There are so many things to adjust to when you have a baby: choosing the best infant gear, feeding and sleeping schedules, and more. Driving with your new baby is just another new skill you'll master as you become a confident parent. It might not be easy to travel with an infant at first, but there are things you can do to ensure that your baby is safe and happy in the car. Here are six tips to guide you.
1. Make sure the car seat is right for your baby and correctly installed. From newborn to toddler, there is an appropriate seat for your baby's age, stage, height, and weight, so make sure you're using the correct one. If you need help, Consumer Reports has a credible buying guide. Just keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children stay rear-facing until age 2 or until they've reached the maximum height and weight for their seat. In addition, car seat technicians can check to ensure that your car seat is properly installed. Check out the list of providers in your area.
2. Don't leave your baby alone in the car. Babies should never be left alone in the car -- whether they're in a car seat or outside of one. Always make sure your baby is supervised when he or she is in the car, regardless of whether the vehicle is moving or not.
3. Don't let your baby sleep for long periods of time. While many parents are happy to notice their baby drifting off to sleep in the car, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Pediatrics, a car seat should not be used as a substitute for a crib, bassinet, or other sleeping surface. It's fine if your baby snoozes in their car seat while you're driving, but make sure to switch them to another sleeping surface when you get home.
4. Go light on padding. Bulky jackets, blankets, and padding can actually impair car seat safety. Avoid bundling your baby up too much, even when it's chilly. Dress him or her in what they would normally wear indoors, and then put their outdoor gear on after taking them out of their seat.
5. Consider the in-car temperature. Most of the time, the temperature control in the car will be just fine for your baby. But when it's especially cold, make sure the back seat isn't too chilly, and in hotter months, make sure the air-conditioning cools the back seat down. If it's hot out, it's also a good idea to throw a blanket or towel on top of the car seat while you're out of the car -- this can block direct sunlight and keep plastic at a manageable temperature. Removable window shades are another great option for making sure seats don't get too hot.
6. Don't skimp on gear. It may feel overwhelming to bring every single thing your baby might want or need, but a well-packed travel bag can be a lifesaver on long trips or during traffic jams. Consider keeping a bag with a change of clothes, an extra blanket, an extra pacifier (if your baby uses them), snacks (if your baby is eating solid food), and other necessities, just in case.
As you prepare to take your baby for his or her first car ride, be sure to keep these tips in mind. In time, you'll feel completely confident driving as a parent. It certainly takes some getting used to when you travel with an infant, but don't worry -- you're definitely up for the job.