What are the best ways to ensure you have a smooth trip when traveling with baby?
First of all, you have to be flexible, adaptable, and you have to help baby learn to be the same way.
I remember years ago when I had my first child I read The Baby Whisperer. It was a great book that shared the 'secrets' of the Baby Whisperer (author Tracy Hogg) and helped me get baby #1 on a good sleeping schedule.
But it advocated a regular bedtime routine - in the same bed, in the same order, at the same time.
After having baby number five, I thought how much those 'secrets' would not fit with our nomadic, traveling lifestyle.
So as I worked on 'teaching' baby Atlas how to sleep, eat, be comforted and more, and in preparation with our upcoming adventure, I kept in mind what secrets I needed to help him while we were on the road.
Instead of having baby learn to be comforted by the same bed, the same room, the same routine, I needed other secret strategies - techniques that will help baby to learn to be comforted by familiar things that you'll take with you on your travels - your arms, your voice, your presence.
Whether by plane, train or automobile, here are 20 secrets for happier traveling with a baby:
- Breast feeding is one of the best tools for traveling with an infant. It's a self-contained food source, and a comforter all in one. It's the magic mojo.
- Co-sleeping helps your baby be comfortable no matter where you're sleeping. Even if you sleep in a new bed every night, if they're with you, it won't be an issue.
- Use a pack-n-play if you really don't think you can do co-sleeping. It's extra baggage to pack, but it provides the same familiar 'bed' for baby each night.
- Practice an array of comforting strategies - cuddling, breast feeding, bouncing, singing - so you have tools at your disposal at the inevitable upset at the most inconvenient time.
- Use a pacifier - it's another tool that can help baby be comforted while driving in the car or flying on a plane - and can help keep ears from getting plugged.
- Sit next to baby if possible when driving in the car on a road trip - then you can give comfort, feed, and play with baby, lengthening the miles/hours you can drive.
- If baby is eating solid food, have snacks on hand - cheerios, crackers, fruit. Food is a good way to forestall meltdowns and 'buy more time' to get through customs or cross the border.
- Keep baby's bottom dry - it's no fun sitting in a wet or dirty diaper while driving in the car, in a backpack or on a plane.
- Preempt your baby's needs - breast feed before you get to the airport, change the diaper before the outdoor excursion.
- When you're preparing for a trip, practice sleeping in different places with your baby - on the couch, in different beds, at other people's houses. At first it will be a challenge, but with practice they'll soon be able to sleep anywhere.
- Also let your baby practice sleeping around loud noises - let them sleep on the couch where your other kids are playing or where all the activity is. Run the vacuum. This is useful for when nap time happens to be at the airport or other loud location.
- Another way to prepare for longer trips is by taking shorter trips while still at home - go hiking with baby in a back pack, carry him around the airport, or take a road trip to grandmas. This 'practice runs' can help you learn what will and won't work.
- Be in tune to what baby needs. When you do your part to pay attention to his needs, he'll be a very happy traveler for the most part. It's only when the 'traveling' results in ignoring his requests that he becomes unhappy.
- When a 'meltdown' occurs, pause for a moment to take care of it. Others will understand when you have to stop what you're doing to comfort or nurse a crying baby. It may not be the most 'convenient' moment, but doing what you have to will save everyone a lot of frustration.
- Take walks up and down the airplane isles. Do this before meltdowns, and you'll help pass the time for baby, especially on long flights.
- When you stop for gas or other reasons, get baby out of their car seat - they need a chance to 'stretch' as well.
- Make sure baby has fun too. She doesn't care that you're at a famous historical monument - she still wants to do baby stuff, and learn about simple things, like your mouth. Make time for playing, reading books together, cuddling, and all the things you would do while at home.
- After the initial upset of routine due to flights, or long days traveling, try to return to some sort of regimen - regular waking, sleep and eating times. You'll be surprised that you can have a 'routine' regardless of where you are.
- Develop practices or 'traditions' that you can do anywhere in the world but that are 'yours'. Bedtime stories, morning time songs. This brings a sense of comfort and cohesion to your little family, regardless where you might be on earth.
- Don't forget that all important bag, whether simple or fancy - the one that has all your supplies. Diapers, wipes, a bib, a book or two, some toys, snacks, some cash and infant tylenol.
What are your secrets to happy traveling with your baby?
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