Many parents are hesitant to take their newborn away from the comfort and familiarity of their home. They worry that baby won't cope well in a strange environment—that the unusual sights and sounds will distress him, that he'll fuss and cry if his routine is upset.
What they have yet to realize is that infants are excellent travelers – if, that is, you keep their point-of-view in mind.
Remember, your healthy newborn probably went for his first outing 24 to 48 hours after his birth, when he left the hospital. There's no reason he can't continue to see the world, barring any special instructions from your pediatrician.
And these days, it's easier than ever to do just that.
Whether you're heading around the corner or across the country it's possible to bring everything to ensure your baby's comfort and security. Key items in this regard include a safe and convenient car seat, stroller and carrier. For your own peace of mind, don't get caught short on diapers, extra clothes or favorite toys when you're away from home.
When you're taking any public transportation—planes, trains, buses or boats—your best bet is to travel during off-peak times. Riding during rush hour can be a nightmare if you don't have space to spread out baby's things or have to endure steely looks from other passengers while you try to keep a fussy baby entertained. The best hours are often early in the morning, which may work well with baby's early-riser schedule, but some parents swear by traveling at night so that baby can sleep through a lot of the hassle. Give yourself extra time when you travel with an infant or young child. Try to keep to baby's regular schedule as much as possible, and be aware of overstimulation. When irritability sets in, slow down, back off, and try to spend some quiet time together.
Closer to Home
You can take your newborn to the park, the supermarket, or to grandma's house, but you're wise to avoid crowded places at the peak of flu and cold season. If you have friends or relatives who have a contagious illness, wait until they're better to visit—especially important until your baby is a month old.
If visitors are coming to your house, politely ask them to wash their hands before they hold your baby. Also, ask them not to touch your baby's hands at all, as any germs on his hands will almost certainly end up in his mouth. Let young children touch your baby's feet or legs instead of his hands or face. If friends or friendly strangers on the street reach for your newborn's fingers, simply clean your baby's hands with a diaper wipe.
Remember to wash your own hands often, especially if you have older children, whose germs you may be carrying. Good hand washing on your part is the best way to see that neither you nor baby brings an illness home with you.
Wherever you travel, remember to always bring your baby's health card and immunization record along in case you need medical attention while on the road. If your child has a complex medical problem, take along a summary, which your child's primary care provider can provide. Bon Voyage!
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.