After your baby is born you’ll probably want to stay close to home for the first few weeks.
But with upcoming vacations, not to mention other family members desperate to see your precious new arrival, it’s sometimes impossible to avoid traveling with a newborn.
So you may be wondering if you have to wait a certain amount of time before traveling by car with your baby.
The advice from experts is to wait until your baby is 4-6 weeks old before taking them on a car journey longer than 30 minutes.
But what if longer trips are unavoidable?
How often should you stop, and what are the risks of a newborn baby spending too long in a car seat?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
- How Soon Can A Newborn Travel Long Distance By Car?
- How Soon Can You Travel Short Distance With A Newborn By Car?
- Newborn Car Seat Time Limit
- Can You Travel With A 1 Month Old By Car?
- 2 Hour Car Seat Rule
- When Does The 2 Hour Car Seat Rule End?
- Is A 4 Hour Car Journey With A Newborn Safe?
- Tips For Driving With A Newborn or Infant
How Soon Can A Newborn Travel Long Distance By Car?
While there is no universal consensus, most experts recommend waiting until your baby is 6 weeks old before taking them on a long distance car journey.
How Soon Can You Travel Short Distance With A Newborn By Car?
Fortunately there is no minimum recommended age before traveling with a newborn in a car.
So short journeys are fine – after all, your newborn baby probably came home from hospital in a car.
However, the key consideration is the length of journey time, with 30 minutes being the commonly recommended maximum time for newborns.
Newborn Car Seat Time Limit
Many experts recommend limiting a newborn’s time in a car seat to 30 minutes, as longer periods may lead to your baby experiencing breathing difficulties.
Because a newborn doesn’t have enough neck strength, their head may slump down and block their airways.
Although the number of studies are limited, there is evidence to suggest that when a newborn spends over 30 minutes in a car seat, their heart rate increases and blood oxygen levels fall when compared to lying down in a crib, and this may lead to breathing difficulties.
Can You Travel With A 1 Month Old By Car?
Yes, a 1 month old baby can certainly travel by car, especially on shorter journeys.
If you’re planning to travel for extended periods, you may want to stop every 30 minutes to lay your baby flat and allow them to stretch and move.
A great way to do this is to lay a blanket on the back seat when you’ve stopped and let your baby have a good move around for approx. 15 minutes.
2 Hour Car Seat Rule
When your baby passes the 6 week mark you should be fine to take them on longer car journeys.
But one thing to keep in mind is that many manufacturers of car seats, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that babies should not sit in a car seat for longer than 2 hours, within a 24 hour time period.
When Does The 2 Hour Car Seat Rule End?
Once your baby is around 6 months or older, it should be safe to embark on longer car journeys.
At this age they will have developed sufficient strength in their neck muscles to control their head, so breathing properly in a car seat becomes easier.
After your baby turns 6 months old you may want to check with your pediatrician about taking longer car trips.
Is A 4 Hour Car Journey With A Newborn Safe?
Sometimes traveling longer distances with a newborn is simply unavoidable.
Assuming you can’t take a train or fly, then your only option may be to embark on a long distance car ride with your little one.
So if you have to take your newborn on a 3 or 4 hour car journey, it’s important to follow some guidelines.
Firstly, while this longer distance may not be recommended by health experts, it’s something many parents safely do with their newborns as a one-off, so it’s nothing new.
The key is to break up the journey into several stages so you can build in plenty of breaks to allow your little one to lay flat, stretch and breathe as freely as possible.
Tips For Driving With A Newborn or Infant
- Ensure your baby’s car seat is properly installed, is rear facing and ideally it is placed in the middle rear seat if possible.
- Don’t go beyond the 2 hour rule – even if your baby is fast asleep it’s recommended to take them out of their seat once they hit the 2 hour mark.
- For babies over 6 months, take at least a 15 minute break every 2 hours to allow your baby to stretch and move around freely.
- Use window shades to block direct sunlight hitting your baby.
- Pack plenty of extra diapers, formula or breast milk, spare clothes, blankets.
- Ensure your baby is a comfortable temperature in winter.
- Stay flexible and don’t be on too rigid a time schedule, as the journey may take longer than expected.
- You should be able to see your baby at all times, so if possible an adult may want to sit in the back of the car with your baby.