How to travel with a newborn baby

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LIBBY MATTHEWS/INSTAGRAM

The challenges of travelling with a new baby are worth it

With Jacinda Ardern set to make history by becoming the first New Zealand leader to give birth while in office – and the second in the world – we thought we’d cut her a bit of slack and do the homework for her on how to travel with a newborn.

With such jetsetting parents, it’s probably best the little tyke gets its training flying wheels asap. For the sake of both the new parents and the New Zealand flying public.

Fortunately, the consensus seems to be that, while flying with a newborn can be hard, it’s certainly doable. And with a few handy baby travel hacks, it can actually be not unpleasant.

“As with all new parenting activities, there will be a lot of learning that takes place when first travelling with a baby or infant,” Plunket national adviser for child safety, Sue Campbell, says.

“When travelling with a newborn it’s about being prepared for all eventualities and to take more stuff than not enough stuff.”

It’s important to check the airlines’ information on flying with infants before you set out so you know what to expect, she says.

Air New Zealand and Jetstar, for example, both allow under twos to travel on domestic flights for free, but they must be held by an accompanying adult. If you want your baby to have its own seat, you must pay 75 per cent of the adult fare on Air New Zealand flights and full price on Jetstar services.

On international flights, infants sharing an adult’s seat pay 10 per cent of the adult fare with Air New Zealand, while Jetstar charges an infant fee of $50. With both airlines, each adult can only have one kid on their lap.

If you’d like a seat with a bassinet or want to bring a car seat to put baby in, it pays to book an advance as these are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Car seats will also need to meet airline specifications.

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If possible, request an aisle seat when booking as it will make life a whole lot easier when you need to walk baby up and down the aisle to soothe it or get it to sleep, or use the bathroom. Some parents prefer to be seated next to the bathrooms.

Once you’re on your way, Plunket recommends allowing a lot more time for everything than usual as “it takes longer to achieve anything with babies in tow”.

Libby Matthews, a naturopath and co-owner of blog Julia and Libby, knows better than most how hard travelling with a new baby can be. She flew from South Africa to New Zealand and back – a nearly 50-hour return journey – with her daughter Max when she was just two months old and repeated the experience three months later.

While she describes travelling with such a small baby as “a challenge to say the least”, she says “it shouldn’t stop you from seeing the world.

“One of the benefits of travelling when they are that young is that newborns aren’t running around yet and spend a lot of their time sleeping, which can make things easier… With a little bit of planning you can give yourself the best chance of surviving with your sanity intact at the other end.”

Libby’s sanity survived being stuck in an airport hotel for three days with no baby supplies and no car seat to taxi or uber anywhere after a connecting flight was cancelled, so we’re pretty sure Jacinda – and indeed any new parent – can handle almost anything air travel throws their way.

One of Libby’s top tips would be to pack enough clothes for yourself in case – or more likely for when – baby’s food, poo, vomit or all three end up on you. And make sure none of your tops are white.

“I made the mistake of not taking a spare change for myself and spent a 17-hour plane trip covered in baby spew.”

Baby, she says, requires at least three or four changes of clothes.

“You can never be too prepared for the explosions that may occur. I like to use footed onesies that have a zip so they are easy to get on and off and your baby will stay warm and comfortable.”

A front pack can also be a godsend, she says as it makes carrying your baby while hauling luggage far easier. A drink bottle, which you can keep refilling on the plane, is essential.

“If you are breastfeeding, you need to stay well hydrated and even more so when flying as it can be so dehydrating. During long-haul flights, you are often only offered small cups of water, which isn’t enough.”

High-protein snacks are also helpful if you’re breastfeeding and need to keep your milk supply up, she says.

More tips from Plunket on flying with a newborn 

– Air New Zealand will allow parents to place the child’s car seat in the luggage compartment at no cost

– As airplane bathrooms are small, pack a bag with just one nappy, a few wipes and a perfumed nappy sack (and rash cream if needed) and place it in the seat pocket in front of you. Ask an assistant where they prefer you to make the change and accept any help offered.

– Feed your baby on ascent and descent as sucking helps to unblock ears.

– Give your baby plenty of fluids.

– Take your own baby food, bowl and utensils for an infant, as well as disposable bibs.

– Carry bottles of pre-boiled water and small containers with milk powder or a single feed already measured. Make up the bottle and ask the flight attendant to warm it well in advance of when you need them. It could take time.

– Always test the temperature of bottles or food before giving to your baby.

– Have activities for your infant, such as books and toys.

– Take extras to eat and be prepared to walk up and down aisles.

– Try to stick as much as possible to your baby’s “go to sleep” routine.

– Hire items such as a stroller, cot and high chair rather than cart your own.

– All children require a passport when travelling overseas and parents should check with their GP if immunisations are needed.

Do you have any travel tips for new parents? Share them in the comments.