Is a long car trip with a newborn safe?

We have a 10-week-old baby and are planning on taking a two week road trip. Is a long car trip with a newborn safe?


Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

There is nothing better for putting in perspective just how much stuff you need to take care of your children than going on a trip. And when it comes to the logistics of how to do it, there are no hard and fast rules since it depends on the age and temperament of the child. However, here are some helpful hints which I give you as both a pediatrician and a father.

Is a Long Car Trip Safe for the Newborn?

From the Pediatrician -- Absolutely

From the Daddy -- Sure it's safe for the baby, but it may make the parents crazy. Seriously, traveling with a newborn can in many ways be the easiest travel with children. However, it can be very stressful as well. Be aware of this, lower your travel time expectations, and most of all enjoy the company of your spouse. Between the feeding and changing diapers, traveling with a newborn can give you and your spouse some quality time together.

The Time it Takes to Travel with a Newborn

From the Pediatrician -- There will be periods on the road in which you will be tempted to save time during feeding. If your baby is breastfed, you will want to take her out of the carseat to feed while moving. If she is bottle-fed, that temptation will happen when it comes time to burp her. Three words -- Don't do it. Safety has got to take precedence. Even though the time out of the carseat may be minimal, it could be just enough time to be involved in an accident. This same temptation may come if the baby becomes fussy. If he needs to be held, stop the car.

From the Daddy -- I remember how far my wife and I could travel in the car in one day before we had kids. So, I was astounded at how much slower it was when we had a newborn due to all the required stopping to change diapers, feed, comfort, etc. I found it takes almost twice as long to travel with a newborn than without. Therefore, when planning how much time it will take to make it to the destination, calculate how long it would be with just you and your wife ... and then double it.

Remember the Time Zone Change

From the Pediatrician -- Minimal time zone changes may effect your baby more than you would expect. Most babies do pretty well when changing time zones, but when you throw in the disruption of the normal routine due to car travel, some babies may be a bit more fussy than usual.

From the Daddy -- Time zone changes usually don't affect sleep patterns as much as the rocking of the car tended to make babies sleep longer. In some respects, traveling with a newborn is much easier than with older children because of the large amount of time spent sleeping. Occasionally, this can backfire in the infant who is sleeping through the night. The extra sleep during the day may disrupt sleep at night. Also, normal eating times may not change with the time zone until a few days later.

What You Should Pack

From the Pediatrician -- Pack everything. Adjustment to new environments are more easily achieved if much of the usual equipment is used. Bring your blankets, your baby wipes and diapers and anything else that your baby is used to during the day.

From the Daddy -- Pack everything. Things like nail scissors, the nasal bulb syringe and the thermometer are things that might get left behind if you don't make note of them. We usually made either mental or written notes about things we used for the baby starting about two weeks before the trip. That ensured those "not-daily-used" items got packed.

I wish you well on your trip. Drive safely and have fun.

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