Safety When Traveling With a Newborn

Baby sleeping in child car seat

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While you can travel with a newborn baby, including airplane travel, it doesn't mean that you should. A lot depends on your baby's age and health.

It's not so much the oxygen levels, the pressurized cabin on the plane, or the effects of high altitude. There is no proven connection between airplane travel and SIDS.

Instead, most experts advise limiting newborns' and younger infants' exposure to large groups of people so that they don't get sick. Traveling through an airport, onto an airplane (or two), through another airport (or two) and then visiting a lot of people—even if they are family members—exposes your baby to viral illnesses and other infections. This exposure is the main issue to consider when you travel with a baby, especially by air.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are also a concern at this age, as babies haven't had time to get vaccines and be fully protected against these illnesses. From measles and pertussis to the flu, it isn't a good idea to expose a newborn baby or young infant to these diseases unnecessarily, whether in an airport or at your destination. Traveling by bus or train would also expose your baby to many unfamiliar people and diseases.

Air Travel With a Baby

If you do plan to fly, check with the carrier that you are using. Each airline has its own policy. American Airlines, for example, allows babies as young as two days old to fly, but babies one week old and younger must have a medical form completed by a physician.

Keep in mind that travel could be stressful for both a new mom and a brand-new baby, especially if a flight is delayed or canceled. Add to that all the supplies that you need for your newborn, including clothes, diapers, bottles, and of course, a car seat for the plane.

Sometimes travel is essential, such as if you have adopted a baby and need to get back home. Otherwise, it might be best to wait to fly until your baby is two to three months old and has a more mature immune system and a more predictable schedule.

Neither the American Academy of Pediatrics or the FAA has specific recommendations or advice about traveling with newborn babies besides the general advice about the proper use of a car seat.

If you fly with a baby, ideally:

  • Get your pediatrician's opinion before you go
  • Bring your baby's birth certificate as proof of age
  • Bring some help with you
  • Get a nonstop flight
  • Fly during an off-peak time
  • Be prepared for everything (delays, diaper disasters, minor illnesses)

Driving With a Baby

Driving is better than flying with a newborn since the baby is exposed to far fewer people. However, driving can still be stressful for both mom and baby. Especially on a longer trip, you will have to stop every few hours for feedings, diaper changes, and simply to comfort your baby. As well, parents of a newborn are likely going to be a little sleep deprived, not the best condition to drive a long distance.

The bottom line is that you should likely put off traveling until your newborn is a little older unless travel is essential.

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Article Sources
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  1. Sohail MR, Fischer PR. Health risks to air travelers. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2005;19(1):67-84. doi:10.1016/j.idc.2004.10.001

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Restraint use on aircraft. Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention. Pediatrics. 2001;108(5):1218-1222. doi:10.1542/peds.108.5.1218

Additional Reading
  • Weinberg MS. Vaccine Recommendations for Infants & Children. CDC Health Information for International Travel (Yellow Book). 2016 edition. Updated June 24, 2019.