Q&A: When Can Baby Fly?

Q. When can we take our baby on an airplane to go see Grandma?

A. An airplane is no place for a newborn. Many planes use recirculated air, which means that if one person has a cold, his germs are broadcast throughout the plane by the ventilation system. That's no problem for adults, whose mature immune systems can fight off germs. But an infant's immune system is no match for some of the viruses and bacteria that float around on airplanes and in airports. If Grandma can't come to you, wait until your baby is at least 2 months old--and preferably 4-6 months old--before taking a flight.

When you do take the baby up into the friendly skies, buy her a seat. Airlines allow babies and young children to ride on a parent's lap for no fee, but that's not a safe place for them if the plane hits turbulence or has to make an emergency landing. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), parents should secure children in an "appropriate restraint." Most car seats fit the bill.

Before you fly, check your car seat for a label that identifies it as certified for use in planes. If there is no label, look at the seat's instructions or contact the manufacturer. A car seat should fit into most airplane seats if the car seat is no wider than 16 inches. If you have questions about whether your car seat will fit, call the airline and ask.

If you're feeling queasy about the idea of spending a whole lot of money on an airline ticket for a baby, ask your airline for a discounted fare. Many airlines offer discounts of up to 50 percent for children under age 2.

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