I live in NYC so I have the luxury of really great public transportation. We own a car and use it often, but mainly for longer trips— either to visit nearby family or to go away for the weekend. Meaning, when we put our two-year-old in her carseat, she will usually be in it for at least a half hour, if not more.
Early on, we established a pattern with our daughter that led to only traveling during nap times or at bed time. This resulted in her passing out in the car pretty quickly, sleeping the whole way and rarely ever being a problem on the road.
What led to this strict “driving while napping” routine?
When Mazzy was just a few months old, I took her to a party at friend’s house in Long Island by myself. It was about an hour drive door-to-door. The way there went fine but on the way back, all hell broke loose. She was hysterically crying and screaming and as the driver, I could do nothing to console her. Finally, I became so frazzled and concerned for both of our safety on the road, I pulled over. I got into the back of the car, took her out of the carseat and held her until she calmed down.
When I tried to put her back in the carseat, she started crying again and I knew I couldn’t handle driving with her so upset. I was a new mom and I drove rarely (I much prefer being the passenger while my husband drives) and was not going to risk anything happening because we needed to get home. Instead, we stayed in that parking lot until Mazzy was fed and fell asleep. Only then did I strap her back in the carseat, take the wheel and head home.
From that point forward, we only drove when it was time for her to sleep. It’s actually gotten easier as she has gotten older because her sleeping schedule is more defined— 1pm in the afternoon or 7:30pm at night. We rarely take a weekend trip first thing Saturday morning, opting instead to leave the Friday night before. We are also very lucky because we can transfer Mazzy easily from her carseat to her bed without her waking up. We’ve even been known to use the car for nap time when we are away from home.
In order to ensure that Mazzy falls asleep on our road trips, we have never given her the iPad or let her watch a movie while in the car. If she knew this was an option, she would never sleep in a car again.
The only times we ever run into trouble is for car trips over two hours long (we try to keep those at a minimum!) or when someone else is also traveling in the backseat. Although, usually, that person makes it their business to entertain her which stops my daughter from distracting meow my husband from the road.
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