Magazine article USA TODAY

Baby on Board

Magazine article USA TODAY

Baby on Board

Article excerpt

THE HOLIDAYS are here--which means that families all over America soon will be packing up their modern-day sleighs and hitting the road to visit friends and family. If you are a new mom, driving much farther than your own zip code might sound more than daunting. Instead of sugarplums, the visions that are dancing in your head involve hours of nonstop crying, the smell of dirty diapers, and spit-up all over the back seat. Especially if you have older children, too, the thought of confining everyone in a sedan, van, or SUV for hours at a time might be enough to turn you into a stay-at-home Scrooge.

Road trips with infants have the potential to take the "happy" out of the holidays. However, some strategic planning can make driving over the river and through the woods much more bearable for everyone. Over time, I have learned a lot of travel disaster lessons in the School of Hard Knocks--and I also have developed some crisis-averting strategies that have turned out to be real lifesavers. As simple as it sounds, anticipating issues and being prepared for contingencies can mean the difference between "fa la las" and "bah, humbugs."

Let me share some mom-tested tips to keep you, your baby, and the rest of your passengers happy during holiday road trips:

Make a list and check it twice. Mien you are packing for yourself and one or more children, it is all too easy to forget essential items, despite your best intentions. So, start early. Make a list of everything you want to bring and check each item off once it is in the car. When packing your baby gear specifically, take however many extra outfits, burp cloths, bibs, diapers, and pacifiers you think you will need--then double it. Moreover, Murphy's Law of Babies says if you err on the side of less, you always will end up needing what you do not have. Also, do not forget to pack plenty of plastic baggies or grocery bags in which to store any soiled laundry.

Take blowout containment measures. As a new mom, you live in perpetual fear of the dreaded diaper blowout--but at no time is this baby bathroom emergency more inconvenient than in a moving vehicle. The last thing you want to do at a rest stop is attempt to clean your child, a car seat, and possibly your car's upholstery with paper towels and freezing tap water. Remember, blowouts are more likely to happen in the car because of your baby's positioning in the car seat, but you can take steps to contain the mess. Put a burp cloth or thin blanket underneath your baby in the car seat---just make sure it is nothing too bulky that might compromise the safety of the seat. This way, you only will have to switch out the cloth and your baby's clothes, not the entire seat.

Listen to a new version of "White Christmas." It might not be as melodious as Bing Crosby's holiday classic, but it might be to your advantage to play a new track as you head down the interstate: white noise, which can calm fussy babies, and even help them fall asleep. I recommend downloading a white noise app on your smartphone or tablet. If you do not have those devices, just switch to a static radio station.

Prepare for meals on the go. One of the many road trip responsibilities you will have to juggle is your baby's feedings. If you are bottle feeding, fill bottles with water ahead of time. You either can purchase single-serving formula packs or use a dispenser that allows you to premeasure formula. These options will make preparing bottles in the car much easier. If you are breastfeeding, invest in a car adapter for your pump. …

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