Why You Shouldn't Book Travel for Babies Before They Are Born
Day 16. Today is Baby S's 16th day living on this planet (outside of my stomach anyway), and we are doing our best to adjust to life as a family of four and finding our "new normal". In some ways it has thus far been a little easier than expected, in other ways it is about what I expected, and then, of course, there have been a few "surprises" along the way that have been more challenging. Having to undergo an emergency c-section would certainly go under the "unexpected surprises" category. Blogging with one hand while nursing at 3AM falls under the "about what I expected category"... sorry for any and all typos!
Seriously though, overall things have gone pretty well - she THANK GOD doesn't thus far have the extreme tummy issues that my first daughter did, but she does deal with her own toned down version of maybe reflux/maybe colic/maybe old-fashioned newborn tummy issues. That has meant some 3-4 hour crying sessions, mostly at nights or in the evening, and me being covered with my own milk in various stages of digestion a little more frequently than I would prefer.
I give those details not because I think most of you really want a play-by-play of my 16 day old baby's routine and digestive habits, but to give context to the rest of the post.
In terms of travel, the last 16 days have very much reinforced for me something that I already believed, but didn't 100% live by this time around. That is, unless you are making fully refundable reservations, I do not recommend booking travel for you and your newborn before the baby is born. Yes, this is a family travel site, and yes I firmly believed children can and should travel, but if you book travel for your newborn before they are here you are rolling the dice and hoping for luck to be on your side - at least for the first three months or so.
Technically most US airlines will allow you to fly with your baby once they are at least a week old, but outside of very extenuating circumstances I would not take them up on that offer. Here's why..
You May Have a More Complicated Delivery than Anticipated
Within a week or so of having my first daughter the old fashioned way five years ago I was pretty much 100% healed, not taking any pain meds, and even wearing many of my old clothes again. Naively, I thought I would be that lucky again (perhaps minus having my old clothes fit). However, things can change quickly in the world of labor and delivery, and we went from being very close to delivering baby #2 naturally, only to be wheeled into the OR for surgery. Among other things, that meant a much more involved recovery process since C-sections are a pretty major surgery. The odds of needing a C-section after you have had a routine delivery are pretty low, but obviously it can and does happen without advance warning.
Your Baby May Have Special Needs or Require Time in the NICU
Just like the mom may come out of delivery needing some additional recovery time, the baby may also end up with some unexpected special issues that can't be known ahead of time. As I have talked about before, this was our situation when Little C was born and had to be life-flighted and re-admitted to the NICU at 3 or 4 days old. She had a normal delivery and was born a seemingly healthy baby, but within a couple days had developed some issues that required medical attention. Just like how things can change quickly in labor and delivery, things can change very quickly for a very young infant.
Your Baby Just Isn't Easy
Even if you and your newborn don't have any special medical needs, there are a million ways in which caring for a newborn can be more of a challenge than you expect. Some common challenges are going to be sleep issues and feeding/reflux issues. These aren't life threatening, but my idea of fun does not include traveling when I'm dead tired from being up half the night and then having to deal with constant spit-up and a fussy baby away from home and my washing machine. Having to worry about bothering other hotel guests with a baby screaming at night or in a confined space like an airplane isn't exactly ideal either.
You may have one of those mythical "easy babies" that falls right into a routine, keeps most of their meal firmly in their stomach, and cries only when they need something you can promptly provide, but you might not. I've never had one of those babies and you won't know your baby's temperament until they are here.
We didn't travel with my first daughter until we had almost survived the entire first year of her life, but with baby #2 we had a trip booked for about a month after her due date, largely for work-ish obligations. I knew it might not be easy, but since I had 5.5 years of battle-hardened parenting experience under my belt I figured we could hopefully make it work. Wrong.
A combination of going a bit over my due date, having to have surgery that won't be totally healed by our travel date (which means I can't do the main activity at the destination - swimming), and having a baby that is having some trouble keeping meals in her belly and not having long crying spells, means that the trip doesn't make sense. In fact, it would kind of be a recipe for disaster.
Since I didn't follow my own advice, we now have the privilege of paying change fees for the flights that weren't booked using miles and delaying the trip until things are hopefully a bit more settled and everyone is recovered. I'm not too stressed about this since I knew it was a gamble to commit to the trip in the first place, but hopefully you can avoid some wasted money by not booking trips for the first three months or so of your little one's life until after they are safely born and you have a feel for how things are going.
The last thing you need when caring for an infant is the additional stress of trying to figure out how you are going to make a "vacation" work before everyone is settled into their new normal.