Monday, September 2, 2013

Road Trips While Pregnant and With An Infant... You CAN Do It! (Probably)

From time to time I post on message boards- in the past for expectant mothers and now for new moms.  A question I see asked all the time is whether or not it's safe to/can you travel while pregnant or with a baby.  Having travelled a lot during my pregnancy and a lot during my son's first 6 weeks of life I thought I'd share a bit about my travels and what it was like, and how I survived two extremely long road trips - one while 32 weeks pregnant and one with a 5 week old baby.

First of all, as you can tell by my pregnancy journal entries, I had a very normal pregnancy.  Minus not being able to see a kidney on an early ultrasound, my child's time in the womb was largly uneventful.  I was not high risk in any way, shape, or form.  Also, Bear was born extremely healthy and my labor and delivery were completely natural with no tears or stitches involved.  So, obviously, my experience may differ from others slightly if these things are not the case.  But if they are, I'm here to tell you that you CAN travel and you can it comfortable!

First, at 32 weeks we travelled from Northern California or North Minnesota.  We took the Nevada to Utah to Wyoming to South Dakota to Southern Minnesota route.  It took a total of 41 hours including stops (36 hours total of driving).  We did not stop for the night.  We did stop three times for meals at sit down restaurants and once at a casino to place some sport bets.  If you are planning a similar trip at 32 weeks, here are my tips:

Bear and his Starfish
1) Go to the bathroom whenever you stop to get gas and stop to eat.
-We did not have to make any extra stops for me to go to the bathroom.  In fact, my husband had to stop more than I did!  I just made it a point to go whenever we stopped to get gas, whether I had to or not.  Since we'd stop every 3 hours or so for that purpose, I was going often enough.  We'd also stop when we were hungry to eat, which was usually in the middle of each gas fill-up.  So, in reality, I was going to the bathroom and walking around for about 10 minutes every hour and a half.  Usually my husband and I would go through drive thrus during these trips, but since I was trying to eat healthy we usually opted for truck stop diners and things like that.

2) Leave the back seat open.
-I insisted we leave the entire back seat open so I could lie down when I wasn't driving.  During the night hours one of us would use the back seat to spread out (as much as possible) and sleep.  I got pretty good sleep back there as the backseat of my Scion xB is rather long and comfy. 

3) Bring lots to drink!
-We went to Costco and bought a bunch of coconut water.  I made sure to drink at least one an hour to prevent dehydration. 

4) Have your medical information on you.
-Just in case.  You never know what may happen.  I had a note in the pocket of my pants that explained where my medical information was in the car.  In case of an accident or emergency I had this easily accessible for anyone who would need it.  The note also had the name and phone number of my midwifery practice back in CA.

Next up, traveling with an infant.  Just a week ago we did the same drive, but in reverse, with our five week old son.  This time the drive took us several days because we stopped at hotels each night and had to stop every 2-3 hours to feed the baby.  Here are some tips to surviving a long road trip with a baby:

1) White Noise
Bear is actually neutral to South Dakota :)
-I cannot begin to tell you how amazing white noise is when it comes to my baby!  I really hope for everyone's sake that all infants like it as much as my guy does.  Whenever he'd get upset and we couldn't pull over yet to feed we'd start playing white noise over the car speakers and within seconds he'd either be back asleep or content and quiet until we could find the next gas station or rest area.  Originally we were using a "dead" radio station, but that has it's flaws when you are traveling.  Mainly, a dead station can suddenly come to life and the white noise you are playing over your radio may suddenly become really loud hip-hop music.  That's when I discovered the White Noise Baby app.  White noise without the threat of interuption.  Best. Thing. Ever!

2) If you breastfeed, PUMP!
-My guy is a pretty slow eater when he's on the breast.  For this reason I decided to buy a car adapter for my breast pump and use that instead.  I would pump while we drove and then my husband would feed the bottle during feedings.  At nights in the hotel I would feed like normal.  For us, it worked out great.  I do recommend introducing a bottle before you do this, just in case your baby won't take a bottle or a certain kind of bottle.  But for us it was a lot easier and faster than trying to breastfeed at each stop.

3) Stop to sleep at night.
-We are huge fans of just driving through the night and pushing through until we arrive.  But I quickly realized that, with a baby, that was not possible.  Mostly, he needed to get out of his car seat.  It's a nice car seat and seems comfortable enough, but I worried about him getting sore or overly cranky if we tried to do that.  By stopping we were able to have some face-to-face time and hang out a bit before getting back on the road.  Sure, it extended our trip by over 24 hours, but it made for some not-cranky parents and baby.

4) Leave a seat in back open next to the baby.
-We actually were not able to do this, since we were hauling back his stroller and all of our stuff.  But I really wish we had.  It would have been so nice to be back there with him while he was awake for face time with him.  I would lean my chair back as much as I could with all of the stuff that was behind me and chat with him, but he couldn't really see me.  If I were to do a road trip like this again I would leave things behind in order to be able to sit next to him when he was awake.

5) Rest areas are your friend!
-I never used to like rest areas quite like I do now.  I found them to be the best option for stopping for a feeding.  For one, most have picnic benches or outdoor areas where you can sit and feed, rather than inside of a fast food place or whatever.  We'd pull over, feed him his bottle, change his diaper, and then hang out for a few minutes before getting back on the road.  Usually we'd stay until he started dozing off.  We'd both be able to go to the bathroom as well, and even grab some snacks from the vending machines if we needed them.  I much preferred doing these feeding stops at rest areas over gas stations and fast food restaurants.

And in case you were curious, you don't really have to entertain a young baby.  He was content (most of the time) just staring out the window or at the pattern on the car seats.  Plus he slept for most of the trip.

Of course, all babies and moms are different.  You should always consult your doctor as to when it is safe to travel while pregnant and with your baby.  And if you ever start feeling uncomfortable during travel it's always best to use your navigation system to find the nearest ER or Urgent Care and get checked out.  Traveling long distances can cause blood clots and other issues while pregnant!  But if all is well with your pregnancy and your newborn- travel on!  I love being able to say that my son has now been to six states in his short little life.  I was a senior in high school before I was able to say that!

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