Taking baby home for the very first time is a day you will never forget. It will be exciting and daunting all at once, as you imagine what life at home with your newest, tiniest roommate will be like and plan on introducing him to all your family and friends. But with the excitement comes great responsibility. From the moment you step out of the hospital, the safety and well-being of another human rest entirely with you -- and baby’s first time in the car is your very first test as a new parent. So before you get in your vehicle with your most precious cargo, there are a few golden rules to ensure that baby’s first trip goes as smoothly and safely as possible.
Here are 8 steps to baby proof your car and take baby home in the safest, most comfortable way possible -- for baby and you!
1. Car Seat. This is the most basic thing you need and a must-have from the moment you step out of the hospital -- the hospital won't let you go without one. Car seat regulations and recommendations change regularly, so do your research and buy it a few weeks before your due date so you can practice installing it properly (rear-facing) in all your vehicles before baby arrives. An infant car seat, which will likely fit until baby's first birthday, is a great option if you want seamless transitions from the car to the stroller. But if you want to invest in a car seat that grows with you child, opt for a convertible one.
2. Car Seat Monitor. Installing a car seat can be tricky. Once your baby is strapped in, however, make sure it stays that way. A car seat monitor will alert you if the strap becomes detached or if you forgot to connect it in the first place. Some monitors will also let you know if you are leaving baby behind when you get out of your car.
3. Sun Shade. No one likes the sun in your eyes, and neither do children. When you put this up, your baby won’t have to worry about the sun, and you won't have to worry about your little one getting frustrated with the light. Plus, it creates a darker environment, which can be nap inducing.
4. Portable Diaper Pad. Depending on how far you are from the hospital, you may not need this for the very first trip, but it’s still a good item to keep in the car for future rides. Children don’t schedule their bodily functions around your travel time, so you'll likely have to change a diaper on the road. A portable diaper pad is easy to clean and sanitary, and it prevents any messes from migrating to your seats.
5. Back Seat Organizer. Babies need lots of stuff. There are cleanup supplies, extra clothes, blankets, wipes, toys, treats, and more. You’ll need something to help you organize everything. Rather than digging through a giant diaper bag, try an organizer that hangs on the back of a seat. A good one will hang tightly against the back of the seat and have plenty of pouches for snacks and toys.
6. Blankets. If it’s cold when you leave the hospital, a blanket is a must to keep your baby warm. Puffy layers put too much room between the straps and your baby, leaving the harness straps too loose to be effective in a crash. So place your baby in the car seat without a coat, and layer up a blanket or a car seat cover, like this one, that goes over the car seat.
7. Rear Facing Mirror. When you’re driving, you can’t turn around to check on your baby. A back-seat mirror lets you do just that without stopping the car. Since your child will be in a rear-facing car seat for a while, you will need to put the mirror on the back seat. Make sure to place it in a way that allows you to see it from your rearview mirror.
8. Car Check. What you have in your car doesn’t matter if the car itself isn’t safe to drive. Before you bring home your baby, make sure you are up to date on your car maintenance. Here are a few things you should have checked before your due-date:
Tires: Bald tires increase your stopping distance and make it more dangerous to drive in bad weather. You could even have a blowout. To check, place a penny in the tread so Lincoln is upside down, facing you. If you can see his entire head, you need to replace the tires.
Brakes: Your brakes stop your car. Bad brakes mean poor stopping. You should change your brake pads every 50,000 miles.
Oil Change: Get your oil changed as often as your owner’s manual suggests. A well-lubricated engine runs better, and you don’t want it to hesitate at the wrong time.
Lights: Safety isn’t just about you avoiding accidents. It is also about others avoiding you. Make sure all your lights are working so everyone sees you on the road.
Battery: When your battery fails, your car might as well be a pile of bricks. Check the battery so you don’t have to wait for a tow.
Belts, Tubes, and Fluids: Modern engines are finely tuned machines. When something isn’t right, they lose efficiency quickly. Check your belts, tubes, and fluids regularly so you don’t have to worry.
Photography by Jonica Moore Studio for Well Rounded.
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Jenna Joubert is an Auto Mechanic, Mom, and Blogger. At a young age, she worked at her family's auto body shop and it was there that her passion for the automotive industry grew. Jenna is ASE certified and trained at the BMW Performance School! When she isn't working she is vacationing at Disney with her young family.