Whether you gave birth out of town and need to fly home, or you have an important event you have to attend soon after giving birth, rest assured that flying with a newborn is possible, if not ideal. While you shouldn't plan to hop on a plane just hours after giving birth, you can fly with a days-old newborn -- and expect the experience to go quite smoothly.
When to Fly
Medically, it's safe for a healthy newborn to fly almost immediately, according to the AskDrSears website. However, most doctors will strongly discourage air travel for a few days, unless absolutely necessary, to ensure that both mother and baby recuperate after delivery. You should get an OK from your doctor and your baby's doctor before flying. In addition, U.S.-based airlines might restrict newborns from flying until they are between seven and 14 days old. Check with the airline to get their specific age restrictions for infants.
The changing cabin pressure when a plane ascends and descends can cause major ear pain in your newborn, who cannot "pop" his ears to manage it the way adults can. The AskDrSears website recommends breastfeeding your baby during the entire ascent and descent, as the sucking helps equalize air pressure. You can feed your baby with a bottle as well. You also want to keep in mind that there's an increased chance of germs and infections spreading in the confines of an airplane cabin. Let onlookers admire your baby from afar, but don't let them touch. Gently cover your newborn's face with a blanket if a nearby passenger begins coughing or sneezing. Use sanitizing wipes to wipe your seat, tray table and seatbelt before sitting down. Airplane engine noise can also be too loud for newborn ears. Consider baby earplugs or cotton balls for your infant's ears, especially during takeoff.
Most airlines allow you to fly with infants under the age of 2 in your lap, for free. The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that infants ride strapped in a car seat, which is the safest way to travel with your baby, although you will have to pay for a seat. You can still put your baby in your lap to feed, but having the car seat means you can keep him safe during major turbulence or in case an emergency occurs. Having a seat for your newborn also allows you to have your hands free and relax while your baby sleeps. Some airlines will offer discounted tickets for children under the age of 2.
Infant Traveling Essentials
Pack the important essentials in a baby bag that you will carry on to the plane. Pack at least two changes of clothing for your newborn and one diaper for every hour you will spend in the air. You should also pack an extra shirt for yourself in case your baby spits up on you or things get messy when you change his diaper in the restroom. Pack an entire package of wipes. If you are bottle feeding, whether with breast milk or formula, the Transportation Security Administration allows you to carry "reasonable" quantities of milk beyond 3.4 ounces, the standard for most other liquids. Pack as much as you believe your newborn will need for the flight. Bear in mind that your milk may be subject to testing by TSA agents when going through security. You should also pack a blanket and a hat to put on your infant's head, as airplanes can get cold. Toys are not necessary for your newborn, who will likely sleep during most of the flight.