Stepping Out

Your Mission: Long Car Ride

What to know before you go: Planning is as important as packing: Plot out your trip, noting rest areas and other pit stops on your route; fill up the tank (you don't want to jolt a happily snoozing little one awake); and figure you'll pull over every hour or so to check on Baby. Leave room for the unexpected by allotting double the amount of time you would if you were traveling solo. Trick out your babe's car seat bar with toys, and offer something new every so often to keep him from melting down, Dr. Horowitz says. And put diapers and a change of clothing in a zippered bag in your trunk, in case Baby spits up or his diaper explodes. You can stash the soiled stuff there to block the stench. Finally, pack some patience: "You'll get there, but you'll need to take plenty of breaks and deep breaths along the way," says Lizzie Sorensen, of Malta, New York, whose son Iver is 16 months.

While you're there: When possible, either Zidel or her husband rides in the backseat with the baby. "I can entertain him if he gets fussy," she says. If you're alone and your child is wailing, use your judgment, says Meagan Francis, a mom of five in St. Joseph, Michigan. "When you've got hours ahead of you, you'll want to pull over to calm him. But if you're ten minutes from your destination and you don't think he's in pain, crank up the radio and just get there." Whatever you do, even if you're sure his screeches can be heard on the other side of the median, never take Baby out of his seat while the car is moving, Dr. Horowitz warns. And don't leave him alone in the vehicle even for a second.

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