Any road trip comes with challenges, but a road trip with a baby is its own special sort of tough. While some little ones conk out as soon as the engine starts, others have a difficult time being in the car for hours—or any time at all. If you and your family are hitting the road for the holidays, keeping your baby calm, safe, and content throughout the trip is important for everyone involved. Before you strap in for a long car ride with your baby, first be sure to read through the travel recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They advise creating a travelers’ kit that includes child-safe hand wipes, diaper rash ointment, and water. You’ll also want to read through their car seat safety guide to make sure your little one is safe and secure.
As for tips on how to keep your baby happy and (relatively) chill, we asked other parents who have been there, done that for their advice. Here’s what might help:
1. Invest in sun shades.
If you can, Elizabeth recommends buying—and remembering to use—high-quality sun shades for your backseat windows and rear windshield. They’ll prevent sunburns on long rides and also keep the light from getting in your baby’s eyes. Plus, it makes the car more conducive for sleep.
2. Drive during their sleep time.
Every parent we spoke to said something similar: Planning long car rides around your baby’s sleep schedule is a great way to avoid fussiness. Corinne N., 31, started a 12-hour road trip after her 11-month-old went to sleep. “She did a normal feeding and bedtime routine, but instead of being placed in the crib, she was placed into the car seat,” Corinne explains. “She slept the whole way while we drove throughout the night. She was well-rested when we returned home.” (Quick note here: Drowsy driving is really dangerous. If you’re not used to being up for long stretches into the wee hours of the morning, this may not be the safest tactic for you.)
3. Drop-proof all of the things.
Caitlyn S., 34, puts a lot of toys in a basket next to her son so he can play with them as he pleases. But the key is that she also creates a barrier—using something as simple as a towel—between the car seat and the door “so if he does drop the toys, they won’t fall past where he can reach.”
4. Be prepared for when hunger strikes.
When her twins were babies, Lindsey H., 35, says she swore by taking Mixie bottles on long car rides. “It’s a bottle that allows you to keep the water and the formula separated until you are ready to use it,” she explains. Then, just push a button to release the powder formula into the water and shake to mix. “Totally a lifesaver in the car when our twins would get restless,” Lindsey says.
5. Get out of the car.
“Some kids and babies just need a leg stretch or car break to make it the rest of the trip,” says Lauren. If traveling for more than two to three hours, Lindsey says she stops every couple of hours to get out, walk around, and let the babies out of their car seats. “When we stop to use the restroom, we make sure to find a nearby park or field so he can run around,” says Caitlyn.
6. Play music.
Look for songs, playlists, or even toys that play music that your baby gravitates toward, Lauren suggests. Ideally, you’ll find something you can stand listening to as well. Disney film soundtracks, Raffi, and Caspar Babypants are good options. Or you can download this calming playlist developed by a musical therapist for Montefiore Medical Center. Even if the music grates on your nerves, if it keeps your baby calm and content, it might be worth grinning and bearing it.
7. Travel with a portable sound machine.
Elizabeth always brings a portable white noise machine when planning a road trip around her baby’s sleep time. “Our sound machine has a good battery life, so we play it along the way and plug it in when we get there.” If you don’t have a sound machine, Caitlyn suggests playing white noise over the car speakers—just find a playlist on your music streaming app of choice. You’ll want to be careful of the volume if you use this strategy. The American Academy of Pediatrics says babies shouldn’t be around sustained noises louder than 50 decibels. Download a decibel-measuring app like Sound Meter to test the volumes on your machine at home before using it in your car.
8. Keep them busy.
Any interactive toys that keep your baby engaged and occupied can help. Of course, the specific toys you use will depend on the baby’s age, but try a few things and see what sticks. If all else fails, try putting one adult in the backseat next to the baby to keep them entertained throughout the drive. In some cases, just having someone back there with them can be calming on its own.
This article is presented by Volvo.: