Stuart J. Altman, MD, FAAPMyth:
Babies are too fragile to travel during the first six months.
Babies can handle a long car ride, train trip or flight just fine.
Adoptive parents bring home newborns from as far away as Asia with no problem, so don't feel you must wait until little Ruthie is a big girl before she visits her grandma out west.
As far as a vacation trip, feel free to include your baby, preferably after the first two months, when babies are susceptible to more serious infections.
Of course, travel with a baby imposes its own little hardships and special considerations. To make your travel experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, keep the following travel tips in mind:
Car trips Take breaks: If you're taking a long car trip, stop at least every three hours, or else you'll have a cranky, wet baby screaming in the back.
Watch out for flying objects: Make sure that your overloaded car has no loose objects that can hit the baby if you stop short.
Slow down: You're now entrusted with a very young and very precious life. Let that annoying guy get ahead of you, and if he cuts you off, let him go.
Keep her busy: Bring along your baby's favorite toys. Play her favorite CD. If you have a minivan with a VCR, let her watch her favorite cartoon --again.
Think of sleep time: Bring a portable crib; the motel may not have one.
Medications: If you're going somewhere that may not have your child's over-the-counter medicines, bring them with you.
Safety first: Don't forget that car seat!
FlyingReserve a separate seat: The safest way to fly with a child is to reserve a separate seat and put little Ruthie in her own car safety seat. As expensive as this may sound, it's the safest policy and will also make it more likely that she will sleep for part of the trip -- you may nap, too. Most airlines give a 50 percent discount on seats for children two years of age and under.
Here are some tips for making that airplane trip easier.
Food: Some airlines have baby meals, but call ahead to double-check your airline's policy. Bring along some baby food, drinks, and snacks, just in case.
Traveling without a spouse?: If only one parent is flying out of the country with a baby, many airlines require a notarized letter stating that both parents give permission for the infant to travel.
Diaper bag: Incorporate your diaper bag into your travel bag. Make sure you have extra diapers, wipes, toys and an extra shirt for you -- in case of spills.
Ear care: To prevent that annoying ear popping, let Ruthie drink something (or nurse) when the plane ascends and descends. Swallowing provides the same relief from pressure that adults get from chewing gum.
Fly at night: A night flight, if convenient, might ensure better sleep, for both you and your baby.
Before you and Ruthie head for Zanzibar, consider:
Current medications: Make sure you bring any medication that your baby regularly uses, or even medication that she uses on occasion. If she is a wheezer and requires a nebulizer, bring it with you, along with the medication that is used in the nebulizer. If she has a skin condition and uses a special ointment, bring that as well. If she gets frequent ear infections, you might want to ask your doctor to write a prescription for a medication that works well for her and that she takes without too much of a fight. That way you won't be at the mercy of an unfamiliar pharmacy.
Immunizations: Make sure that she's up to date on her regular immunizations, such as DTaP, polio, and so on. Diphtheria is still endemic in some areas, but three doses of DTaP will provide effective protection for your baby. Many countries have high rates of measles. If Ruthie is going to such a place, she will need an early measles vaccine (this is usually given after a year of age but can be given earlier if travel plans necessitate).
She would then need another measles vaccine at the usual time. There are some countries for which special immunizations are recommended and for which preventative medication is required. For example, a hepatitis A vaccine is recommended before traveling to certain underdeveloped countries. Other countries suggest malaria prophylaxis, others a typhoid vaccine. Such recommendations change depending upon what outbreaks are occurring at a particular time. How is one to know what is needed? The best policy is to get in touch with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), either through their web site's travel page (www.cdc.gov/travel) or by phone (888-232-3228), a few months before you travel, and then again within one month of travel.
Insect repellent: If you're off to a place with lots of creepy-crawlies, bring along an insect repellent with 20 to 30 percent DEET, the one effective insect repellent.
Sun protection: Pack a sunblock, with an SPF of at least 15.
Traveler's diarrhea: Travel to many countries involves a risk of traveler's diarrhea, a bacterial infection of the intestines. In such areas as Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia stick to bottled water and eat only fruits that can be peeled. Avoid salads and uncooked vegetables, as well as ice cubes, all of which may be contaminated. Your doctor may suggest a specific antibiotic (such as Bactrim or Septra) to treat the bacteria that cause traveler's diarrhea.
Passport: Yes, they have passports for babies.
Have a great (and safe) trip!