Monday, January 14, 2013

Road Trip with a Baby? You MUST be crazy!!!

One time a husband and wife daringly decided to take their 3 month old on a loooooong road trip across the country for the holidays. From California to Kentucky, to Tennessee and back. Their logic behind the decision was that we were staying quite a while, introducing their bundle to his southern family and friends, and who would want to gate check all that stuff?!? Little people need big things, and a lot of them. That's not to mention the mass amount of pressurized cabin germs circulating during a 6 hour flight. They also considered taking their dogs 
s (a 50lb pit bull and a 70lb Weimaraner), they didn't make the cut, nor would they have survived if they had. So it really seemed that the good outweighed the bad, and when it was all said and done, it wasn't that bad. Aside from an encounter with 2 massive snow storms, wipers that froze up, miles of icy road and one almost speeding ticket - but all of that aside, a memorable adventure.

And yes, of course, it was me. To be honest, I might even do it again. If you're tempting this level of bravery, let me lend some advice:

Think Ahead

Yes, of course you know where you're going, but think of all that can throw you off your well laid plan (if you have a baby, you should know well laid plans don't exist!) - bad weather, detours, construction, wrecks, alternate routes. Thankfully, with technology these days, our smart phones can help us along the way, but please, just make sure you are letting the passenger tackle this. Also, take advantage of AAA and other automotive sites that are up-to-date on this information. Factor in extra time as well. If you have a tight deadline, it will make for a stressful adventure. Diapers explode, babies cry, full bellies need burps - plus, you want to enjoy the scenery.

Is your child ready for this?

If you have a baby that screams the moment you strap them in the car seat, you may want to rethink this journey all together. But if you have a dream baby, who loves to ride, make sure you are fair to them and keep them on their schedule. This goes for the whole trip, not just in the car. We crossed many time zones, but we stuck to PST, because we didn't want to throw him off eating and sleeping - that just makes everyone unhappy.

What you need in the house, you'll need in the car, and more!

I recommend setting your vehicle up as user friendly as possible, where someone can easily get from the front to the back (NOT in motion!) whenever you stop for a break. And for whomever is in the passenger seat, the ability to reach the baby, and what the baby would immediately need (pacifiers, toys, etc). It's also nice if they can reach the cooler, snacks and other goods to help the driver keep their eyes on the road.

- Do you need a window shade? Long bouts of sun on a baby aren't good for skin or vision, and don't promote a great nap environment. You don't realize how long you are in the sun until you're on the road and can't escape it, trust me. A blanket in the window will work, but it reduces driver visibility.

- Hang toys from the car seat handle like a mini activity center, this will occupy and stimulate them during awake time. Don't hang them all at once, save a few for when baby seems to be bored of his current scene. It also helps to have a little bag of toys and books readily available, especially ones they've never seen. Toys that light up are great for night time entertainment, and help you find things without turning on the interior light. And as always, do make sure these are all age-appropriate and that you keep an eye on baby in the car by either sitting back there with them or using a car mirror where you can see them at all times.

- A cooler for storing milk if you are nursing. I pumped a few days in advance to give myself a head start, and stuck to baby's schedule. We bottle fed bm while driving, and I would gently get my hand behind him to burp afterwards. I can't stress enough how dangerous it is to get your baby out of the car seat while in motion. It simply isn't worth it, so if your baby doesn't take a bottle well, plan time to stop when they are hungry. If we had a nice place to stop, I would nurse to keep my supply up. Also, unless your little one is fond of cold milk, don't forget a bottle warmer and an adapter. (Do test both pump and warmer before you get on the road, our warmer tripped our adapter, thus I had to pump fresh right before feeding, it was a little stressful.) 

- While we're on the nursing topic... unless your car seats are the likes of a plush glider, a good nursing pillow will go a long way. Literally. I recommend the Peek Away. It's a multi-tasker! Both nursing pillow and diaper changing station, it is perfect for the road trip situation (or any mom on-the-go). All neatly folded with a shoulder strap, you can tote it wherever you need to go, and has pockets for wipes and all things baby. Oh, and it doubles as a nursing cover too! Great for back seat privacy!

- Every stop for you is a stop for them, diaper change, stretch and play, change of clothes if needed. Also, while on the road, make sure to stretch and play with baby in their seat, so they don't get restless and sore. Keep an eye on neck position and posture. Bring a car seat pillow or head support - three days of the same crooked position can really take a toll on baby's muscle length and development.

- A diaper bag with EVERYTHING you could ever think of. And if all of this won't fit in your diaper bag, at least have them in baby's suitcase (or anywhere in the car, really). Plentiful supply of diapers and wipes (wipes are great for messes of all kinds, baby and adult), rash cream, changing pad, gripe water or gas drops, tylenol, medications, thermometer, burp cloths, nursing cover, blanket, change of clothes, bib, pacifiers (more than usual, it's amazing how far these can be spit across a car - and some, I swear they just disintegrate) clean bottles, bottle of water, nail clippers, baby shampoo/body wash/lotion (try to use what you've been using, you don't want to discover allergies and itchy skin on the road).

- Two items I want to single out that I was SO glad I packed that can also go in the diaper bag - bulb syringe and nasal saline drops. After 3 days in a car with the heater on, hotel rooms and relatives homes with heat blasting, going through mostly 0-14 degree weather, our sweet boy had some major boogies and stuffiness. Having the drops and syringe handy provided MAJOR relief!

- Think about what you would do if your vehicle broke down... especially if you are going to face extreme conditions at any point. Either have extra blankets, dressing and heat packs for cold weather, or a battery operated fan and ice packs for hot weather - for adults and baby. Also, make sure you have emergency cones so other drivers see you pulled over, you have very precious cargo! Jumper cables and a spare tire are helpful, and make sure your roadside membership is up-to-date. Make sure you have proper identification and insurance, and proof that this little one belongs to you. Hopefully, you wouldn't have to jump through too many hoops should you need medical care, but its better to be safe when you are somewhere unfamiliar.

- Make sure you keep yourselves fed and hydrated, pack plenty of water and some healthy snacks (fruit, veggies, hummus, protein bars, oatmeal, juice, etc) so you aren't feeling sluggish - you have quite a few miles to log.

-Empty bags for dirty diapers, wipes and trash. You can toss these at the gas station when you stop, but you'll be thankful to have something sealable when it comes to the smell.

-White noise, or baby's sleep machine. Keep it familiar so the baby feels cozy and safe. We use an app on the iphone/ipod, it fits easily next to the car seat and calms a restless or sleepy baby like a charm.

-HAND SANITIZER! Grabbing food, grabbing coffee, rest stop bathrooms, gas pumps, people everywhere.... after every touch, load up because most of us don't have sinks in our cars!

Of course there are things you may think of that I didn't, but the main thing is to think of your comforts at home and bring them along, and then some. Oh, and safety first! Every time you pump gas, take the keys out of the car and lock all of the doors. That way no one can open the doors or jump in and take off. NEVER leave your baby in the car alone, not even for a short second. One of you can go to the bathroom while the other waits. If you do separate from the other(s) always have your phone on you. You can never be too careful! And after I've scared the bejesus out of you, or overwhelmed you with the amount of things you need - try and enjoy it. It really was great bonding time for the family, and we saw parts of this nation we'd never seen. It's really beautiful, some of those gorgeous sunrises have a permanent place in my mind.

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