My son’s first Christmas was the worse Christmas I ever had. He was less than eight weeks old, nursing every hour and a half and I was far away from my family. I also was a novice breastfeeder and he had a terrible latch; the two of us together was nothing short of a disaster. I remember that first Christmas sitting in my bedroom, nursing my baby and sobbing because the holidays had hardly felt like the holidays. There was no Christmas cheer in my life and I was raising this baby who I hardly knew how to take care of. My family switches between Christmas and Thanksgiving as far as shared holidays go and in 2008 we were going to be at my parents’ house, six hours away, for New Years. If you are traveling this holiday season like I was with a newborn or infant, I have a few tips you may want to heed.
How to road trip with a newborn this holiday season.
Be flexible; don’t get too wrapped up in expectations.
Babies can tell when we’re stressed; they aren’t completely oblivious to everything like we may think they are. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in nine years of parenting and having had three kids it’s that nothing goes as planned. Ever. The best thing you can do is throw any expectations you have for how things are going to be out the window. Sure, make a plan, but be willing and able to abandon that plan when needed.
When should we leave?
If you’re driving to your destination and you’ve got a ways to go I suggest trying to plan your leave time during either a nap or the evening when baby’s asleep. The only downside to this is that when you arrive at your final destination baby may want to be more awake than asleep but hopefully you’ve had a quiet drive. The last thing you want it to spend several hours trapped in a car with an unhappy newborn. That’s the worst; I’ve been there and done that.
Be okay with stopping if you’re road tripping.
When you’re traveling, especially if it’s the dead of winter and you live in a place like Minnesota (I’m talking about myself here) the last thing you want to do is stop to feed baby. Just take the pressure off by residing to the fact that you will be stopping to feed the baby. You should be stopping to feed and change baby, you really can’t shove a bottle in your baby’s face and keep driving. Try to look at the route and plan for stopping about every three hours at the most. If your drive is only three hours long then plan on one stop and if it’s six hours (like the drive is to my parents’ house) then plan for two stops. Most public places are pretty good about having a comfortable spot for moms to feed their baby but if you find yourself in a position where you have to nurse in public, be confident. It is your right as a mother to feed your child, cover up or don’t, do what’s comfortable for you.
Packing the right gear.
Part of traveling with a baby is being able to anticipate what your newborn is going to need. If you haven’t done this before it can be really challenging. Here are the things that you’ll need to travel with a newborn:
- Pack-n-Play – Most hotels have something that you can borrow in the form of a crib but I always felt better bringing what I had from home that could travel.
- Baby Monitor – If you’re going to be visiting family and staying in their home you’ll want a baby monitor
- Baby Carrier (We’ll get that in just a little bit.)
- Pacifiers if your newborn uses one.
- Inflatable Baby Bathtub
- Clothes – lots of changes of clothes, especially if you won’t have easy access to laundry.
- Diapers – If you’re using disposable diapers, I suggest bringing a box. If you’re using cloth diapers, check out our post on how to pack with cloth diapers.
Wear that Baby!
If you aren’t into babywearing or you haven’t tried now is the time to embrace it. We’ve written a lot about babywearing on First Time Mom because it’s a great way to not only bond with your baby but also helps your baby feel safe and secure. I personally loved babywearing whenever we were traveling because it just made things easier. Baby felt comfortable and secure and because of that I was relaxed. If you don’t have a ton of room in your luggage then I suggest trying a ring sling. Ring slings are best used with newborns anyway so you might as well just go this route if you’re traveling. This is a great blog post about ring slings from Tula Baby.