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In late March, little Ezra Nehemiah joined our family. And since then, he’s come with us on several road trips, including a recent one from Washington State to Missouri and back. Traveling with a newborn isn’t easy, but it is possible to still enjoy road trips with your little one.
Technically, Ezra is the second baby we’ve had since we started deputation. Tyler joined the family in late 2018. But we were only traveling to churches in our home state then, so he was over a year old before we did any really long road trips. It’s a lot different going so far with a wee one.
The last two months have been a bit of a learning curve for us when it comes to traveling with a newborn. But God is so faithful and helped us to adapt and learn some tricks to help things go smoothly.
Here are a few of the things we’ve learned about traveling with a baby.
1. Plan on Stopping a Lot
Don’t be in a hurry when you’re doing a road trip with a newborn. Plan on your trip taking longer than normal, and don’t stress about the stops.
You see, when you’re traveling with a newborn, you can’t stay on the road for hours upon hours. You’ve got to make frequent stops to pull the baby out of the carseat, take care of feeding, burping, changing, and everything else that the baby needs.
On our cross-country trip, we stopped every 2-3 hours to take a break. Honestly, the stops weren’t all for the baby. But we did pull him out each time, just to get him out of the carseat and change his diaper. These frequent stops kept him from being fussy in the car and gave all of us a much needed chance to stretch our legs and get the blood flowing.
2. Sit by the Baby if Possible
Newborns don’t quite understand that they’re their own person yet. They think they’re part of you. And they want to be with you.
If possible, sit by your baby for part of the trip. We leave the seat next to Ezra open in the van so Lisa can sit by him for a while each day. She can pat him and stroke his face and talk to him while he’s in his carseat. This closeness helped him stay calm.
3. Sing Aloud
Most babies like to hear singing. Audio books and the radio aren’t the same as your familiar voice. So, start singing. It can really calm a fussy baby and provide some comfort.
We have the kids take turns picking songs to sing, and then we all sing together. In addition to helping keep Ezra calm, the singing also helped pass the time in the car.
4. Know that There Will Be Tears When Traveling with a Newborn
Babies cry. And sometimes, they cry at inopportune times. Like when they burst into tears when you’re stuck in Kansas City traffic thanks to road construction.
And while it’d be wonderful to be able to pull over and get the baby out every time a tear falls, that’s just not possible. Sometimes it’s not safe for you to do so.
This means you must brace yourself for a few crying spells. When your baby is crying in the car, here are a few things you can do to help provide comfort until you can safely stop.
- Have an older child sit next to the baby and provide physical contact (stroking the head, gently rubbing their arms, etc.)
- Recite verses, poems, or other things you have memorized
- Talk to the baby – say something like, “I know you’re upset. And I promise we’re going to stop just as soon as it’s safe. Just wait a little bit longer little one.” Babies like to hear your voice.
- Pray aloud for your child and for your safety on the road
Then, when. you’re able, get off the road and get your little one. Until then, know that they are safe where they are even if they aren’t happy.
5. Pack Extra Diapers
Newborns go through a lot of diapers. So bring along more than you think you need. Have a stack easily accessible in the car, so you aren’t pulling out suitcases to find them.
We always stash a few diapers and a pack of wipes under one of the van seats. Then we have more in the diaper bag, and in the suitcases. This way, we can always find a diaper when it’s needed.
If you start to get low, consider stopping along the way and buying another pack. You don’t want to run out and have a blow-out. Those messy poops are awful to clean out of carseat covers.
6. Watch the Temperature
Babies have a harder time regulating their body temperature compared to older kids and adults. So if you’re blasting the air conditioning in the car, it’s likely too cold for your newborn.
Dressing them in layers can help. So can bringing along a blanket to cover them with. Also, adjust the blowers in your car so they aren’t blowing directly on the baby. This way baby stays comfortable and is less likely to fuss.
7. Use the Sunshade
Most infant carseats come with sunshades. Keep an eye on the window and the angle of the sun. Since newborns ride rear facing, the sun is often in their eyes when it’s not bothering anyone else. So use that sunshade to keep their eyes shaded.
8. Take a Sling Along
Whenever we stop and get out of the car, Ezra loves to be tucked into his sling. It’s the perfect hands-free way for him to be able to snuggle while Lisa has her hands free to take the other kids potty or pass out some snacks.
We’ve tried lots of slings over the years. Our favorite is a simple Boba Baby Wrap (<=that’s the grey colored one we have now).
It’s a long wrap that can be quickly adjusted to fit almost anyone. It holds Ezra close and keeps him secure. It’s also possible to nurse while baby is in the sling, which is perfect for rest stops and other public places.
Since we’re on deputation, we’ve also discovered slings are also perfect for wearing your newborn in church. They keep your little one tucked in and close when they might otherwise be overwhelmed with all of the new people, sounds, and sights. You also don’t have to figure out where to set a bully infant car seat. The sling is definitely easier.
9. Dress Your Newborn for Comfort
Baby clothes are so cute these days. However, don’t dress your newborn for fashion when you’re traveling. Instead, dress for comfort. Let them wear a creeper or a sleeper depending on the season and weather. Layer a onesie underneath if they need an extra layer.
You can always pack the cute clothes for them to wear once you arrive at your destination. But for the most part, let your baby be comfortable.
As an added bonus, this way your baby won’t have a car blowout in your favorite outfit. 😀
10. Know What You Need to Bring
Babies seem to acquire quite a bit of merchandise before they’re a month old. If you try to cram all of this into the car, you’re asking for a miserable trip.
The good news is that babies don’t actually need that much. So don’t take along too much on their behalf.
You should always have:
- A fully loaded diaper bag (we keep diapers, wipes, 2 extra outfits that are comfortable for travel, diaper rash cream, plastic bags (in case there’s a blow out, that way we have someplace to put the poopy stuff until we can get it washed), and infant Tylenol in ours for Ezra. It has more in there since we have a couple of kids in diapers still. And there’s always an extra shirt for Lisa since spit-up happens fairly regularly.
- Baby clothes for the trip. We pack 2 changes of clothes for each day since newborns are more likely to need changed than the older kids.
- A lightweight blanket.
- A sling.
- Someplace for baby to sleep (unless you co-sleep). A playpen or other foldable bed is much easier to pack than other options.
- Baby bath supplies (gentle soap for sure and anything else you need.)
As your baby gets older, you’ll want to throw in some toys. But at the infant stage, they really don’t need a whole lot.
11. Watch Your Attitude
Babies are really in tune with the emotions we’re displaying. If you’re worried and anxious about the trip, they’re going to feel like something is wrong and act accordingly.
Instead, take a moment to pray. Ask God to help you have a pleasant attitude on the car trip. Then use a cheerful tone to talk to your little one. Show excitement about the trip. Be thankful that you get to go altogether.
If you find yourself stressing on the way, pray some more. God is faithful to help us through the hard times.
12. Stay Hydrated
Okay, this tip isn’t really for newborns. It’s for their mamas. If you’re nursing, you need to stay hydrated. On a road trip, it’s incredibly easy to forget to drink enough. Or to want to drink enough since if you’re drinking more you’re stopping to use the bathroom more.
But, you can really mess with your milk supply if you’re not hydrated. So keep a bottle of water handy and drink up as you travel.
Before a road trip, we typically pick up a 40 pack of water bottles and put in the main part of the van. We originally used refillable water bottles. However, the water along the way isn’t always tasty. And no one wants to drink water that tastes bad.
No matter what type of water you prefer to drink, drink it often along the way.
Traveling with a Newborn
If you’re traveling with a newborn, hopefully these tips can help you arrive safely at your destination without too many tears. It might take a littler longer than you’re used to, but all those stops are good for you too. So use this time to snuggle with your precious little one and enjoy the journey. They grow up so quickly!