This post is also available in: Svenska
Traveling abroad with an infant requires some thought. Here you can read about flying with a baby, what vaccines are needed and what to prepare for the holiday.
Do not plan any long trips before your baby is born,
A good idea is to wait until the baby is born, and you have settled into parenthood to plan any long trips. 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, be close to home, and close to safe medical care.
If you have family in other countries – invite 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 absolutely important. But what about suggesting that they come and visit instead? Some people have really good relationships with their in-laws or parents that they would like to have them living with them. Many (if not most, I think) find it a bit exhausting. If this resonates with you, then ask your relatives to arrange other accommodation. Maybe help them if you want. Talk to your partner about how you want it arranged and be clear about it with the family!
When your family has found stability
The time it takes for a new family to find stability and routines in everyday life, varies dramamtically. 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 with the feeding and sleeping routines working reasonably well, you can start planning your trip. Then, there are some things to keep in mind when traveling abroad with infants.
Small, unvaccinated children are particularly susceptible to infections. Measles epidemics are raging in many parts of Europe and the measles vaccination is only given to children at the age of 18 months at children’s medical centres. 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.
Whooping cough can be fatal, even with modern hospital care for children under 2-3 months. 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 give an earlier vaccination program with vaccine dose at 6, 10 and 14 weeks before the planned trip abroad.
RS virus on the plane
Common cold viruses, such as RS viruses and others, as well as the flu, can very well be transmitted more easily in a plane than when you are at home. Think twice before flying with a child under the age of three months during the RS virus season.
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.
The greater the risk of being stung by mosquitoes, the greater the risk of getting malaria. In a tourist hotel in a city, the risk is generally less than if you stayed in the rural areas near wetlands.
If you choose to go to a malaria-affected area with a small child – make sure you protect the child from mosquito bites. Mosquito nets impregnated with insect repellent are the best protection. Also consider giving your 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 without having a significant cold during the year after you have been in a malaria-affected area, seek emergency care for children 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 vaccination agency.
Airplane and ears
At take-off and landing the ear pressure changes can cause the baby to whine. Let them suck on a pacifier, or a pacifier bottle during take-off and landing. Unfortunately breastfeeding is not possible as the flight staff checks that the baby is sitting facing forward in your lap. I know this because I have tried.
Food and waterborne infections
If your child drinks formula, make sure you know that there is clean water available at the destination to prepare the mixture. If you go to a developing country with poor hygienic standards – bring ready-made 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 illness.
If you are going to a tourist area or big city, it is very likely that both diapers and formula are easy to get hold of.
Sun and warmth
It is wonderful to travel to the sun, especially to escape the cold, dark winter in Sweden. 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.
What is the quality of healthcare at the destination?
Infants are at greater risk of needing medical care, especially with infections, than older children and adults. Check what opportunities there are for healthcare at the destination. Remember that the baby must be insured for medical care and home transport. Within the EU, the baby needs its own health insurance card.