BY CLAIRE BIENVENU JUL 2016
Recently, my husband and I took a 10-hour trip by car with our 2-month-old baby. Fortunately, our daughter did beautifully—except when we hit Atlanta traffic right before rush hour started! In preparing for the trip and while driving, our baby’s needs and her comfort were our top priorities. Below is a list of strategies that worked well for us.
Pack up the car the night before.
This includes baby gear, baby medicine kit, clothes and supplies, parents’ luggage, ice chest, etc. Pack a small bag for inside the car with diapers, extra clothes, receiving blankets, pacifiers, etc. And it goes without saying, never allow the baby to ride in the car except while in the infant car seat.
Leave in the middle of the night.
This will help you avoid heavy traffic and to keep your baby on schedule (after last feeding if your baby is sleeping through the night or after the night feeding that results in the longest sleep stretch if your baby is still waking at night). Try to stick to the baby’s schedule while traveling as much as possible for feedings, naps, and especially the evening ritual.
Pack a pump.
If you are nursing, pumping, and have introduced the bottle, use a manual pump or buy a car lighter adapter for your electric pump, and express milk on the road. This eliminates the need to keep milk cold and to warm it for feeding as it can stay at room temperature between feedings. A bottle can be given in the car, and stops can be shortened to burping and changing the baby during bathroom breaks while refueling the car.
Stop a lot.
Alternate abbreviated stops described above with longer stops that correlate to meal times for parents. By bringing an ice chest with supplies, we were able to picnic at rest stops while I nursed the baby. Allow time for the baby to stretch out and play on a mini gym.
Bring a little bit of home with you.
Bring familiar items that your baby enjoys—toys, mobile, blanket, and CD’s for use during the road trip and at the final destination.
Block the sun.
Use sun shields to keep any glares out of your baby’s eyes, and apply sunscreen as needed.
Keep baby busy.
Find ways to entertain your baby—place a crib mirror against the back seat; use links to hang toys and black and white images from a garment bar hung between the two rear doors, and change them as your baby gets bored; sing, play, and flirt with your baby.
Plan for some time in the backseat.
Plan for one person to spend at least part of the journey in the back seat with your baby to ease boredom with one-on-one interaction. (This is how we got through the rush hour traffic.)
Acclimate and relax.
Once you reach your destination or stop for the day if travel is over more than one day, bring the baby into the tub with you (at temperature appropriate for the baby) and soak for a long time to help with any soreness. I nursed the baby in the tub soaking. Follow the bath with a nice massage to help loosen the muscles. If recommended by your pediatrician, use some infant pain reliever as well.
Stay in tune with baby.
Realize that your baby may be a little out of sorts the day after traveling, and give her some extra love and comforting. Relatives will be anxious to interact with your baby, so be mindful of potential overstimulation and exhaustion by taking cues from the baby.
Visiting everyone during the family reunion and introducing our daughter to loved ones made the trip well worth the planning involved. Good luck traveling with your infant, and happy driving! #