When Can You Fly With a Baby?

The Ins and Outs of Flying With a Baby

Flying with a baby isn't something most parents look forward to doing, but sometimes it's necessary. How young is too young to fly? There's no magical age when your newborn is clear to fly, but it's important to understand the potential risks and safety precautions to keep your newest family member as safe as possible.

Minimum Age for a Baby to Fly

mother with two kids travel by plane

How Long After Birth Can a Newborn Baby Fly?

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Your doctor may recommend that you wait a few weeks or even a month before taking your newborn on a plane. Some airlines may have a minimum age, but most allow newborns to fly. If your baby has health issues or is born prematurely, get advice from your pediatrician as to when it's safe to fly with your little one.

Risks of Flying With a Newborn

Why should you consider holding off on a flight with a newborn? It's not so much about the altitude or air pressure, although your newborn may have ear issues on the flight. It's more about the quality of the air paired with your newborn's immature immune system.

When you travel via air, you come into contact with a lot of germs. Most airplanes use a mix of fresh and recycled air with good filtration, so you shouldn't have to worry too much about germs being circulated. But the airport is full of germs and well-intentioned people who want to touch your adorable little baby. That, paired with the germ-covered surfaces you touch, means your baby may be exposed. You may be able to fend off those germs, but your newborn doesn't have a strong immune system yet and may end up getting sick. Cut down on germs as much as possible by washing your hands frequently and wiping down armrests, trays and other hard surfaces on the plane with an antibacterial wipe.

Another consideration is your physical condition shortly after giving birth. You're likely exhausted and still recovering from the delivery. Hopping on a plane with a newborn during your postpartum recovery can leave you worn down and overwhelmed.

How Should Your Baby Fly?

mother with two kids travel by plane

The Safety of Baby Bunting Bags

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Kids under 2 years old can fly for free on most airlines if they sit in a parent's lap. And while the lower cost is tempting, experts warn it's not the safest option for your baby. Instead, pay the extra money to get your baby her own seat to keep her safe. If the flight isn't full and you didn't buy your baby a seat, check with airline staff to see if you can use one of the empty seats for her.

Tips for Flying With a Baby

Ready to take your first flight with your baby? It doesn't have to be scary. Use these tips to make the process easier:

  • Check with your airline before flying with a newborn. Some carriers have a minimum age or require medical forms for newborns. For example, American Airlines allows babies 2 days and older, but you need a medical form for a baby less than 7 days old. Southwest Airlines requires a medical release for babies under 14 days.
  • Pack your diaper bag with everything you need, including diapers, wipes, food and a change of clothes. Breast milk and formula are not prohibited under the liquid restrictions for carry-on items, so you can bring enough food through security to keep your baby full throughout your travel.
  • Feed your baby before boarding the plane if possible. He's more likely to fall asleep, and you may get lucky and avoid being that person with the crying baby. 
  • Give your baby a pacifier during altitude changes to reduce his ear pain. If your baby doesn't eat before boarding, you can feed him when the plane is climbing or descending for the same effect.