This article first appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Your Baby magazine.
A child who screams uncontrollably at the back of a car while you are travelling can make you wish that you had rather stayed home.
Hopefully, with a bit of planning, this won’t happen to you, and your family ends up having a pleasant trip filled with many happy memories. This is how you can make the ideal real.
Travelling with baby
If you are not travelling too far, keep your baby’s normal sleeping patterns in mind. Try to leave before she becomes tired. With a bit of luck she will sleep soundly until you arrive. This way she will wake up in a good mood to absorb her new surroundings.
If your trip is going to be longer, make the time to stop at regular intervals and take a break. Schedule your breaks to coincide with the time your baby would normally eat. Take her out of her car seat to stretch her little body.
If you are flying, make sure that your baby is feeding or sucking during take-off and landing. Hide the bottle or dummy so that she is eager to drink or suck when the time is right. This will help her ears cope with the change in pressure.
Newborns are allowed to fly, but think about whether you are up to the challenge. You may still be struggling with breastfeeding. Bear in mind that your baby will only get their first vaccination by the age of six weeks, making her prone to the germs crawling around at airports and inside aircrafts.
Make a long trip bearable by making sure your child is entertained.
- Drawing boards that can wipe clean, drawing paper and crayons, books and baby travel toys will do the trick.
- Pack a CD with songs or stories that you can listen to in the car.
- A tablet with her favourite movies will help to pass time.
- With older children you can play games like counting how many green cars you see or asking them which letters or numbers they recognise on number plates at the backs of trucks and cars.
- You can also talk about all the fun things you are going to do during the holiday or sing songs.
Never take your baby out of her car seat. This is too dangerous. Rather stop at a safe place if she becomes restless.
Do not be in a rush to reach your destination.
Make sure that your baby has enough fluids to drink because cars can get very hot. Water should be your first option. If she drinks more fluids you will have to stop more frequently to change her nappy or stop for older children to go to the bathroom.
If your child drinks formula, measure the amount you need and keep it in a container. Keep cooled down, boiled water and clean bottles at hand to quickly make a bottle when needed.
Let the adults take turns to drive. The driver must be focused on the road at all times. The person who is not driving should take care of the children. Teach the children not to divert the driver’s attention.
For your own peace of mind
- Have the vehicle checked and serviced properly and do not try to save money by skimping on a proper service. Make sure that your tyres are checked and roadworthy. Check that your spare wheel is in good condition. Test your brakes and shock absorbers and replace them if need to. This could save your lives.
- When using a trailer, make sure that it is checked and roadworthy.
- Join the Automobile Association (AA) or make sure you know what your insurance provider offers in terms of roadside assistance. Familiarise yourself with their policies and how it will affect you outside your home town. Save the necessary numbers in your cellphone and keep your membership card in the car. In case of an emergency this will come in handy.
- Weigh your children to make sure that they are travelling in the correct car seat required for their age group. Make sure that the car seat is fitted properly.
- Other travellers should wear their seatbelts at all times. Remember that this is a requirement by law.
- Invest in sun shades for the windows so the sun does not shine directly on your baby. Too much sun can make them sick.
- First aid kits should be kept in the car. Remember to pack medication for motion sickness. Babies and young children are prone to getting car sickness while travelling. Speak to your pharmacist about the correct dosages for your children.
- Wiping cloths and a towel in the car will come in handy for wiping up spills. Also keep a plastic bag nearby to throw away rubbish.
- Buy new toys to keep your baby occupied during the trip. Also pack in a few of her favourite toys. Speak to older children to find out which toys they want to take on the trip.
- Charge your electronic devices. Make sure that your cell phones and other devices are fully charged. Invest in a charging bank for peace of mind.
- Carry cash and make sure that you have enough money to pay at toll gates.
- Plan your route ahead of time. Babies cannot travel in a car for more than six hours. If your trip is going to be longer, consider sleeping over.
- It is advised to stop every 200km to take a break. Do this! Take the safest route by planning ahead.
- Do not pack sticky treats and juice if you cannot handle a mess.
Motion sickness: Did you know?
Motion sickness (or car sickness) is not common in children under the age of two. The problem begins when your child’s brain receives different messages from the parts of her body that sense motion, such as the eyes, inner ears, nerves and joints.
For example, if she’s looking at a toy or a picture book inside a moving car, her eyes are sending a signal to her brain that she’s not in motion. But other parts of her body contradict that. They can feel that she’s in motion, so they send the opposite message.
These conflicting signals cause her to feel nauseated. Looking out of the window instead of down at a small item can help.
Have you travelled with a baby before? What was it like and what advice do you have for other parents? Send your advice or story to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish it.
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