It's officially summer here in Central Maryland. For most families, this means some long hours in the car are just ahead. If this is the first time you've taken a long trip with baby, that can be a little daunting.
Here's some DO's (and DON'Ts) from experienced traveling mommas!
1. Double check your car seat install/safety.
While we hope to never be in a car crash, we all know it is a possibility. This is why we do everything in our power to keep baby safe. Ensure your seat is securely installed in the vehicle (less than 1" of movement in any direction, checking at the belt path) and that baby is buckled in properly which means straps are not twisted and are snug over hips and shoulders and chest clip is at arm pit/nipple height. If you have questions regarding your child's car seat, please contact us to be in touch with Debbie who is a Child Passenger Safety Technician ("Car Seat Tech").
Ensure any toys or objects place on, in or around the car seat are not a danger for baby. Dangling toys from the carry handle of an infant seat are not a good idea. The general rule is if it will hurt baby if it swings into their head, don't put it in the seat.
2. Plan to double your travel time.
We know this sounds terrifying, but it's true. If you are traveling 5 hours in the car, you should plan for it to take ten, door to door. When you account for unexpected stops due to a fussy baby, diaper/outfit changes, and feedings for the baby, plus bathroom and nourishment breaks for you, the time adds up quickly. Plus it's always a good idea to allow yourself some flexibility.
3. Get baby out of the car seat at least ever 3 hours.
Since you have allowed plenty of extra time, be sure to stop at least every 3 hours into your trip. Chances are that is about as long as your baby will want to go between feedings. Though it may sound like a convenient solution, you should never breastfeed baby in a moving vehicle. In the event of a crash, your body becomes a projectile.
Also, just as you can get uncomfortable sitting in the car for long periods of time, so too can baby. Lay a blanket on a flat surface and let baby wiggle a bit. If you stop to have a meal, alternate holding baby or babywear instead of leaving them in the car seat. For smaller babies who may not be particularly mobile yet, you can do some gentle massage, stretches or bicycles with their legs.
4. Keep soothing items handy.
To keep yourself from having to stop more than the fifty times you're planning, it's a good idea to keep soothing items for your baby, within reach. For example, if your baby loves a pacifier, it's a great idea to bring 2 (or 5...) with you, readily accessible in the car. We love the silicone and wooden beaded pacifier clips from FoxyChews that make it much easier to find baby's pacifier buried in their car seat. Just remember *don't clip it to the car seat straps!*
While it sounds silly, pack yourself an extra shirt (or 2. Because spit up.). If baby is fussy, try removing your worn (mommy scented) shirt and placing it next to baby in the car seat. Obviously keep an eye on baby so that the shirt doesn't cover their face. Often times, the familiar scent is enough to settle baby.