While undertaking a journey with a baby, a lot of factors must be considered. In this situation, he consulting neonatologist/pediatrician plays an important role in preparing the families, especially for long distance travel, international travel or in presence of any associated medical condition. Professional bodies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued few travel recommendations for the neonate as well as nursing mother.
Preparation for travel varies according to the mode of travel, destination and duration of travel.
- Make sure each passenger is buckled and that infants use the appropriate car safety seat. Safe driving precautions should be strictly followed.
- Car safety seat use is must for the young infants. All infants should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until the age of two years. Once your child has outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit, she should ride in a forward-facing car safety seat.
- All babies should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.
- Never place a rear-facing car safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an airbag.
- Babies often become restless or irritable when on a long road trip. Keep them occupied by bringing soft, bright coloured, lightweight toys and soothing music.
- Plan to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours.
- Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute. Temperatures inside the car can reach deadly levels in minutes, and the child can die of heat stroke.
- The current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that children less than 6 weeks of age should avoid air travel. Few ear problems like middle ear infections/effusions and certain recent ear related surgical procedures have traditionally been considered relative contraindications to air travel for 2 weeks after surgery.
- Arrange to have a car safety seat at your destination or bring your own along. Airlines will typically allow families to bring a child’s car safety seat as an extra luggage item with no additional luggage expense.
- When travelling on an aeroplane, a child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child. The car safety seat should have a label noting that it is Federal Airlines Administration (FAA) -approved.
- Although the FAA allows children under age two years to be held on an adult’s lap, the AAP recommends that families explore options to ensure that each child has her own seat. If it is not feasible to purchase a ticket for a small child, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats where your child could ride buckled in her car safety seat.
- In order to decrease ear pain during descent, encourage your baby to nurse or suck on a bottle.
- Consult your paediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant who has chronic heart or lung problems or with upper or lower respiratory symptoms.
- Consult your paediatrician if flying within 2 weeks of an episode of an ear infection or ear surgery.
- If travelling internationally, check with your doctor to see whether your baby needs additional vaccines or preventive medications. Bring mosquito protection in countries/areas where mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria are present.
- In order to reduce jet lag, adjust your baby’s sleep schedule 2-3 days before departure. After arrival, children should be encouraged to be active outside or in brightly lit areas during daylight hours to promote adjustment.
Travel Health Kit:
Keeping in anticipation that baby may fall sick at any time, a readymade travel health kit should be an important part of travel bag. This includes a health information card mentioning significant medical/surgical history, blood group, any allergy-related information. It should also contain certain emergency medications to use at odd hours.
What should a travel health kit contain?
- Digital thermometer
- Adequate supply of ongoing prescription medications (if any) and copy of generic names
- Analgesics/antipyretics such as ibuprofen or paracetamol
- Diaper rash ointment
- Skin moisturizer / Topical antibiotic ointment
- Disinfectant solutions such as 10% povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine
- Saline nasal drops
Supplies such as diapers, baby wipes, trash bags to dispose of the diapers, extra clothes, feeding supplies, such as bottles, nipples, formula and paladi or spoon should also be kept.
Travel recommendations for a nursing mother:
Travel must not be a reason to stop breastfeeding. A mother travelling with her breastfeeding infant may find that nursing makes travel easier than it would have been with a bottle-fed infant. A mother travelling with her nursing infant less than six months of age need not make provisions to supplement breastfeeding, even when travelling internationally.
Breastfed infants do not require water supplementation, even in extreme heat environments. When accompanying their mothers, nursing infants and children may feed on demand. Expressed milk may be stored so that it may be used if the mother is not around to feed.
The most effective way to maintain a mother’s milk supply while travelling is to engage in frequent and unrestricted nursing opportunities. This is also the best way to meet the physical and emotional needs of the infant or child. Traveling mother may use a sling or other soft infant carrier, which may be used to
- Ease the burden of carrying a child for extended periods of time
- Increase opportunities for unrestricted nursing, effective in maintaining an abundant milk supply
- Maintain skin-to-skin contact with the child, which helps in maintaining a milk supply
- Protect the child from some environmental hazards
Bearing these key fundamentals in mind, the parents need not break their heads in providing the best care for the infant; a well-planned travel will take care of it. Sticking to these guidelines is as important as laying them down.
The author is (MBBS, DCH, DNB, FAGE)- Neonatology, Apollo Cradle.
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