked at the gate for quick access to use pre- and post-flight.  
  • Snacks. Sort snacks into small, easy-to-access bags or snack cups for toddlers. Have formula and bottles ready so that water can then be added without having to scoop out formula mid-flight.
  • Pacifier. Allowing babies to suck on a pacifier can help alleviate ear pain and popping, as can breast or bottle feeding.
  • Car seat. Although the Federal Aviation Administration allows children under age 2 to be held on an adult’s lap, Dye echoes the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children be strapped into a car seat when flying. To keep kids from slipping off your lap during turbulence or a bumpy landing, bring a car seat that is compatible with air travel and approved by the FAA.

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