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 (doctors believe the upright sleeping position can lead to obstructed airways) – 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 (eg 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’re formula feeding, 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. 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 her. If you wait to give her a bottle or breastfeed just as the plane starts turning down the runway, she’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 her drink.
With older children it’s easier since you can a) explain what you’re doing; b) give him a drink or c) give him a lolly to suck on. Anything that will get him 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 as well to 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.