Moving With A Baby
Are You Crazy?
You may hear that a lot if you're contemplating moving long-distance with your baby.
In our case, our little girl was only four weeks old when we decided to move from Seattle to Oklahoma City. And we decided to drive all of it with our baby and our 90lb dog. Our route took us 2,700 miles and took us two weeks of traveling and introducing our baby to over 100 people on the way.
Having done it, I can say that no, we weren't crazy. In fact, it worked out pretty well overall. Here's what we learned...trial by fire.
Step 1: Plan, Plan, Plan
If you are driving long-distance to your new place, plan your route, how long you'll drive each day, and make sure there are places to stop for a break every 2-3 hours where you can stretch your legs, change a diaper, nurse, etc. I'd recommend not going longer than 6 hours in a day (with 2-4 breaks in there).
If you have a long day of driving, try to plan a rest day in between to give both you and baby a break.
Take note of where you'll be geographically. If you're crossing a mountain path, know to have a bottle and binkie ready in case baby's ears start to hurt from the altitude. If you'll be getting out of the car somewhere cold, know to have a warm blanket in reach when you take off. Pre-thinking the trip can help save a lot of stress in the long run.
Also try to plan the best age for your baby to drive. You don't want to go when they're too little and Mama is still healing, but trying to keep a 9 month old in a carseat for 6-8 hours a day is a challenge. Our baby was 7-8 weeks old and it worked out great. She slept for a good portion of the time, and was content sucking a pacifier, looking at a black and white contrast book or herself in the mirror, or being talked to while she was awake.
Plan out what you will be taking in the car with you, or what things you will need to have out if everything else is packed up. Babies need a surprising amount of items.
Items We Used
In our car, we had:
A Moses basket (or a Pack n' Play if you have room) for baby to sleep in. My husband sleeps like the dead and its fairly stressful when baby sleeps in the bed with us...especially when she was so little. We stayed in hotels and at family and friends' houses, so having the Moses basket made sure that she always had a secure place to nap or sleep. When baby outgrows it, it is still cute enough to store stuffed animals and, for a girl, to eventually use as a baby doll bed. A pack n' play works as well, though its a bit more of a hassle to set up and break down every day.
A diaper caddy, or something similar. This made diaper changes on the road much easier, and when we stayed at a hotel or house we could just move it to our room and still have everything organized and accessible. I keep mine stocked with diapers, wipes, diaper rash creme, sunscreen, children's tylenol, gripe water, a thermometer, coconut oil (which I use on everything from cradle cap to the beginnings of diaper rash to scratches from tiny nails), baby powder, baby shampoo and body wash, and a nosefrieda snot sucker (which is awesome).
A manual or battery operated breast pump, if you are nursing. With our baby being 7 and 8 weeks old while we were on the road, it was very important to me to continue solely breastfeeding. If Mama is riding in the back with baby, she can pump and give a bottle without having to make a stop. This also will help keep your milk supply up and prevent engorgement.
A stash of clean pacifiers, burp cloths, bibs, easily accessible clothes and some basic toys (depending on baby's age). One thing that we got after the trip that I wish I had had during the drive was a battery operated travel mobile. It plays soothing music for 30 minutes and really does keep baby's attention fixed on it! The toys that were our lifesaver were a Bright Starts singing bee, a mirror, a sensory giraffe with a mirror, rattle, tags, and teether on its feet, and a lovie blanket our baby loves to snuggle to sleep with.
A mini LED light for nighttime. Its dark, and if baby's not asleep it can be a bit scary. Just having the light on so she can see a friendly face can help her be OK with staying in the carseat a bit longer.
If you won't have access to a washer and dryer en route, I recommend a wet bag to keep baby's clothes in. They seal in smell and liquid, so your car doesn't smell like yesterday's sour milk.
An activity gym. After riding in a carseat for so many hours a day, or being held and passed from person to person, its nice for a baby to just lay down and be still. The Infantino Twist and Fold was our favorite, as it collapses and folds up like an umbrella. We stored it in the Moses basket while traveling.
Travel size dish soap, a bottle brush, and a clean kitchen towel as you'll be washing bottles in hotel sinks...
And obviously clothes, sleepers, socks, a warm hat or sun hat, blankets (at least one warm and one light--my favorites are aden+anais swaddlers), and extra sheet(s) for Moses basket or pack n' play.
If you're not nursing, make sure to have formula and bottled water on hand. (I'd recommend always having formula in case of an emergency, even if you're a dedicated breastfeeder. I'd stick with a dairy based organic formula--soy is an estrogen promoter and there's not been enough studies on GMOs for me to be comfortable giving it to my pure little baby...but that's a whole other hub...).
Step 2: Get Help!
If you've just had a baby and are planning on moving soon after its born, you will need help. Especially if one spouse is still working full time. Mom will be moving a bit slower (as she should!), and a newborn takes a lot of attention and work.
This part goes back to the planning, as it will help to plan how you will pack so you can delegate jobs. Have someone else do the heavy lifting--you wrap the dishes.
Another important thing you'll need help with is having someone in the backseat with the baby. We managed to have this every day except one in our two weeks of travel, and the one 8-hour stretch she was in the backseat alone she cried almost the entire 8 hours. Talk about torture! Having someone in the back with her who can pop the binkie back in, wipe the spit up, talk to, sing to, play with her feet, stroke her face...all these little things will keep a baby pretty happy as you drive from Point A to Point B. Even if you have to spend some extra money to fly someone to or from your end destination (we did), it is worth it.
Step 3: Be Organized
Moving is messy. Taking road trip are messy. Even if you are super organized, you will still lose things in the car and along the way. Being organized helps lessen the messy dent.
Our backseat was setup with the car seat in the middle (which is also the safest), space for a passenger on the right side and the most important baby things on the left side. The passenger riding with baby could reach over at any point and grab a bottle, toys, a burp cloth, a binkie, or wipes without having to unbuckle her seat belt.
In the back of our SUV, our 90 lb dog had a bed, water and food bowls, and some toys. Stacked against one side of the back was luggage, the Moses basket, the activity gym and the wet bag for dirty diapers, all bungee corded up so they wouldn't fall on the dog. When we stopped, I just rolled back the dog bed and had a changing area right there. That worked for us, but it may take a day or two of packing and rearranging things to see what works for you.
Step 4: Be Flexible
Your baby will probably have a blowout diaper before you are out of the city, have a meltdown in the middle of a stretch with no gas stations, or decide that is the moment to be super attached to Mama and if they can't see Mama all hell breaks loose.
You're going to have to go with it.
You'll have unplanned stops that take longer than you expect. When you see five hours of drive time, estimate 7-8 hours of travel.
Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not go insane.
Other Little Things
I organized a little changing area in the back of our SUV, so that when we stopped I didn't have to drag a baby and a diaper bag into a gas station to change her diaper. This, of course, is temperature and weather permitting, but it did make things more convenient.
Give baby some time to just be still after a car ride. That's a lot of jostling and vibration on a little person, and some still and quiet time is good.
Give yourselves little breaks. Get that $5 frappuccino and reward yourself for undertaking such a task.
Lastly, don't forget to take pictures so you can tell your child, "We drove across the country when you were only 7 weeks old!" and show them pictures to prove just how crazy brave you were.