For parents, traveling with a baby can seem incredibly daunting. It doesn’t help that countless companies sell products, including baby travel beds, baby travel systems, and baby travel pillows, that make the whole thing seems less like a chore than a surgical procedure. These products can help, sure, but owning them is not mandatory. The truth is that, like many other things in life, traveling with a baby just is what it is — difficult but manageable. That said, there are guidelines that parents should observe and some facts parents ought to know.
“You’re with all these other people, and they’re breathing on your child. Basically, our big concern is babies getting sick when parents are traveling,” says Dr. Aishwarya Deenadayalu of Portland, Oregon’s Metropolitan Pediatrics. “For any sort of big travel, whether it’s a big road trip or plane or train, I would love for babies to have their vaccines, especially with any sort of international travel. We usually do the first set of vaccines at two months.”
Plane travel is extremely attractive for mobile parents during the first two years. Why? Children younger than 2-years-old fly for free on most airlines, provided they’re able to sit in a parent’s lap. On international flights, many airlines even offer up tiny baby beds/bassinets that plug into the bulkhead, allowing parents a little reprieve from holding the kid and providing a space for the child to stretch out (and dad to have a beer). In fact, travel systems have evolved to accommodate children easily, with ample opportunities on both planes and trains to stand up with a baby and stroll around.
Road trips, too, are fair game, but parents still need to ensure that there are frequent stops, in addition to ensuring that a child’s neck is properly supported in the seat. The duration of the trip can be long, provided there are ample stops to make sure the kid is comfortable.
“There are some babies who have no problem being in a car seat for an extended period of time, and some who hate it,” says Deenadayalu. “There’s no real health concern, as long as baby’s getting out to be fed and changed every couple of hours.”
Importantly, parents are advised to ensure a kid is healthy and has been healthy prior to boarding any plane or train where close contact with passengers could challenge an already weakened immune system. Not only is a sick baby a miserable baby for parents and other passengers, the discomfort of popping ears can be greatly exacerbated by changes in altitude.
How to Prepare for Baby Travel
- Make sure the baby has at least received their two-month vaccinations.
- Make sure the baby is healthy. Colds and cases of flu will make travel miserable.
- Prepare to make frequent stops on road trips and ensure proper support to the baby’s neck in their car seat.
- Antihistamines for sleep are not recommended for children under 2-years-old
- Ask travel providers if there are any special accommodations on the train, bus or airplane for babies.
There’s also the temptation to dope a child up with Benadryl for travel. This can be extremely risky, though not necessarily due to the fact that it’s not recommended to give a child Benadryl before age 2-years-old. The biggest issue is that it can have the adverse effect of turning a child into a live grenade.
“There are some kids who have what we call a paradoxical reaction and they end up being hyper. You don’t want to figure that out on a crazy long flight,” says Deenadayalu “You’re not supposed to give Benadryl until a kid is at least 2, but if you were to do that, try to make sure your child gets drowsy and not the opposite.”
Parents should feel free to hit the road or fly the friendly skies, provided they’ve done their diligence with vaccinations and the kid isn’t already sick. The former might irk an ornery aunt who prefers to get medical advice from Facebook memes, but it’ll ensure a happy traveler. Or at least a healthy one.
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