If you’re like most new parents, your carefree days of jet-setting on a moment’s notice will come to a screeching halt when your baby arrives. You may be asking yourself if you will ever again venture beyond the grocery store. Good news: With the right planning, you and your tiny traveling companion can explore the world from the get-go.
What to Pack
Whether you are going out for the day or taking a long trip, your diaper bag is your new best friend. In addition to diapers, basic contents include wipes, one to two changes of clothes, a changing pad, a burp cloth and feeding supplies. A book and some toys can be handy, too.
One the Move
Wherever you go, you will get around more easily with a stroller or infant carrier. Some families use a heavy-duty stroller for walks around the neighborhood and a more lightweight, easy-to-fold one to take in the car. Look for models with easy manoeuvring, a generous sun shade and a little bit of storage space. As your baby gets older, she will enjoy a stroller tray for bottles, snacks and toys.
On car trips your baby should always be in a rear-facing infant car seat. Never leave your little one in the car alone, as temperatures can rise rapidly in an unattended car and babies are susceptible to heatstroke.
Some babies love riding in the car, and some just can’t stand it. If yours is in the second category, make sure that you always bring a selection of small, soft toys and baby-friendly music when you go driving together. You may have to take frequent breaks on a longer trip — just think of them as an opportunity for everyone to stretch their legs.
Overnight trips can seem daunting. Make a list of what you think you will need beforehand, and pack accordingly. Include backup diaper bag supplies, changes of clothes and extra feeding supplies. Although you may have heard that a baby can “sleep in a drawer,” be sure there is a crib at your destination that conforms to current safety standards.
Up & Away!
Air travel can be especially challenging for families. Always leave extra time in the schedule to get through security. You can check a stroller at the gate (usually at no extra charge), but it must be small enough to fit through the X-ray machine when folded. Your baby will be safest strapped into an FAA-approved car seat right next to you instead of being held on your lap, so consider this when making reservations.
Airports and planes are notorious for spreading germs, so wash or sanitize your hands and seat surfaces regularly. If your baby has had a recent illness or has medical problems, ask your healthcare provider if she is cleared for flying.
You have probably heard small children crying on an airplane, especially on take-off and landing. Air pressure changes can cause ear pain. Have your baby nurse or suck on a bottle. Swallowing can help balance the pressure on either side of the eardrum, which eliminates the pain.
A few special considerations for international travel: Talk with your provider beforehand, as recommendations for vaccines, mosquito protection, etc., vary by country. Ensure that any baby equipment you use meets current safety standards.
In certain locations, fresh food and tap water may not be safe for your little one to eat and drink. Check so you can bring or buy what you will need. The U.S. Department of State (https://www.state.gov/) posts country-specific travel guidelines/warnings regularly.
Preparation and flexibility are key when traveling with your new little passenger. If you know what to expect, you can still satisfy your wanderlust with your baby onboard!
Pediatrician Elizabeth Shashaty, MD, is on staff at Children’s National Medical Center and Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, both in Washington, DC. She is also the mother of three young children.
For more information on pregnancy and parenting, go to: www.youandyourfamily.com.