Traveling safely with a baby requires more care and consideration than going solo. A lot more care, and a lot more consideration, in fact. Follow these tips to keep your little one in good spirits and health on any kind of journey. Learn how to prevent injuries with the advice from the personal injury attorneys at The Levin Firm.
Step One: Consider Your Baby’s Age
If possible, you may want to avoid traveling with your baby until at least six weeks of age. At six weeks old, your baby should receive a first round of important vaccinations. By around two to three months of life, a baby has begun to develop an immune system sufficient to defend against common viruses and bacteria. If you must travel with a baby before these ages, then you may need to take extra precautions to safeguard your baby’s health. You might also need to take some travel options off the table because they would pose an unacceptably high risk of exposing your baby to illness or discomfort.
Step Two: Plan Well Ahead
As a parent of a newborn, you have probably already figured out the necessity of planning ahead. Even a trip to the grocery store might require packing a diaper bag with the essentials, just in case. So, as you might imagine, planning for any sort of longer trip with an infant requires significant foresight. Leave yourself plenty of time to:
Plan Your Packing List
Babies require a lot of stuff for even a simple trip out of the house. A longer one, especially one that requires traveling by plane, will require even more extensive preparation. Make sure you consider:
Where will your baby sleep? Your infant needs a safe sleep space once you reach your destination. If you bed-share with your baby at home, then you may have the ability to do the same at your destination. On the other hand, if you do not bed-share at home, then a trip is usually not a good time to give it a try.
Instead, plan for your baby to have a sleep space that allows for safe sleep, meaning:
- Sleeping on the baby’s back;
- No pillows or fluffy blankets (swaddling is fine);
- A flat, firm surface; and
- No cords or other items dangling into the sleeping space.
If you use a travel crib or play yard while traveling, make sure it gets cleaned properly before your child uses it. If someone offers in advance to make a crib available to you at your destination, get the details about it to make sure it is safe. As a backup, bring safe sleep materials or plan to purchase them at your destination, in case your travel destination does not provide them. Never plan to have a baby sleep overnight in a car seat.
As you think about safe sleep, remember that travel can disrupt your own and your baby’s schedule and routine. If you plan to drink, even one drink, do not take your baby to bed with you. Alcohol can make you sleep more deeply, which could pose a danger to your baby. Instead, make sure you have a safe space for your baby to sleep away from you on any night when you plan to consume alcohol.
How will you keep your baby safe in cars and on planes? If you plan to use a car at any point in your vacation, including a taxi or shuttle from the airport to your destination, you need a safe car seat. While some taxis in some locations can provide a car seat on request, you should not assume that the taxi you use will make this amenity available to you. Any time you travel with a child who needs a car seat, consider taking one along with you.
How will your baby eat? Breastfeeding allows a mom to bring along all the food a baby needs wherever she goes. If you do not breastfeed or your baby must travel without mom, however, you may need to make alternative feeding arrangements. If the baby uses a specialized formula, make sure you take plenty with you for the trip. Check the latest airline regulations to learn what you can and cannot take on the plane. Plan to bring sufficient formula or breast milk. While these may not need to follow the usual restrictions for liquids on airplanes, you will need to declare the liquid items and get them screened appropriately.
How will you transport your baby while out and about at your destination? Consider what you plan to do while on your trip. If you plan to spend a lot of time out walking, including time in museums, parks, and zoos, you will need a means of transporting your baby safely. If you need to travel by bus or subway regularly, a smaller stroller or carrier may make travel easier. If, on the other hand, you will primarily use a personal vehicle to get around at your destination, you may opt for a larger stroller and the convenience it allows of transporting everything the baby needs for a day. A baby carrier, including a wrap, sling, or soft structured carrier, can make it easier to keep your baby close at hand no matter where your travels take you.
Will you have laundry facilities? If you will have laundry facilities available at your destination, then you do not have to worry about having an adequate supply of clothing and blankets to make it all the way through your trip (though you should still plan to bring, or purchase, your preferred detergent, particularly if your baby has sensitive skin). On the other hand, if you will not have access to laundry facilities (or if laundry services will cost an arm-and-a-leg), then you may need to evaluate exactly how many sleepers, onesies, and outfits your little one will need for your trip.
Examine Your Itinerary
Traveling with a baby may mean sticking to a tighter schedule than traveling on your own. Unlike adults, infants often need to stay on a relatively strict sleep schedule if you want to avoid making the trip miserable for everyone (baby included). In addition, you may need to take a few extra steps to help keep your baby safe at your destination.
If you plan to stay with family, is the location baby-proofed? Some parents may prefer staying in a hotel room or condo, which they can more easily baby-proof, to staying with a family member who will not take adequate steps to protect every member of your family.
- Excess clutter
- Unprotected outlets
- Stairs that could prove a danger
- Cords from blinds or electronics
- Household pets
If you do not plan to stay with family, does your hotel or other destination have suitable accommodations for an infant? Ask about the availability of travel cribs and how the hotel cleans those cribs between uses. Take a look at the hotel room online. Will your little one have room to get down on the floor and play? While you can get by in a small space for a short-term trip, on a longer vacation or trip, you may want to make sure you have enough space to allow your little one some room to crawl around and explore safely.
What accommodations do your travel locations offer for little ones and their families? In some locations, for example, you may find easy access to changing tables, breastfeeding rooms, and quiet spaces where a caregiver can get away with the baby to calm down for a few minutes. In others, you may not have access to those accommodations, which means you may need to plan ahead for locations to change your baby’s diaper or for a quiet, reasonably private place to breastfeed or pump.
How many people do you anticipate at your destination? When you have a young child whose immune system has not yet developed to adult level, crowds of people can translate into high risk for potentially serious illness. Wearing your little one in a carrier can help you keep your baby close and away from unwanted germs.
Think about your baby’s schedule. As you plan for your trip, think through your baby’s schedule—and personality. Some babies will sleep anywhere, especially if you can wear them in a carrier or cuddle them close. Other babies need to sleep in a quiet room, undisturbed by excess stimuli. While some babies will settle right down even if you keep the baby out past bedtime, others may need to get back to your hotel or other accommodations as close to bedtime as possible. Match your trip schedule to your baby’s schedule at home as much as possible. While a little lost sleep or a meltdown in the middle of the day will not pose undue danger to you or your baby, it could leave you feeling stressed and unable to fully enjoy the trip, not to mention making it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep each night.
Step Three: Evaluate Potential Risks
Before you travel with your baby, research the area where you plan to travel to and consider any known or potential risks. Of course, you cannot eliminate risks entirely. However, it helps to get a feel for the area and its most common hazards so that you can keep your baby as safe as possible. Obviously, avoid any areas where kidnapping poses a substantial risk if at all possible.
Even in safer areas, keep the following potential risk factors in mind:
- Can you expect weather-related difficulties? Make sure to plan for how you will protect your baby from the elements, and have an emergency evacuation plan in place if you need to get out harm’s way from a natural disaster.
- Does your destination have any known illnesses? With a baby, in particular, you should take precautions to avoid infection from localized illnesses. Take stock of relatives’ health when visiting family before allowing them to spend time with your baby. Encourage family members not to kiss the baby’s face or hands, no matter how tempting, especially with suspicion of illness. In the event of an outbreak of disease in your destination, consider canceling your trip.
- Will you need to spend a great deal of time in the car? Very young infants should not spend excessive amounts of time in their car seats. Make sure you stop regularly, even if your baby sleeps well during the journey.
Step Four: Travel with Care and Attention
Once you head out on your trip, follow some of these tips to help keep your baby safe.
Ask “Who has the baby?” Parents on a break from their day-to-day routine can experience lapses of attention. Impossible as it may sound, they have been known to forget a baby in a stroller at a restaurant, or to lose track of which friend, or friend-of-friend, is holding the baby. Get into the habit of asking your travel companions “Who has the baby?” even when the answer is obvious, for extra protection against feeling scatterbrained leading to tragedy.
- Keep track of your diaper bag, too. Ditto for your diaper bag. You cannot ask “Who has the diaper bag?” enough. Also, make sure only people you know and trust handle the diaper bag, and do not store your valuables in it.
- Do not allow strangers to take photos of your baby. While many may do so with the best of intentions, you still want to avoid potential threats. It is never ok for someone to photograph your child without your express permission.
- Choose your baby’s food carefully. Young infants may need to have their bottles made with bottled water, rather than water straight out of the tap, while traveling. Water in different locales may contain minerals that upset your baby’s stomach. Also, carefully monitor your baby for any potential allergies when trying new foods. Do not give your baby foods that could pose choking risks.
Many of our clients travel regularly with their families, including babies and small children. While you cannot remove every risk, the tips above can alleviate many of the potential dangers and keep both you and your baby safer during your trip.