Traveling Baby Part 4: Camping with Baby Test Run

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I married a man who loves the outdoors. Good thing I am a lady who loves the outdoors, too! So naturally we were chomping at the bit to take Jack camping.  We had talked about doing something big like Yosemite or Big Basin, but weren’t sure how to go about it with a baby. One day when Jack was 6-months-old, I mentioned to Michael one Wednesday night I really wanted to drink beer by a roaring fire. He said okay, make it happen that weekend! So after a quick search I found all the popular places in the Bay Area were booked solid until the winter. I eventually found a small private campground outside Point Reyes that had tent only drive-up spaces up. Booked it for one night to give camping with a baby a try.

Jack Played while we set-up
Jack Played while we set-up

We left bright and early Saturday morning, hoping to spend most of the day at the beach. But we hit tons of traffic as soon as we approached San Francisco.

'Are we there yet!!"
‘Are we there yet!!”

What should have been a 2 hour drive turned into 4 hours. But we got to the campsite around 2 PM, so the day wasn’t totally wasted. We set-up camp, had a late lunch, and headed out to the beach.

“What is this stuff?”

Oh, it was glorious. Jack’s first real time at the beach. He played in the sand, we strolled down the beach as a family, and he touched the ocean for the first time.

It was warm, but not hot. A slight breeze bringing in the sweet smells of the ocean. It was perfect…minus the fact that later I found out I was bitten by a tiny spider and ended up getting a terrible infection.

Sleeping Jack snuggled up on my lap by the fire.
Sleeping Jack snuggled up on my lap by the fire.

Then we headed back to camp and I started to make dinner. Then we found out the office closes at 5 PM and no other place in the area sells firewood! I drove all around the area looking, not even branches on the side of the road to pick up! Luckily there was a very nice couple next to us who brought an insane amount of extra stuff, including firewood. They generously gave us some. After dinner, we sat around our small fire (not the roaring one I imagined) and I nursed Jack to sleep on my nursing pillow. We chatted and sipped our beers until the stars came out.

"Please don't make me sleep in a box! I want to be warm snuggled between my parents!"
“Please don’t make me sleep in a box! I want to be warm snuggled between my parents!”

Then we moved to the tent. I had this idea to have Jack sleep in a box with a side cut open next to us, like a co-sleeper. Yeah, he wasn’t having any of that. He wanted want to be snuggled in mama’s arms. I went to put him down between us and I realized something horrible…we forgot pillows and warm blankets! So I quickly wrapped Jack in an extra sleep sack to keep him warm. And settled him down onto my sleeping pad, giving him most of the space. Michael I made makeshift pillows and blankets out of the clothes, wraps, and towels we brought. It ended up being a very cold night for Michael and I. We got hardly any sleep. Also, I was so concerned with keeping Jack warm, but not smothering him with blankets that I could not sleep. Jack kept having night terrors and screaming every time I relaxed, too. So when the sun came up at like 6:30 AM, we all just got up.

The trail along the beach.

After breakfast, we packed up and drove off to explore the rest of Point Reyes. We checked out the historic ranches and the light house.

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Teaching Jack about sandstone formations at the Light House.

On the way out, we stopped at the park and walked the earthquake trail. It was so much fun, despite being tired (and at this point my spider bite started to swell).

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Jack and I are on the North American Plate, Michael is on the Pacific Plate.

After that we headed back…and hit the Bay Area traffic again almost immediately. It took 4 hours to get home again (plus a stop at In and Out for dinner).

So what did I learn from that trip? A LOT!

  • Make a list and check it three times! I cannot believe we forgot pillows and blankets. And we forgot several other smaller things, too. It worked out overall, but it made it more complicated. Would you believe I only brought 15 diapers? It was just enough, I used the last one when I changed him at In and Out.
  • If your baby can’t walk, bring a Pack ‘n’ Play with a crib sheet to cover it. That way you can set baby down in the safe place while you do stuff like start the fire. And the sheet keeps bugs and leaves from falling in.
  • Bring enough toys. I only brought a few toys and Jack got bored of them quickly.
  • Although spare of the minutes plans do work out, I suggest giving yourself more than a few days if you have a baby. Less likely for things to go wrong and you can book a good site well in advance. Our site was great, but it would have been nice to have been in the actual park.
  • Don’t leave at peak traffic times and avoid busy routes if you can. Babies and traffic do not mix. Especially breastfeed ones, Jack was mad I ran out of pumped milk and was screaming for boobs. If we had planned it more, I would have left late Friday night, got there late with a sleep baby to avoid the rush of weekend travels. I also would have gone around the East Bay, and avoided the city.
  • Plan for all types of weather. I was worried we would be too hot at night, so I didn’t pack a lot of warm clothes. Well, I forgot about the fog in the North Bay. It makes everything moist, cold, and damp. If I had brought more warm clothes for Michael and I, it wouldn’t have mattered that we forgot blankets.
  • Lastly, bring a carrier. It will be save your sanity. We can walk, nurse, feed baby, put them down for a nap, and keep them warm while you go about your trip. Plus it is way easier to transfer a sleep baby to bed from a carrier than a big cumbersome nursing pillow.

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    Cold morning, warm mama and baby.

Check out my next post of how our next camping trip to Yosemite a few months later was a major hit from using what we learned on our test-run.

Traveling Baby Part 3: Traveling Without Baby

The last part of my Traveling Baby Series is traveling without your baby. That’s right, I dared to leave my baby for a few days! It was nerve racking at first and I worried about losing my breastmilk supply, but it all worked out pretty well in the end.

I wanted to do something nice for our first anniversary in September, celebrate the amazing and challenging first year we spent as husband and wife. It’s enviable that once you have a baby, romance becomes a scare thing between couples. I figured if we wanted to stay married, we needed to celebrate. Then my parents offered to fly down so we could go somewhere for the weekend. I love my baby very much, but my first instinct was, “YES, I COULD GET SOME SLEEP!!!” Only someone who has raised a child can understand what I am talking about. Jack wakes up at least twice a night still and gets up bright and early each morning. I am so tired all the time that I hardly even notice any more. I know this is normal and won’t last forever, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love a chance to get some baby-free sleep!

We settled on Reno and booked a room at Harrah’s for 3 nights. Close enough to drive but far enough away to feel like a vacation still. Plus we love driving through Gold Country (see my Babymoon post). We could gamble, drink, relax, and sleep! We were both really looking forward to it.

How could I leave this cuteness?!?!?

Now I know what you are thinking, “How could you leave your 5-month old? Especially an exclusively breastfed one who likes to co-sleep? And with your parents that he doesn’t see often!” First of all, let me say I did worry A LOT about going. A LOT. I kept thinking he would start screaming and not eat until I returned. So we made the deal that at any time, for any reason, we could call it off. Even if we were already in Reno, just jump in the car and haul it back home. Second, my parents came a few days early so Jack had time to adjust. I also made a detailed outline of Jack’s daily routine to help them keep him happy. Lastly, I completely trust my parents. I think this is key to leaving your child with anyone. If you have any reservations—even a teeny tiny voice that says “Ehh…”—then don’t leave your child with them. Plain and simple. That right there will make it less stressful for everyone.

I think it’s safe to say he loves his grandma…

Oh, and the breastfeeding thing. Remember that freezer stash I determined to build up before I went back to work then ended up not needing? Well, my parents now had plenty of milk to feed Jack while I was away. And no, my parents did not co-sleep with him. But they were prepared for him to wake every couple hours for a bottle at night. My brother and I never slept through the night as babies, they knew what to expect.

Nothing says romance like drying pump parts in your hotel room…

I also planned on pumping every 2-3 hours to keep my supply up. However, I decided I didn’t really need to replenish my freezer stash and I didn’t want to deal with a bringing a big cooler to bring it all home. So I decided to donate it a local mom in Nevada through Human Milk 4 Human Babies. It’s a wonderful donation network that allows moms with extra milk to directly donate to moms (and other caregivers) who need it. It’s so easy too, just find your state Facebook page and post an ad. A mom or whoever will reply, then you set-up a place to meet and give them the milk directly. I posted a month before and set-up to with a mom who was struggling with a low supply on our way home.

So, we planned it all out and were ready when the time came. My parents arrived late 3 days before. That night we just went about everything as usual, just with them here. The next day they watched him while I went to work in the afternoon and helped put him to bed. The next day they watched him the whole day while I went in for a normal  8-hour day shift.  Jack was happy and comfortable with them, so we went ahead with the trip. We left for Reno the next morning and Jack didn’t even care! He was sitting on the porch with grandpa looking at the flowers. I was sad as we drove away but knew it would be alright.

This is how much fun pumping in the car is….

The drive was lovely—until we hit the smoke. A massive wildfire was burning near South lake Tahoe and had shut down HWY 50. We had planned on taking HWY 80 all along, but it was smokey as hell in North Lake too. Like at one point it felt like we were driving through fire and brimstone. And it kept getting dark out the closer we got to the lake! But once we turned away from the lake and headed towards Reno, it cleared some and we saw daylight again. It was still smokey in Reno but I didn’t care. We didn’t plan on being outside there too much and all I really wanted was some sleep!

Once we got our room, we took a long nap. It was glorious. I love co-sleeping with my baby, but it was soooo nice to cuddle up with my man and pass out for once. That night we walked to Noble Pie Parlor and got pizza and beer. I found this place on Yelp. It was good, but weird. Like a college house party that this one guy you talked to in class a few times invited you to, but it turned out awesome, but you feel awkward still because you know no one there. Made us feel like kids again, worth checking out if you can handle that sort of atmosphere. We got back late and passed right out again. I woke up 7 hours later to rock-hard, aching boobs. I pumped 9 ounces each side that morning. But it didn’t effect my supply at all, just painful.

The next day we went to Virginia City. We may be nerds who love history and geology, but this place was TOTALLY awesome. You need to check out everything, but I really suggest the Washoe Club. We took the ghost tour and had a drink too. Really fun and not too expensive. We wish we had more time there There was still so much more to see. I foresee a family vacation there when Jack is older. I pumped on the way there in the car, about 3 hours later, and again on the way home. I brought a soft mini cooler and an ice pack to keep the milk cold. It was kinda annoying to have to go back to the car and waste precious time there, but it wasn’t that big of a hassle overall.

I drank it all, I was drunk and I have no regrets!

The rest of the trip we just relaxed in Reno (and slept a lot). When we were just hanging out in and around the hotel, I just used my double electric pump back in the room. It wasn’t a hassle and I just popped the milk right in the mini fridge. I did pump twice when I was drunk, and that milk was dumped right away.We went out for a nice sushi dinner the night of our anniversary. We planned on getting very drunk and going crazy afterwards, but I forgot the flanges to my pump so went back to the room. After I pumped, somehow we ended up falling asleep watching TV instead…oops.

The milk to donate on my lap while we drove to Carson City.

The next morning we got breakfast (Hash House A Go Go is AMAZING, giant plates with tons of flavor) and headed off the Carson City to meet up with the mom I was donating milk to. Before we left the hotel, I placed all the  milk storage bags in a large zip-lock back, then placed that bag in a bag of ice. We met her in a store parking lot right off the highway, gave her the milk (72 ounces) and she gave me replacement storage bags. Not every mom will offer storage bags, HM4HB is a free service, so don’t expect this every time. The mom was very grateful and I was more than happy to help her little one thrive.

That’s not clouds, it’s smoke.
We had drive through that shortly after I took this.

Highway 50 was still closed from the fire so we took a long back way south through the Sierra. I ended up pumping two more times in the car. That milk became Jack’s bottles for when I was at work the next day. We got home around 5 PM and I expected a big reaction from Jack….but I got pretty much nothing. They were waiting on the porch for us and he just calmly looked at me like, “Oh, hi. Where you gone?” I didn’t care though, I snatched him up and covered him in kisses. I was happy we went, but more than happy to come home.

We bought Jack a coyote puppet in Carson City,
he was sort of amused by it when we got home.

It all worked out well and we had a lot of fun. I have a few tips on how to handle traveling without a baby under a year old, especially for the first time.

Traveling Without Baby Tips

  • Leave your child with someone you completely trust. And I mean completely. Someone you know very well and has extensive experience caring for children. And, I know this may sound harsh, but sometime older grandparent or family members may have health problems that could inhibit proper childcare. Don’t feel bad if you have to turn down someone you love because you are worried about them falling or forgetting to do something. Just be nice about it, but your child’s health is more important. My parents are in good health so I wasn’t concerned.
  • Make sure you leave with them clear instructions. Don’t just chuck the baby at them and run. This will stress them out and cause them to not do a good job. And it will stress your baby out to vary so far from their normal routine without you. Babies can perceive and expect some consistency, even right from birth. This is why I left my mom the outline. So she knew about when he naps, eats, and plays. At the time he had also just started Baby-led Weaning and she needed to know what foods he could have as well. Give instructions for everything possible to avoid a major issue.
  • Make a list of important contacts and numbers Pediatrician, Urgent Care, Hospital, a relative or friend nearby, and where they can reach you. I left a list with full names, addresses and phone number in case of an emergency. I know that you could just say “Nearest Urgent Care” to Siri nowadays, but a quick list make it easier on everyone. I also left my parents with Jack’s insurance cards, vaccination record, and identification—plus I took copies with me.
  • Give your baby time to adjust. If the person isn’t normally around baby much, odds are they might flip out to suddenly be left with a stranger. If possible, have the person come a few days over and stay with you so the baby becomes familiar with them. Like I mentioned earlier, Jack didn’t seem to care I was even gone in the end because he was comfortable with my parents.
  • Leave enough supplies, where to get more supplies, and what to get.  It’s can be stressful to watch someone’s child, give them a break and leave them with everything they need so they aren’t running around town. I left plenty of breastmilk. And I left a can of formula in the event something happened to freezer stash. I also left plenty of diapers, wipes, shampoo, lotion, & etc. I also told her all the brands we use and where should could go get more. For example, Pampers are the only diapers that fit  Little Mr. Fatty’s thighs well enough to prevent blow-outs. I would hate for my mom to buy Luvs and her end up washing poop off everything. Likewise, Jack has never had formula before, the brand I have is designed for breastfed babies. If she bought another brand, he might get sick and not eat it. And that formula is only sold at Babies ‘R’ Us around here so I wouldn’t want her to waste time and money going to a store that doesn’t carry it. Or her buying a brand that he won’t eat.
  • Have regular check-ins. My mom sent me updates and photos every couple hours to reassure me everything was okay. It calmed my nerves and it made me happy to know he was still happy. How can a mom expect to have fun if she doesn’t know her baby is happy!
  • If you are breastfeeding, figure out how pumping before you go. I tried to pump as close to Jack’s normal nursing schedule as possible, in order to milk my established supply stable. If this is not possible, make sure you pump at least every 2-3 hours during the day. And if you miss a few sessions, nothing will happen. Especially if you skip it because you are getting some much needed sleep! I suggest bringing an electric and manual pump since you never know what might happen during traveling. And bring more storage bags than you think you need just in case. Also, consider what you want to do with the milk afterwards. I suggest donating if you don’t need the extra. But if you do, make sure you keep it cold. Bring a cooler and buy enough ice to get it home.You can even pack on dry ice to keep it frozen if you like. If you are flying, you can carry breastmilk on a plane (even in a giant cooler). Look up the current laws first and make sure you declare it to the TSA agent at security.
  • It’s okay to worry. You are leaving your tiny little love behind, it’s okay to worry and be upset! You can even cry as you drive away. You are this little person’s whole world and you spend every waking minute caring for them, you are supposed to miss them like crazy! But take assurance knowing you little one will be loved and cared for, and enjoy your small break from the stresses of parenthood (and get some sleep!)

Traveling Baby Part 2: Airplane

Next in my traveling baby posts is airplanes. After my major fail from Jack’s first road trip, you can imagine I was very nervous about flying with him a only few weeks later. My parents wanted us to visit and I was invited to a sorority sister’s wedding reception, so I figured it was worth a flight. When I told my mom the dates we were coming, she was sad it was only for the weekend. I was still on maternity leave, but Michael had to work and couldn’t take that much time off. Then my mom pleaded that I come up with Jack first, then Michael joins us for the weekend. So now I had to brave flying ALONE with a baby!

I was hellbent on avoiding this again at all costs.

I came up with a good plan and was hellbent on executing it properly this time. Jack is the least fussy in the morning so we picked an early flight. Jack is young enough that he doesn’t need his own seat either, so I didn’t need to worry lugging a carseat along too (my parents bought one to keep there for when we visit). I wanted to get to the gate about an hour early so didn’t have to rush but wasn’t waiting around getting anxious. I wanted plenty of time to change him, nurse him, and maybe get in a short nap if needed. Plus you know get through security and such. And I knew I needed to wear him in the Boba Wrap through the airport to keep him calm and happy. I chose the Boba over my woven wrap because I can pop him in and out easily. I was advised by my La Leche League to nurse him during takeoff and landing to help with his ear pressure. And they also told me it’s required he be out of the wrap during flight for safety, so make sure I bring a pillow or something for him to sleep on (and not kill my arms). I planned to take my time getting off and get him back in the wrap, to keep Jack calm and happy. Then walk off, hug mom and dad, then jump in the car back to their house. For the flight home, it was later in the afternoon—after Jack’s nap time—so I figured a similar protocol would work. Get there with just enough time, wear him, nurse him on the plane, hope he sleeps, and not rush getting off the plane. Plus this time I would have Michael to help.

Wear your baby through the airport! 

Then the day came. We got up early that morning, but let Jack continue to sleep. Just when I finished getting ready, he woke up and we got him ready too. There was traffic getting the airport, but we planned for that so we had plenty of time. We parked, got Jack in the wrap, got our tickets, said good-bye, and went to security. By that time Jack was asleep. I calmly went through security to my gate.

First class his first flight!

As I was waiting at the gate, they kept offering upgrades to first class for only $50….so I texted Michael and he said I could treat myself. I was so excited! I know that families travelling with infants board first anyways, but it was nice to board with first class. The minute I stepped on the plane, one flight attendant was eyeing my baby.  She offered to hold him while I got situated. I know some people might be worried about letting a stranger hold their baby, but I wasn’t too concerned. I figured she must be a mom herself and knew the troubles of travelling with a baby. And she wasn’t going to hurt him because she probably wanted to keep her job. Plus, it’s not like she could run off with him, we were stuck in a metal tube! I was nervous about how the person sitting next to me would react to a baby. It was a middle-aged man on a business trip. As he getting out his laptop, he noticed Jack. He said “Hi little guy!” So I faced Jack towards him and said “Hi, I’m Jack! I’m only 4-months-old and this is my first flight, I apologize if it doesn’t go well.” He smiled and said, “No problem Jack, I remember what 4-month-olds can be like.” I was relieved.

He met this pilots and got his wings!

Then something awesome happened! The flight attendant told me bring Jack to the cockpit to meet the pilots before the doors sealed. So I quickly brought him up there and we snapped a photo. Then they gave him his wings and a certificate. I showed them to Jack and he just tried to suck on them, but I was so excited for him!

Tired from screaming and playing with his toy.

Shortly after I got back to my seat, we began to taxi. I put Jack on the nursing pillow and began to nurse him. He was all happy until we began to pick up speed. He began to scream once we lifted up. I kept trying to latch him on, but he wasn’t having it. Five minutes later, I gave up and sat him up. He calmed down instantly and reached for his toy in the bag. Duh, he is a very alert baby. He likes action. He wasn’t mad about taking off, he was mad I wasn’t showing him the take off! He played with his toy for awhile, then made the milk face so I nursed him. Then he fell asleep and slept right through the landing. I waited there in my seat until half the plane left, then I gently woke him up. The flight attendant held him while I got my wrap on and bags together. Then we happily walked off the plane.

I was surprised to only see my mom. My dad had to run into work for a bit. My mom doesn’t like driving to Portland so we had to take the MAX home. Jack fussed a little on the train, but I just nursed him to sleep.

The rest of the trip was great, got to see friends and sorority sisters I haven’t seen in years. And Jack got lots of grandparent time. Michael joined us that Friday too.

He had a solid hour nap on the plane.

The flight home went just as well. We got to the airport with just enough time (I love that there is hardly any traffic in Oregon). I wore him through security and everything went smooth. No cheap offers on first class this time sadly. However, I decided to not take him out of the wrap this time. He was sound asleep and he needed a good nap. If the flight attendants asked me, I would of course comply. But we boarded, got comfy in our seats, and the plane took off. No one said anything. Every airline has a different policy on this so I looked up Alaska’s beforehand and they indeed to do not allow babies to be in carriers during flight. They either need to held or in a carseat in separate seat. I am not advocating breaking any airlines policies or saying the crew didn’t do their jobs. But it worked this one time, and I am glad I got away with it. Jack needed that nap. To be honest, I probably won’t do that again now that he’s older anyways.

He couldn’t just wait until we landed…

He woke up halfway through the flight, so I took him out of the wrap. He was all happy and very interested in looking out the window. Then, he farted really loud and we knew he pooped his diaper. Really kid, you couldn’t wait a little bit longer until we were back in San Jose? Some airplanes do not have changing tables, and I didn’t want to risk hauling Jack and the diaper bag all the way to the bathroom for nothing. So I changed Jack on Michael’s lap quickly. The guy next to Michael was asleep and Jack’s poop didn’t smell yet. Plus, I did it so quick I doubt anyone noticed.

He loved looking out the window!

I tried to nurse him as we descended, but once again he wasn’t having it. So I sat him up and showed him stuff out the window. Look Jack! There’s the Bay! There’s 280! Oh, there’s the Santa Cruz Mountains! Oh, right there baby, is Loma Prieta were a big earthquake came from! There’s Gilroy where all the garlic is! and etc. I’m sure I sounded like a crazy lady, but it made Jack happy. And we landed with no screaming or tears.

We got our bags and met my sister-in-law out front. It all went very well and I have no more worries about flying with a baby anymore. Hopefully he stays this good as a toddlers…

Here is my advice for flying with a baby under 6-months-old:

  • Plan for every possible scenario. Too hot, too cold, running late, running early, flight cancelled, sick baby, sick parents, tired baby, tired parents & etc. And expect that one of these WILL happen. That way you aren’t stressed out when it does happen. I didn’t panic when my mom said we had to take MAX instead because I kept that option in mind. I didn’t panic when he pooped, because I knew that the pressure might upset his tummy. 
  • But don’t over pack. Have back up things in your diaper bag or carry on, like extra diapers and clothes for sure. But don’t bring unnecessary stuff. If your bag is too full, you won’t be able to find stuff easily. And it will be a pain to lug around an airport while holding a baby. 
  • Don’t rush, leave plenty of time in case something does happen—like Bay Area traffic. No one wants to be that person running to the gate with a screaming baby. Horrible way to start or end your vacation.
  • Wear your baby. If you only remember one thing from this post, make it this. Whether it be a wrap, ring sling, soft structured carrier, buckle carrier, mei tai, or any other type—get that baby on you so you can easily move about the busy airport handsfree. 
  • Take care of your babies needs right away. Keep them comfortable as possible to avoid a meltdown.  Feed, change, play and get them down for a nap as needed, don’t delay. Would you be happy sitting in your own pee for a whole plane ride? Or told you can have food as soon as we land when you are starving? I’d sure throw a tantrum too! This is why we changed Jack’s diaper right away. 
  • Try to plan with baby’s schedule in mind.  That way there is even less chance of a meltdown. We flew around times that Jack naps so he could sleep most of the ride. It worked very well. 
  • Ask for help if you need it.  If that nice flight attendant offers to hold your baby while you sit down, let them. If the person next to you asks if you need help getting a bottle from your bag, accept it. Don’t stress yourself out doing it alone. 
  • Help baby with ear pressure. Nursing, a bottle, pacifier, or anything else they can suck during takeoff and landing is a must. Jack was content with just sucking my finger—but he sucked hard, his ears must have really popped.
  • Keep in mind every baby is different. Jack didn’t want to nurse, but was happy looking at the window. Maybe your baby will need to nurse the whole flight. Maybe your baby will scream the whole time no matter what you do.  All of this is okay, so don’t panic if your baby doesn’t cooperate. 
  • Upgrade to first class if you can afford it. And I mean only if you can afford it, don’t go broke because I told you it’s better. But it really was nicer. More room, free snacks and drinks, and just overall more relaxing with a baby. 

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.