Traveling Baby Part 1: Road trip

Our family is lucky enough to have people who love us all over world. Seriously, we have family and friend all over the United States, Australia, New Zealand, The Middle East, and South America. Michael and I love to travel, and are very excited to take Jack on many adventures. I tried to find blogs from other mom’s about traveling with a baby, but most of them were for ones over 6-months-old. I wanted to know what it was like traveling with a baby that can’t even sit up yet. So I hope this post helps someone who is up at midnight the night before a trip with their very little one and finds some relief.

This will be a three part post. Next will be air travel, then traveling without baby for the first time.

For the Fourth of July weekend, we went up to Michael’s sister’s house just outside Sacramento. To avoid the insane traffic from the people heading that way to Lake Tahoe, we decided to leave at 8 PM Wednesday night. Jack goes to bed around that time and usually can fall asleep in the car easily. So, I thought we would get him all ready for bed, put him in the car drowsy and he’d be asleep by the time we hit the freeway. Then he would sleep for the 2 or so hours there, wake for a feeding when we take him out, and then he’ll go right back to bed for the night.  We did something similar when we went to Sonoma for the day. He slept most of the way their so I thought this would be just as easy.

He was good and sleepy, so we got in the car.

Wrong. I was so wrong. So very wrong. I blame my husband for his one entirely. I told him very clearly that we need to leave as soon as I am done nursing Jack, while he is still sleepy. I thought I made it clear we had a small window of drowsiness to get to the freeway to lull him to sleep. I told him to pack the entire car and have everything ready to go while I got Jack ready for bed. So I took him the bath and Michael started packing. I thought all he had to do was put the bags in, feed the cats, and get in the car. Well, once Jack was all ready for bed and nursed to drowsy Michael was still running around. I told him we needed to leave and got in the car. I waited 10 minutes in the car and was getting mad. Jack lost his drowsiness and was WIDE AWAKE. Once Michael finally got in the car, he tells me we need to go drop the garage door opener off at his other sister’s house so she can feed the cats while we are gone. I was very mad. Why didn’t you tell me to do this before!!!! So by the time we drove down the street to her house, Jack was overtired and screaming.  I pulled out a bottle to try to calm him and began to sing to him.

Daddy took too long and now I’m wide awake.

Once were on the freeway, we instantly hit a ton of traffic. Stupid Tahoe traffic…. It took an hour for Jack to fall asleep. I know he would have fallen despite the traffic if we had left when he was drowsy. So between the traffic and being mad at my husband, I was really stressed out and did not want to be stuck in a car for 3 hours. Michael apologized and explained he didn’t understand why I was adamant we leave so quickly. But after seeing how Jack reacted, he got it.

This last about 35 minutes.

So I calmed down and decided to close my eyes for a bit .Then I saw little feet moving out the corner of my eye. He woke up! So I spent the next two hours trying to get him back to sleep. Nothing worked, he was wide awake and pissed off. He was crying and reaching out for me. I knew nothing was wrong, he just needed a calm place to go to sleep. But nothing was going to put him to sleep as long as we was in the seat. Of course as soon as we pulled up to the house, he was got quiet and calm. Michael quickly put the pack n’ play together while I swaddled and nursed him. He slept like an angel that night, only waking once at 5 AM.

Jack had a very fun first Independence Day otherwise. We drove to Lake Tahoe on Saturday to see some friends. Jack did better on that ride. He slept longer because we left right at his nap time. And this time we pulled over when he got crabby. I also brought toys to amuse him when he woke up. On Sunday when we left, he did better as well. There was less traffic so he slept more and only fussed when we were 15 minutes away from home.

Going home was a lot happier. I covered him
up to block the sun so he would sleep longer.

We learned so much from that trip so Jack is doing a lot better in the car now. He has been back to Sacramento and a bunch of other places since then. We will be attempting another night drive in a few weeks for a cousin’s wedding. It’s going to be about an 8 hour drive, I’m hoping that we execute this one properly. I’ll let you know how it goes.

My Advice for Road Trips:

  • Plan for everything to go wrong. That way it’s not stressful if it happens. I was so sure everything was going to work out great that I was not prepared for it to fall apart.
  • Make a plan and STICK TO IT. Improvising will only add stress to you and the baby. If you plan on putting the baby down sleeping in the car like I wanted to, make sure you actually are on the road so they actually go to sleep. I should have made sure everything was packed and done before I ever put Jack in the bath. I should have not put Jack in the car until Michael was in the car first. I should told him his sister didn’t need the garage door opener (she has a key to house she should could still get in) and made him just get on the freeway. I still believe it would have worked (or at least gone better) if we stuck to the plan.
  • Check traffic conditions. I didn’t check traffic until we hit a major backup. I thought for sure we would have missed all the commuters and people who left for Tahoe right after work. We would have taken a back road out the Bay Area and gotten on a different freeway if we had checked first. It probably would have cut 2 hours off our trip. Two hours less stress for Jack.
  • Pull over if baby gets too mad. I don’t know why I didn’t yell for Michael to pull over so I could comfort nurse him back to drowsy. Then he would have been happy and quiet stuck in traffic at least.
  • Bring more milk than you think you need. I only brought one 2 ounce bottle with us. Jack downed that pretty quick and wanted more. And he was even madder when there wasn’t more. I didn’t plan on him being awake and demanding milk! I should have either brought a bag from my freezer stash or just brought my pump to pump as needed in the car.
  • Keep the baby at a good temperature. I bundled Jack all up and once he started screaming, he was dripping in sweat. I ended up pulling off layers through the carseat to cool him down. Likewise, if you are blasting the AC to stay cool, make sure you are not freezing your baby. Try for one simple base layer then adding blankets as needed.
  • Bring entertainment. I also did not pack Jack any toys for the car because I assumed he would be asleep. So when he woke up and had nothing to do, he became bored. An angry baby that is also bored is never a good thing.
  • Bring something soothing. We gave Jack Michael’s old cell phone (deactivated most of the settings) so we can play soothing music for him. This didn’t help much driving that night since Jack was way overtired, but on most other road trips it helps lull him to sleep.

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