In many ways travelling is much easier with a small baby than it is with an older toddler or pre-school child. On planes, in cars or on trains, babies have the great advantage of not wanting to be on the move all the time. Pity the exhausted parents walking their toddler up and down the plane on the long-haul flight… passing the parents with the baby sleeping peacefully beside them!
That said, it’s not all easy and you need to be very well prepared so you have everything you need close by.
Car journeys with your baby
Babies shouldn’t spend long periods of time in a car seat as some may experience breathing problems if they spend too long there. This is particularly a problem for babies who are incorrectly left in a baby seat to sleep – but you should bear this in mind on all long journeys by car.
Before you transport your baby by car:
- Be sure that your baby has the right car seat for her age and it’s fitted properly, ideally in the back of the car
- Make sure anyone who is transporting your baby (e.g. grandparents) knows how to fit and secure her car seat
- If possible make sure that at least one adult can see the baby, or have a mirror so that you can see that your baby is okay. Either way, make sure you make frequent stops to check your baby hasn’t slumped down. It is nice for babies that are awake to have lots of breaks out of the car seat en route, so don’t try to do a huge trip with no breaks
- Don’t have your baby in a hat in their car seat as they can overheat quickly; try to stick to dressing her in natural materials too
- Don’t have your baby in a snowsuit in their car seat, as they can overheat and harnesses slip off the shoulders of the suit, which means your baby is not safely fastened in
Travelling by plane
Most airlines want babies to be at least two days old before they fly, although as your baby has to have their own passport now this may not be possible! After that it’s up to you, but your baby will be much stronger by the age of three months, so wait until then if you can.
Once you’ve decided to go, you need to prepare well. It’s much easier if you’re breastfeeding, since you have the milk ready to go and don’t have to sterilise anything.
If you choose to formula feed, carefully calculate the number of bottles you’ll need from the time you leave the house, the entire flight, and the trip to your destination at the other end. Then add a few additional bottles for if you get held up, or for emergencies. You won’t be able to sterilise the bottles during the flight, so take enough sterilised bottles with you, tightly capped. It’s generally easier to take on little cartons of pre-made up formula on long flights that you can pour into pre-prepared sterilised bottles. Usually everything needed for a baby on a flight is allowed through – but arrange it in advance if you can.
If your baby’s already on solids, do take along a few extra jars of their favourite foods – whether from the shop or home-made – since they may take a while to get used to the food at the destination.
Preventing crying on take-off and landing
As an adult, we know to swallow or yawn as the cabin pressure changes on take off and landing. Your baby doesn’t know to do this, so arrange it for them. If you wait to give your baby a bottle or breastfeed just as the plane starts turning down the runway, they’ll be drinking as the plane takes off, and won’t even notice the pressure change.
The same goes for landing. Try to time the feed so it coincides with the landing. It’s really frustrating if the plane ends up circling for ages before landing, since your baby may have finished the feed before the landing actually happens – so do your best to wait until the descent has started before letting them drink.
With older children it’s easier since you can a) explain what you’re doing; b) give them a drink or c) give them a lolly to suck on. Anything that will get them swallowing as you go up or down.
Older babies and children on planes need a lot of things to do. Don’t rely on the air stewards to give you things to play with – they’ll have a few things, but they generally won’t have enough. So take things you know your kids love – books, crayons, games, their favourite toy and so on. A nice squishy cushion or big soft toy can be very helpful as a pillow.
With little babies, take a mixture of familiar toys to soothe them, and a few things they’re not used to that you can use if you need to distract them!
If your baby needs special medicines, especially adrenaline auto-injectors, make sure you have a doctor’s note to show security. They can often be very strict – checking the name on the doctor’s form against the name on the prescription – so make sure you’ve got it all lined up. Remember to also have the medicine in bottles less than 100ml so they’ll be allowed through.
Make sure your baby drinks a lot through the flight. Breastfeeding makes this easy – keep formula feeds coming aplenty.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The best way to feed a baby is to breastfeed, as breast milk provides the ideal balanced diet and protection against illness for your baby and also many non-nutritional benefits for both baby and mother. We recommend that you speak to your healthcare professional when deciding on your choice of feeding your baby. Professional guidance should also be sought on the preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding. If you do choose to breastfeed, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Infant formula is intended to replace breast milk when mothers choose not to breastfeed or if for some reason they are unable to do so. A decision not to breastfeed, or to introduce partial bottle-feeding, will reduce the supply of breast milk. If for any reason you choose not to breastfeed, do remember that such a decision can be difficult to reverse. Using infant formula also has social and financial implications which must be considered. Infant formula should always be prepared, used and stored as instructed on the label, in order to avoid risks to a baby’s health. Follow-on milk is only suitable for babies over 6 months as part of a mixed diet. It should not be used as a substitute for breast milk during the first 6 months. The decision to start weaning or to use follow-on milk before 6 months, should be made only on the advice of a doctor, midwife, health visitor, public health nurse, dietitian or pharmacist, based on baby’s individual needs.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.