Can I make a transatlantic trip with my seven-week-old?

I live in India. Can I travel to the U.S. when my baby is seven weeks old? Are there health or other implications for the baby?

Question:

It is generally accepted that full-term, well-born infants are cleared for air travel after their two-week checkup, so you should be good to go! Young infants are usually excellent travelers. Check with your baby’s local healthcare provider before the trip to address any concerns she may have.

Babies are susceptible to the same health- and time-change challenges that older humans face when traveling. A frequently mentioned health concern is the quality of the recycled air on planes. Newer, larger crafts should have the best air filtration systems. The possibility of being exposed to viruses does exist on airplanes, as it does whenever you are in an air-conditioned public gathering space. Breastfeeding provides the best boost for your baby’s immune system.

Make it easier

There are a number of things you can do to minimize traveling annoyances. Book your reservations early. Be sure to state the age of your baby, and ask what amenities your carrier provides. International flights tend to be more accommodating to travel with infants than short domestic flights. Most will seat you with a bulkhead bassinet, which doubles as an easy changing area, although many large aircraft also have a designated rest room with a changing table.

Nonstop flights make life easier. You have only one boarding ritual, one takeoff, one landing. You have more time to relax and rest. Night flights are easier for the cabin crew (everyone is asleep), and attendants have more free time to help you -- for example, walking a baby while you nap. Off-peak flights mean fewer passengers, more room and attention for you.

Babies have smaller Eustachian tubes than adults do, so even minor stuffiness can cause them discomfort or pain with pressure changes. Takeoff may bother them, but usually the problem occurs with descent. Feeding during takeoff and landing is recommended because swallowing helps equalize ear pressure. When the crew begins preparing the cabin for arrival, start feeding your baby or at least offer a pacifier.

Air travel is dehydrating, so feed your baby frequently. Wiping his face with a moist wash cloth may also be helpful. Drying of the membranes in the mouth and ear can contribute to problems with ear pressure.

What to do when you arrive

If you are nursing, avoid or limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption in flight as both are dehydrating and can affect your milk supply. Stress and exhaustion will also reduce your milk supply, so take it easy and enjoy the flight. Drink lots of water, eat lots of snacks and take lots of naps.

If you are bottle-feeding, bring enough formula to cover the trip and half-again as much (or twice as much) to cover unexpected delays. If possible, bring ready-to-feed bottles to make the trip easier for you and to avoid changes in the water. If you bring powdered formula, premeasure it and ask for bottled water to mix it. It is not necessary to warm a bottle.

Some babies may experience gas pains, particularly during ascent. There is nothing to prevent or cure this. Just be comforting.

When you arrive, continue to feed your baby on demand or on the schedule he has adopted. Keep a watch set on your home time to help remind you what he is expecting. If you are in the U.S. for more than a few days, he will eventually adapt to the time change. Be patient. For most people, going from west to east is more disturbing to body rhythms than east/west travel.

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