The moment has finally arrived. Tucked inside a soft pink blanket, Jessica is carried to the car waiting outside the hospital. Her response to her first ride in a car? A big yawn before being buckled into her car seat, then a long snooze during the trip home.
In a few months, however, riding in her car seat may not be as comfortable for Jessica?or for Mom and Dad. Sometimes she'll fall asleep, but other times she'll make a fuss. An infant doesn't understand that her special seat is the most effective piece of life-saving equipment in Mom's car.
If you're tempted to unbuckle a screaming baby, consider this: traffic accidents are the number-one threat to your baby's safety. Her risk of death or injury is 40 to 50 times greater from a car accident than from all preventable infectious diseases combined. The good news: infant and child-restraint seats, when used properly (rear-facing for infants under 1 year of age and securely installed in the back seat), can reduce fatalities by 90 percent and disabling injuries by up to 70 percent.
Keeping this in mind can strengthen your resolve. But what's a parent to do when tiny Jessica won't stop crying during the four-hour drive to Grandma's? Or when a noisy jaunt to the mall brings on a splitting headache? Once you have made up your mind to never unbuckle your baby while the car is moving, you'll need some strategies to stay sane. The following suggestions, from parents who don't want to use ear plugs while driving, may help.
Set a good example. Wear your seat belt at all times?even if you're just driving two blocks to the store. Within a few short weeks, buckling up will become a habit.
Teach your child to accept the inevitable. Don't respond to crying by stopping and picking up your baby. If he is well-fed and dry, he'll soon learn to soothe himself. Strong-willed children have particular difficulty giving up in this area. Resolve to be even more determined than your child is.
Enhance your child's car-riding comfort. Sheepskin blankets, musical stuffed animals, cassette tapes, multi-textured soft toys, pacifiers, even moms singing lullabies have met with great success.
Whenever possible, avoid driving during your baby's fussiest times. You're a safer driver when your baby isn't fretful.
Make frequent rest stops. Plan on covering about 45 miles per hour overall on a highway trip, since you'll probably want to take ten- to fifteen-minute breaks for every hour your baby is awake. This will be especially important this summer when it's warm outside. Also, remember that your baby needs plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration, even in an air-conditioned car.
Before you know it, you'll be handing your 16-year-old the car keys. And won't you feel relieved when he remembers to buckle his seat belt?
Author of The Christian Woman's Guide to Personal Health Care
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