When Can My Baby Fly on an Airplane?

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For some parents, flying on an airplane is a frequent occurrence. Whether vacations are popular in your household or business trips come up frequently, you might be wondering if you can bring your baby on the plane with you. Or, you might be adopting a baby from somewhere far from home and need to bring them back just a few days after birth. In any of these situations, the question of how young is too young to fly comes up.

Even if you never expected to bring a baby on a plane soon after they're born, it's good to know what healthcare providers recommend in these situations. While medical professionals acknowledge that babies can safely fly right after birth, they recommend waiting a couple of months if possible. There are a few main reasons for this that we'll dive into.

In this article, we'll hear from experts about when babies can safely travel by plane, as well as what parents should do to prepare for flight and how to make the most of their time on board the plane.

When Is It Safe For My Baby to Fly on an Airplane? 

While it is technically OK for babies to fly just a few days after they're born, experts generally do not recommend this. One of the primary concerns with traveling so young is the lack of vaccines that the baby has had. These vaccines can fight illness and infection that a baby may encounter during travel.

"Around 3 to 6 months can be a good time to fly," says Mollie Greves Grow, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. "This is after they have started or completed the primary immunization series and after the worst of fussiness/colic has passed, which usually peaks around six weeks."

But the vaccines aren't the end-all-be-all for why babies should fly after a certain age. "As a general rule, I advise against air travel under 2 months of age unless it is absolutely necessary," says pediatrician Gary Kramer, MD, PA. "The reason has nothing to do with the first vaccines but rather with the consequence that any infant below that age developing a fever will require a complete emergency evaluation for infection."

Fevers in newborns are considered more serious than fevers in babies who have passed the 3-month mark. These fevers must be dealt with quickly because bacterial infections for babies this young can get very bad, very fast.

This is especially concerning while flying, as there are many people packed into a small, contained space. While airplane air is very clean—Boeing likens the air in its airplanes to hospital air—that doesn't account for the other parts of airplane travel, like hired cars, public transportation, and the airport itself. It's in these areas that babies can pick up germs that could make them sick.

Every baby is different. Be sure to consult with a pediatrician if you have any questions about your infant flying on an airplane.

Preparing to Fly With Your Baby

Flying can be overwhelming for babies, simply because they don't understand what's going on. It's the parents' job to make the process as easy and comfortable as possible for them (which will also make it easy and comfortable for you). Dr. Grow suggests feeding before takeoff so your baby will be full and happy. This way you also may not have to worry about feeding on the flight (unless you're going to be in the air for a few hours).

"During the takeoff and descent, have the baby suck on either a pacifier, a bottle, or even breastfeed if you feel comfortable doing so," Dr. Kramer says. "This will equilibrate the pressure effect that flying might have in the middle ear." He does not recommend using any sort of Benadryl or OTC decongestants to try to get your baby to fall asleep.

Dr. Grow makes suggestions for traveling with a baby based on her own personal experiences as well. "Have clothing options and layers so you can help the baby be comfortable in terms of temperature," she advises. "You also want to have plenty of changes of clothing for yourself just in case of an accident or blowout. When flying with my own children as infants, I found having a nursing pillow that they could sleep on and cocoon with a thin, breathable blanket over them to be helpful."

Tips for Flying with a Newborn

Some parents find themselves in a situation where they either give birth in a place far from home or adopt a baby from a place that requires air travel to come home. In either situation, you might need to bring a newborn on a plane soon after they are born.

Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, who is a pediatrician and consultant for Mom Loves Best, says the first thing parents should do is check with their airline for requirements, as some airlines will ask for a note from a healthcare provider about bringing a young baby on board. Many airlines will require this clearance for babies under 2 weeks of age.

"Babies born prematurely and infants with congenital heart and lung disease may have some respiratory distress due to the change in oxygen in the airplane cabin," she also notes. "Travel needs to be limited to essential travel. If it is an option, traveling by car instead of an airplane is safer. It is wise to consult with your baby’s pediatrician about travel."

Healthcare professionals understand, though, the extenuating circumstances of giving birth or adopting away from home. In an adoption situation, if possible, it is better to wait until the baby is a few months old to travel. That might mean staying in your baby's home state or country until it is safer to travel.

In a situation where you've given birth in a place that's not your home, your healthcare provider can give further guidance about you and baby coming home. Dr. Poinsett suggests parents dress their newborn in layers to accommodate for changing temperatures on a plane and have them suck on a pacifier to minimize ear pain from cabin pressure.

"Noise is also a factor, as is being around so many people," Dr. Grow cautions. "If your baby is sensitive to noise, you can use some sound-canceling headphones."

Both experts highly recommend putting your baby in a car seat rather than carrying them on your lap. "The infant seat should be put in the airplane seat rear-facing," she shares. "The seat chosen must be a window or middle seat. No aisle-seat travel." And while this means purchasing an extra seat, she notes that some airlines may offer a discount in this situation, but it will depend on when and on what airline you are flying.

What to Expect on Board

There are some general precautions parents might want to take before flying. Not only do you want to make your baby comfortable while on the plane, but you also want to make the whole experience safe and efficient.

"Try to make sure not to overload your hands with bags and carry-on luggage, as you want to have full attention on the baby," Dr. Kramer says. This way you don't have to worry about juggling too many things or dropping anything. Of course, this may not always be possible, especially if it's just you and your baby traveling, but trying to keep your other bags to a minimum and checking them when possible can help keep your baby safe.

Dr. Kramer also suggests not boarding the plane first, despite many airlines offering this service to families traveling with babies. "I advise to board last so that you avoid passengers climbing over you and walking past you in the baby’s path," he says. This is especially good advice if you have a row to yourself and don't have to worry about asking someone else to move to let you into your seat.

While flying with a baby is a daunting task, Dr. Kramer points out that it only gets more difficult once your little one can walk, because then they never want to stay still! At least you know your baby will stay put during the flight.

A Word From Verywell

While it's OK for babies to fly on planes as soon as a few days after birth, experts recommend not bringing them on board until they're a couple of months old if possible. This way you can reduce the chance of them catching or developing a serious illness during travel. However, if you have questions or need to travel sooner than that, speak with your baby's pediatrician to decide what's right for you and your family.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Baby vaccines at birth.

  2. Seattle Children's Hospital. Fever(0-12 months).

  3. Boeing. Travel with confidence.