What Should you Consider when Driving with a New Baby?
by Ed Scott
Driving home from the hospital with a new-born baby can be one of the most nerve-wracking journeys you’ll ever take – even though the idea has always been to not crash your car, there’s something about ferrying your new precious baby around that brings some added pressure.
So if you, or someone you know, is about to go through the life-changing experience of becoming a child’s taxi for the next couple of decades, here are some things to consider when driving around with a brand new baby…
Fitting a car seat is the first, and perhaps most important, consideration when travelling with a new-born baby, or any child for that matter – and it’s vitally important to make sure that the seat is not only the correct size for the baby, but also that it’s properly installed.
When buying a baby seat, don’t buy second hand as it may have been involved in an accident which may compromise its safety. Also be sure that it conforms to United Nations standard ECE regulation 44-03 or later – this should be clearly stated on the packaging.
All babies must be in rear-facing baby seats until they are over 15 months old, and weight-based car seats must be rear-facing until your baby weighs more than 9kg.
Unless the car seat has been specifically designed for use with a lap belt, or four-point harness, you can only use a child car seat if your car has diagonal, three-point seat belt to secure it with.
You must deactivate any front airbags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat into the front seat of your car, and never try to fit a child car seat in side-facing seats.
And because baby seats can sometimes be a real nightmare to install, make sure you practice fitting your seat until you’re confident it’s properly secured. Only then should you take your baby out in it.
Don’t get distracted
Having a new-born baby in the car, or any child for that matter, can be a major distraction, particularly if you’re still at the panicky-parent phase, whereby if your baby stops gurgling for a couple of seconds you’ll quickly convince yourself they’ve also forgotten how to breath. They won’t have, don’t stress!
In all seriousness though, a recent study in Australia found that during a 16-minute drive, parents took their eyes off the road for an average of three-minutes and 22 seconds – making having children in the car 12 times more distracting than talking on a mobile phone while at the wheel.
And when you consider that studies have shown drivers who use a mobile at the wheel have a 30% slower reaction time than drivers with a blood alcohol level of 80mg per 100ml of blood (the current UK limit), then you can see how dangerous a distraction a baby on board can be.
So even if your baby is playing up, keep your eyes on the road and pull over at the first, safe available opportunity.
Keep baby busy
Getting out of the house and into the car will never be the same again as you struggle with assorted baby paraphernalia, the car seat and, of course, the baby itself. And while it’s a chore, it’s important you pack all you’ll need before leaving to keep baby occupied, including toys, books, bottles and even the dreaded nursery rhymes CD.
A word of warning though: don’t give baby anything to play with that is heavy or has corners, even if they don’t seem particularly sharp, as such objects could harm them if you happen to have a crash.
It might also be worth packing a first aid kit that includes basic ointments for rashes, as well as any paracetamol suspension, saline drops, allergy relief or any other medication your baby may need.
And always pull over to feed your baby as feeding them on the move can provide an added choke risk – it really doesn’t take much to have a baby hacking up its milk.
Driving a newborn around can be stressful, particularly if they start crying while you’re at the wheel, but it’s important you stay calm and focussed on the road ahead and pull over to tend to them as soon as it’s safe to do so.
And if you can put your journeys off until baby is asleep, this will make things a whole lot easier and more pleasurable for everyone in the car, meaning your journeys will be less stressful and a lot safer.
Have you found any tricks or tips to make driving around with a new baby a doddle? Leave a comment and let us know!
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