"We started traveling by plane with our son, Luke, when he was 3 months old. By the time he was 12 months, he had flown from Alaska to Taos, New Mexico; Kalispell, Montana; Portland, Oregon; Cleveland, Ohio; Seattle, Washington; Annapolis, Maryland; and Hawaii," said Gretchen Colonius, who currently lives near Seattle.
While most parents won't be traveling with their young babies quite as much as Colonius did, the need or desire to travel will arise occasionally. However, it's a good idea to wait until the baby's at least 1 month old. "Young infants under 1 month of age are real susceptible to viruses," says Dr. Sarah Wright, a pediatrician at the Salem Pediatric Clinic in Salem, Oregon.
According to Dr. Wright, these babies are at a greater risk of exposure during air travel, where there are so many strangers in such tight quarters. However, even after passing that 5-week milestone, traveling with any baby who's less than 6 months old can be quite challenging, especially if there are other kids involved.
"I would advise other moms to travel with another adult when at all possible," says Daniela Ball, a 31-year-old mother of two from Keizer, Oregon. "This prevents you from stumbling around with all the baggage piled up on you, a baby in one arm, and another child clinging to your one free hand."
Being prepared, both mentally and physically, is important. Carma Shoemaker, mother of three from Chester, Virginia, took a 12-hour car trip alone with her oldest son when he was only 4 months old. "I began preparing for the trip a few days before," says Shoemaker. "I made a list of what I knew I would need as well as what I may need in an emergency or other situation.
Babies will get fussy being strapped in their car seats for too long. The amount of time they'll tolerate traveling depends on the baby. Dr. Wright suggests breaking your schedule into smaller pieces, taking breaks every one to two hours, or more often if necessary.
"As I was still breastfeeding my son, I planned stops for gas, food, drink, etc., to go along with his feeding schedule. This helped cut down both the stress and the travel time," says Shoemaker. One piece of advice for breastfeeding mothers that was repeated by those who've been there: Bring plenty of water and snacks for yourself. "It helps keep your mood, energy and alertness going," said Shoemaker.
"Normally I recommend either to breastfeed, bottle-feed or offer a pacifier during takeoff and landing," says Dr. Wright. She explains that this eases the pressure on your baby's ears, ensuring a much more pleasant trip for your baby and all the other passengers.
Also, keep in mind that what might be appropriate for adults and older children is not necessarily a good idea for young babies. When asked about giving a decongestant to help relieve the pressure in a baby's ears, Dr. Wright said, "I recommend you don't use decongestants for infants under 6 months. You should try to avoid those medications, even during a normal cold."
Oh, and don't forget the joys of a mid-flight diaper change. Colonius advises setting a blanket on the floor of the bulkhead or the galley area. "Don't let the attendants or other passengers give you a guilt trip for taking care of the toileting needs of your child while on the plane," she says. "Be as fast and efficient as possible, and put the diaper in a barf bag before disposing."
"Activities for young babies are easy — nurse, sleep, look at your face or your husband's or the nice lady next to you," says Colonius. "As they get older, more novel activities are nice. Toys on strings for easy retrieval as they experiment with gravity again and again and, yes, again."
Finally, Ball suggests you not forget about your own needs. "Last, but not least, tuck in a book or magazine for yourself in the hopes that you will find a golden moment to sit back, read and sip your refreshment while the kids nap."
Well, you can always dream, right?
Once you finally arrive at your destination, both you and baby will probably be ready for some well-deserved rest. Make that happen by booking a family-friendly hotel. Embassy Suites Hotels offer all the comforts of home that are a necessity when traveling with a baby. At their locations, you'll find microwaves, fridges and sinks for heating up, storing and washing bottles, and two-room suites with separate bedrooms and living spaces for the crib, making nap times easily undisturbed. For winding down after a long day of travel (and powering up before dinner), all of the hotel chain’s properties host a nightly evening reception with complimentary drinks* and snacks. Each morning, breakfast is free and made-to-order, just the way you like, to get you started right for the day ahead.
*Service of alcohol subject to state and local laws. Must be of legal drinking age.
This post was sponsored by Embassy Suites Hotels.
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