We were traveling during the Christmas and New Year’s week. I’ve always said that I would travel with a child and I am sticking to that promise. Just because you have a kid, doesn’t mean that life is over, as many people will have you believe. A child can open a lot of opportunities and have you travel in more and interesting ways. For instance, I’ve never done the drive from New York to Chicago, so we decided to do it to avoid mass transit until Sebastian is at least three months old. You can technically travel with a week old child; however, our pediatrician suggested that we wait until his immune system gets a lot stronger before taking him around large crowds of flu ridden people in airports and subways.
Gone are the days of carry-on bags, but on a car trip, that wasn’t something we would have to worry about anyway. If it weren’t for the fact that we were taking stuff for my parents, such as a comforter we are no longer using, an extra aerobed that we no longer need, dresses from my sister-in-law’s closet, we would only have our travel essentials.
So, here are some tips for road trip travel with a baby.
First, the most important tool is a good car seat. We have a Britax. This isn’t the type of car seat that converts from a stroller to the car because we don’t own a car. In New York, most people don’t have cars, let alone driver’s licenses. So, we got one that we can easily put into a rental and is very safe.
A very important tool is the pacifier (I call it a “smoczek,” pronounced smoh-check because that’s how we say it in Polish). Ok, yes, we have all heard all sorts of theories on pacifiers, like how they make your teeth crooked or make you depend on an item to soothe a baby. Well, I really don’t believe that they will hurt a baby. In fact, there are studies that disprove the crooked teeth theory. And, most kids stick their own dirty thumbs in their mouths. A little baby doesn’t have coordination to use his thumb to self sooth, so the pacifier is ideal. The only advice I listened to in this area is to not use a pacifier for the first 30 days of a baby’s life because that could cause nipple confusion with breastfeeding. There have been problems with babies not latching on or chewing on a pacifier and getting frustrated with not getting milk, then not wanting breast milk. This may lead to lowering milk production because you are not feeding often enough or causing you to believe your child is not eating enough. Otherwise, on a road trip, with an 11 week old child, I highly recommend the pacifier. It was a calming device that helped Sebastian fall asleep or just calm him when he was stuck in a car seat and couldn’t be held.
I grew up listening to books on tape, lectures, praying rosaries, chatting with the family and playing games in the car. It made road trips go by very quickly. The modern version of this is the podcast. The road trip went by extremely fast because we listened to some really great podcast over the 27 hours of driving. We had a lot of laughs listening to Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin, who run a tech podcast (if you haven’t heard them, they are HILARIOUS) and enjoyed paleo podcasts by Angelo Coppola. I also love listening to This American Life, Radio Lab, among a bunch of others.
As we all know, these days, you cannot just grab your baby and breastfeed while driving. Car seats and laws restrict that. I may complain about that, but it is better to be safe than have regrets for the rest of your life. So, how do you drive as much as possible over 13 hours? Enter, breast pump. Milk is safe for the baby to consume even if it sits out for 6-8 hours. So, I pump, fill up a bottle and have it ready for when the baby wakes up. Trust me, in many ways, it is worth the pretty penny to have this pump. I borrowed a lowered power model from my sister in law and it was definitely a huge improvement to use this model.
Thanks to this system of pumping, we only had to stop 3 times during our drive for changes and extra feedings.
Because I’m breastfeeding, I have to bring my vitamins and Sebastian’s supplemental vitamins.
Another essential is a carrier. Husband loves to carry the baby on a Baby Bjorn and after using it, I see the benefits. Sebastian calms down because he’s moving and it’s easier to carry him, since he weighs so much. Babies love to keep moving, maybe because they were constantly moving in the belly! He also falls asleep in there, which any of us parents love.
Then, there’s the travel crib. It’s small and it’s super easy to set up, it literally takes 30 seconds. I was pretty against it for a while because I didn’t want to travel with another thing, but then I thought about using cribs in hotels and it skeeved me out. I’d rather have my own thing. So, we got a Baby Bjorn travel crib. Now, that I think about it, a lot of our stuff is either Swedish or Norwegian. Those Scandinavians really know how to make stuff for babies, so why the heck don’t they have children?
Without a doubt, you need your diaper bag with diapers, wipes, an extra outfit, socks, spit up rags and sterilized pacifiers. Because I was traveling by car, I brought my flex tub (in another post, I’ll write about when I use a flex tub vs. a bath pillow) and boppy. These are certainly not essential, but on a road trip, it’s not a problem to throw those things in the trunk.
Along with the tub, I had to pack a little bag with his nail clippers, file, hair brush, shampoo and towel. I give Sebastian a daily bath because he is the king of the blowout and I want him clean and smelling fresh!
Even though my baby doesn’t play with toys himself yet, I keep trying to keep him interested in colors, rattles and books, so I brought a couple of things for him.
The last non essential I brought, but knew it would be good to have and was small enough to throw into the trunk was our baby bouncer. Again, it was a Baby Bjorn bouncer, which is portable, light and creates some fun bouncing in a relatively compact package. Additionally, I brought a few outfits, (we were going to see family, so it was easy to wash clothes), hats and sweaters. We brought a box of diapers, though we considered sending it in advance. I think if we would have flown, we would have just shipped it, since shipping is free.
It may seems like we have a lot of travel gadgets, but they all came in handy and the trip was nice and easy because of them!