6 Tips to Survive Road Trips with Baby


The Car: My child’s most hated place to be. Strapped to a car seat, facing backwards into a grey abyss of fabric.
At first we thought we were lucky and our baby loved the car. She would fall asleep immediately, and be well rested when we reached our destination, smiling and bright eyed.
Then, something happened to her around the 3 month old mark. Our sweet little cherub no longer liked the car. No, she HATES the car. Sleeping turned into blood curdling screams. No matter how much we sang to her, spoke to her, pet her, she would not stop crying. We started becoming hyper-aware of her comfort when putting her in the car.
Freshly fed? Check!
Freshly changed? Check!
Loose-fitting, comfortable clothes? Check!
Not too hot? Not too cold? Check!
Soft toy for entertainment and comfort? Check!
We had been told in our parenting class that you shouldn’t put anything in the car that you wouldn’t be willing to have hit your baby in the face in case of an accident. There are very few things we’d like to hit our baby in the face, so this limited our possibilities quite dramatically.

Despite being hyper-vigilant about her comfort, Evey still lost her mind in the back seat. We were losing our minds. As a new mom, I couldn’t be tethered to my home. Further, we live 1 hour from city centre, so pretty much every car trip is a trek.
So, we got serious about trying to make the car more enjoyable for baby. Here are some of our tips:

1) DVD player: I know, I know. The rule from our parenting class said not to put something in the car that could become a projectile. But we needed a distraction, so we compromised. We got a seat-rest mounted DVD player and mounted it to the left of baby’s carseat. It has been a lifesaver. We turn it on as we are strapping her in, and it usually distracts her well enough that she doesn’t put up much of a fight. For us, DVD’s with lots of singing help. She’ll be glued to it, and it will calm her 60% of the time.

2) Soft toys: these are surprisingly hard to find without some hard plastic on them. Since we compromised on the DVD player, we try not to have any other hard items back there. We opted for soft teething bracelets that attach to her wrists so she won’t drop them (you know, in case the tears are because she dropped her toy where she can’t reach).

3) Human Companionship: I figure it must get lonely back there. A child, who is naturally sociable, stuck by herself in a bucket. So now when we go on long trips (over an hour or so), one of us sits in the back with munchkin. I’ve found it especially helpful on road trips. We can identify why she is crying and judge whether it is time to stop.

4) Drive at night: for long trips, we have been driving in the evening close to baby’s bedtime. This works for the obvious reason: she sleeps most of the way. We end up at our destination in the wee hours of the night, but more rested than driving with a screaming baby.

5) Stop: this might not always be easy, but stop when you need to. For us, (during waking hours) baby needs to stop every 1.5 hours to stretch her legs, feed and be changed. We stop long enough for her to forget she was in the car, about 40 minutes seems to do the trick.

6) Earplugs…no, I mean patience!
We haven’t resorted to earplugs…yet. We find that by following the tricks above, we have survived 3 long road trips (over 6 hours). We go with no expectation of schedule and we don’t rush. Make the trip about the voyage, not the destination and all will be much happier for it 🙂

We are car-trip people. It is very important to us that our child learn to enjoy the time she spends in the car. We aren’t there yet, but each road trip we have done us better than the last, and I feel it is thanks to some of the coping strategies we have implemented.
Good luck!

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