Last week, Critter and I took an unexpected trip to Myrtle Beach. My parents had this trip planned for months, but when the time came, I was having some unexpected postpartum complications and couldn’t be home alone all the time while Justin was at work. To top it off, I have pretty seriously injured my tailbone. Traveling with a 3 week old baby is obviously not optimal, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
All in all, the trip went better than any of us could have imagined. Critter is an extremely laid back baby most of the time, which helped a lot. But other than that, my mom had plenty of useful tips for traveling both postpartum and with a baby, and what she didn’t tell me, I learned on the fly. Here’s what I learned this past week:
1. Pack plenty of distractions (for both you and baby.)
Postpartum travel involved way more sitz baths than anyone should have to take ever, much less while on a “vacation.” Sitz baths feel really good, but they’re kind of…boring. Not only that, but three weeks postpartum isn’t enough time for your body I have bounced back yet, so if you’re anything like me, you don’t feel like doing a million activities. That left me with a lot of time I could have spent staring at the walls. Luckily, I had downloaded a book onto the iPad, and I have plenty of games on my phone. A paperback or a coloring book would have been nice, too.
For Critter, long periods in the car seat could get pretty tedious, especially during “Critter Awake Time.” We actually had to run out and buy a set of “baby’s first keys,” a combination rattle/teether. She won’t need the teething part for a while, but looking at the brightly colored keys could usually distract her until we could find somewhere to stop and let her out of the car seat for a while.
2. Pack comfort items (again, for you AND the baby.)
Critter finds swaddling soothing. I suck at swaddling. This isn’t a great combination. Luckily, we had gotten a Halo Sleep Sack in our “new baby” kit from the hospital. Being able to put Critter in her sleep sack when she was starting to get upset about sleeping in a weird place (with 500,000 motorcyclists partying all around us) was a blessing. I also like Velcro swaddle blankets, but I only had so much room in the suitcase. We also used Calming Baby Body Wash for Critter every night. The scent of lavender and chamomile was definitely calming.
For me, having a hemorrhoid pillow to sit on and a cuddly blanket was essential. If I had more room, I would have brought my own pillow, because I have a crick in my neck after using squishy pillows for a week. They’re so comfortable at the time, but my neck hates them. If you’re a light sleeper, ear plugs and a sleep mask are great investments before traveling.
3. Plan for lots of rest.
While driving, plan for lots of stops. Getting out and stretching your legs is essential if you’re postpartum and you just had your hips totally wrecked by giving birth, and it’s pretty necessary for a baby, too. You may travel slower this way, but it’s worth it for both of you. We stopped every two to three hours, and my pelvic area thanked me. ( Another tip? Don’t try to push eight hours of travel into one day, like we had to. Download an app like Hotwire and score. Great deal on a room in whatever area you wind up in when baby can’t handle any more car seat time….or your postpartum bottom is about to give up the ghost from the bumpy roads.)
While we were in Myrtle Beach, we wound up having an entire day stuck in the hotel. This wasn’t planned, but it was exactly what Critter and I needed. Rainy weather isn’t bad for watching HGTV and sleeping, so that’s what we did. I also took sitz baths, but you know. To each their own. We also planned in rest time each day, which worked perfectly for me and Critter. We like resting.
4. Don’t stress too much about a schedule…..but keep up your routine.
Schedules are hard with kids, and they’re hard when you’re recovering. It’s nice to give yourself some leeway with times. Instead of planning to be somewhere at exactly 8:30, and stressing out because a last minute diaper change or a car seat struggle has you running late, try to give yourself the freedom to change your plans. It may mean that you don’t make it to a fancy family dinner you’ve been dying to go to, but it will save your sanity (and probably the sanity of everyone at the fancy dinner you didn’t bring a baby to.)
On the other hand, babies (and people like me) love routines. Staying on routine can make travel easier for baby by keeping them from getting more tired and cranky than necessary, and it’ll help keep you from feeling like your brain is going to spill out your ears. For example, if you usually bathe the baby, read a bedtime story, then wrap that sucker up in a tight swaddle, you’re probably going to want to keep doing that around the same time as you would at home. This lets baby know that yes, it’s still time to go to sleep, even if there are 500k motorcyclists in town who want to stay up all night. (Critter! You’re a baby, not a biker. Sleep!)
Travel can be hard even on a healthy adult who isn’t recovering from having a baby, much less on a postpartum parent and a baby. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep your travel from being totally overwhelming. In fact, if you’re careful, you might even accidentally enjoy yourself.
What are you best tips for postpartum travel and traveling with baby?