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Traveling abroad with an infant requires some thought. Read about how to prepare for a holiday, flying with a baby and what vaccines are required.
Do not plan any long trips before the baby is born
A wise idea is to hold off on planning trips until the baby is born and until you as parents have settled into parenthood. You simply do not know how you will feel, how your partner will feel, and how your baby will feel. A new family, or a family with a new member, needs time to see how they can cope with life together. During this time, it is good to be close to home and close to safe medical care.
Read more about the first weeks with your newborn
If you have family in other countries, ask them to visit
A common reason why you want to plan a trip abroad with babies is to meet your own, or your partner’s, family. This is important! But what about suggesting that they come and visit instead?
Some have such a great relationship with their in-laws or parents, that they would like to have the in-laws or parents living in the same home, as support. Many (if not most, I think) find it a bit awkward. If this is true for you, then ask your relatives to arrange other accommodation and help them find some if you want. Talk to your partner about how you want the visits to be arranged and be clear about it with the family!
When the family has found stability
It takes such different lengths of time before a new family has found stability and routines in everyday life. For some, it takes a couple of weeks. For others, it takes two to three years. For many, maybe two to three months. When you feel that everyday life is rolling on and the feeding and sleeping routines are working reasonably well, you can start planning your trip. At this stage, there are some things to keep in mind when traveling abroad with infants.
Young, unvaccinated children are particularly susceptible to infections. Measles epidemics are raging in many parts of Europe. Additionally, the measles vaccine is only given to children at the age of 18 months at children’s medical centers. So, if you are traveling to a country at risk of measles, your child should receive an extra dose of the vaccine before the trip. Before the age of 6 months, the vaccine has a very uncertain effect.
Read more about the MMR vaccine against measles
Measles outbreak in Europe – European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
Measles outbreak outside of Europe – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
You can find information about measles outbreaks in the United States and globally on US Infection Control Agency’s.
Whooping cough can be fatal for children under 2-3 months, even with modern hospital care. The first dose of vaccine which protects children from whooping cough is at three months of age, and the second dose at 5 months. You can be given an earlier vaccination regime with vaccine doses at 6, 10 and 14 weeks before the planned trip abroad.
Here you can see the whooping cough situation in Europe
Read more about whooping cough – symptoms, how it sounds, tests, treatments
RS virus on the plane
Common cold viruses, such as RS viruses etc., as well as the flu, can be transmitted more easily inside a plane than when you are at home. I think you should think twice before flying with a child under the age of three months during the RS virus season.
Read more about RS virus in babies
Malaria – fatal for young children
Malaria, which is transmitted through mosquito bites in warm countries, can be fatal to young children. The smaller the child, the more dangerous. Particularly feared is cerebral malaria, or malaria in the brain, which mainly affects children under the age of two.
Read current information about which countries have malaria risk at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC here.
The greater the risk of being stung by mosquitoes, the greater the risk of getting malaria. The risk is generally less in city tourist hotels than if you live in rural areas near wetlands.
If you choose to go to a malaria-affected area with a small child, make sure to protect the child from mosquito bites. Mosquito nets impregnated with insect repellent are the best protection. Also give the child malaria prophylaxis, i.e. preventive malaria treatment. You can get more information printed out at travel vaccination clinics.
If the child develops a high fever after you have been in a malaria-affected area, without having a significant cold during the year, seek emergency care for the child at a hospital and ask for a malaria test. The samples need to go directly to a laboratory for analysis, so it is difficult to test at a health center.
Other travel vaccinations for young children
Depending on the destination, it may also be recommended to take additional travel vaccinations. Check with a travel vaccination agency.
Airplane and ears
At take-off and landing the ear pressure changes can cause the baby discomfort. Let them suck on a pacifier, or a pacifier bottle at take-off and landing. Unfortunately breastfeeding is not possible. I would know. I’ve tried. The flight staff will check that the baby is sitting facing forward on your lap.
Food and waterborne infections
If your child drinks formula, make sure you can ascertain that there is clean water available at the destination. Clean water is crucial. If you go to a poor country with poor hygienic standard, bring ready-to-feed formula. Find a way to keep the baby bottles clean. If the water is not clean enough to use, boil the bottles after use. Otherwise the child is at risk of developing severe stomach illnesses.
If you are going to a tourist area or big city, it is very likely that both diapers and formulas are easy to get hold of.
Sun and warmth
It is wonderful to travel to the sunny destinations, especially to escape the cold, dark winter. Keep in mind, however, that the baby’s skin needs sun protection. Follow the daily rhythm of the locals and take a siesta during the day. Let children stay up longer in the evenings and instead enjoy the nice warm evenings outside together.
Read about sunblock and sun protection for babies here
Read more about sweaty babies in the heat – should you give them water?
What is the quality of healthcare at your destination?
Infants are at greater risk of needing medical care than older children and adults, especially with infections. Check your healthcare options at the destination before embarking. Remember that the baby must be insured for medical care and home transport. Within the EU, the baby needs their own health insurance card.
Your first weeks with your newborn
Measles – symptoms, spread, treatment
Triple vaccine, 18-month vaccine or MMR vaccine
Whooping cough – symptoms, how it sounds, tests and treatment
Sun block and sun protection for children
Babies sweat in hot weather – should you give them water?