Babies and airplanes
Sharon Novy, MD, is a Gilbert pediatrician with privileges at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: My family is taking a plane trip soon. Is it safe to travel with my baby on my lap?
Answer: The safest place for a child regardless of age is in a Child Restraint System (CRS) or car seat. Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children travel in an FAA approved CRS until they weigh 40 pounds. Also, using the car seat onboard prevents it from being lost or delayed in checked luggage.
To ensure the best experience when you travel with young children, follow these guidelines:
- Make sure the car seat has a sticker that says it is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.
- Purchase a ticket for your child to ensure he or she has a seat where the car seat can be installed. If not purchasing a ticket, try to fly during off-peak dates and ask the airline if there is an empty seat where you can install the car seat to restrain your child. Remember, in these days of full flights, this is an unlikely scenario.
- Install the car seat the same way you would in your vehicle. If your child weighs:
- Less than 20 pounds, use a rear-facing infant car seat.
- Between 20-40 pounds, use a forward-facing car seat.
- More than 40 pounds, this child can use the airline seatbelt and the car seat can be checked with your luggage.
- If your child is awake during takeoff and landing, give him or her a beverage or something to suck on. This helps their ears pop easily and reduces discomfort.
- Have some small toys or snacks in your bag to amuse children during flight.
- After the trip, your car seat is now with you to install in the vehicle you are using at your destination. This eliminates the need to rent a car seat that may be very old and/or doesn’t fit your child well.