Success when taking your new bundle of joy on an airplane trip depends on planning and flexibility. It isn't much different than any other aspect of your current parenting in which you anticipate the needs of your totally dependent child and head off any situations before they become problematic. While airlines allow newborns on board, it is best to follow the advice of your baby's doctor when determining if your infant is old enough to fly.
Airlines carriers differ regarding age requirements for infants. American Airlines allows infants to fly at two days of age, but does recommend at its website that infants be at least one week old. Several other airlines -- United and Delta included -- require infants to be at least seven days old before flying. Southwest Airlines doubles that requirement by prohibiting travel on its carrier until 14 days of age. Some airlines will allow an infant to fly at an age younger than its blanket restriction if the baby's doctor provides written clearance. Before purchasing tickets, be sure to check your carrier's requirements.
The Mayo Clinic indicates that age does not affect an infant's ability to handle air travel. On its website, Dr. Jay L. Hoecker, an emeritus clinic consultant, also indicates a baby's doctor may discourage unnecessary air travel shortly after birth. Other pediatric specialists adhere to the two-week age limit: On the Family Education website, Dr. Shari Nethersole, a child physician at Children's Hospital in Boston and a pediatrics instructor at Harvard Medical School, advises flight travel is safe at two weeks of age as long as mom and baby are healthy. Again, follow the advice from your baby's doctor.
The close quarters of airplane cabins can create conditions in which airborne illnesses such as cold and flu are trapped in the recirculated air that flows through the cabin during the flight -- making it almost like a flying Petri dish. The developing immune system of an infant that is one to two weeks old is not equipped to ward off these viruses that Family Education states are much more dangerous to a young infant than to a baby that is four or six months of age.
Very few infants have an established feeding and sleeping routine by two weeks of age. Airline travel, with its red-eye flights, flight delays and time-zone changes can add to the challenge of getting a young baby settled into a schedule. Family Education warns the unpredictable nature of newborns may be draining for new parents taking baby for his first flight.
As noted by the Healthy Children website sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, being the parent of a baby that is crying in flight can be stressful. You think everyone can hear your child. If you are seated in a row near the engines, the drone of the engines can cover some of your child's noise. Most likely, however, the people seated near you do hear your crying child. You might get a few dirty looks, but most people understand that babies cry. Take preventative measures such as feeding and changing diapers right before the flight. Bring supplies such as formula or expressed breast milk -- even if you are taking a short flight. Give baby something to suck on during takeoff and landing to help clear your baby's ears during air pressure changes. Most importantly, stay calm: As noted at Baby Med, your infant pays attention to you and take behavior cues from you.