Preparing for Road Trips with a Breastfed Baby

It’s almost Thanksgiving–can you believe how that sneaked up on us?–and I’m once again preparing to take my family on the road. It feels like just last week I was hauling my newborn to my brother-in-law’s wedding in St. Louis…
minivan full of family members

Over the past few years, I’ve written some blog posts about traveling with a breastfed baby. Check out this post, where I talk about some ways we make the journey itself more bearable by planning ahead for family bathrooms and nursing pit stops.

Of course, even the best plans go sour sometimes, as I wrote about in this post, where my husband and I had to divide and conquer in the turnpike rest stops.

Last year, I wrote about trying to time our long travel around our boys’ sleep schedules and I just planned to spend the whole trip exhausted. That’s pretty much what happened, but that’s mainly because I was newly pregnant and not aware of it.

This year, we have a whole host of new variables. We’ve got 3 kids now. We have a minivan (with a DVD player!). Our oldest son is in kindergarten, so it’s not as easy to just yank him out of school early. Our toddler is learning to use the potty. My plan is pretty much “just make it to my parents’ house alive by 1pm on Thanksgiving Day.”

I’m trying to plan a little bit:

I have a list of which turnpike rest stops have family restrooms. 

We have a set rule that if the two-year-old is asleep, we don’t stop until he wakes up. No matter what.

We just aren’t going to rush around to leave after dinner and drive through the night, hoping the kids sleep in the car. Because they never do! (They’re up before the sun anyway. Why not just drive Thanksgiving Day when there’s less traffic?)

Since we know the baby will nurse for about a half hour when we stop, we’ll divide and conquer again. I will find the most comfortable possible space to nurse the baby–maybe that’s a booth in the rest stop, or maybe that’s out in the van.

My husband will take the big boys to use the potty and get some food while I nurse the baby. Then I’ll get to use the potty BY MYSELF while everyone gets started with a DVD back in the van.

Of course, that leaves me eating my lunch while the van is moving, but I’m ok with that because I won’t be interrupted to cut off crusts or go fetch napkins.

As always, the more we try to plan for things, the more fate laughs at us. I will never forget the year we had to pull over in the emergency pull-off because of a diaper accident that required an entire container of wipes. That taught me to always have more wipes than I think I’ll need.

Another year, en route home for Thanksgiving, we got a flat tire, which taught me not to bury the spare too deeply and also to make sure the cell phones are charged.

Most likely, we’ll arrive a little frazzled, a little late, and really ready for the eager hands of aunts and grandmothers to scoop my kids away so I can breathe a bit.

Are you traveling for Thanksgiving? Leave us a comment to share your best strategies.

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