When I was pregnant with my first child I spent a lot of time day dreaming about what each milestone moment would be like. I imagined that after the birth, Dave and I would walk out of the hospital, Dave carrying the car seat and me holding the flowers, teddy and helium balloon (all the essentials, hmm). We would take our baby to our car and drive home to parenthood.
The First Car Ride Home
Our reality was actually very different. I was wheeled out of hospital in a wheelchair and our baby, who was now named Danny, had his first ride in an ambulance, to Cardiff and then to Birmingham.
A few weeks and one major open heart surgery later (with more to follow) we were allowed home. Our car was in our home town over 200 miles away, so Uncle Phil, very kindly, picked up our car seat and drove all the way to collect us (and a gigantic cuddly gorilla that our friends had gifted us!) and drove us home.
Although it was later than expected, dressing my special care baby in his soft "Precious" baby bundle suit and putting him in his car seat for the first time for his ride home felt like such a momentous occasion.
Graco recognise this important milestone and top parenting expert, Suzie Hayman has some great advice for parents about to bring their baby home for the first time:
"Baby’s first outing into the open air is often the trip home from a hospital birth, at a few days old. At this age, their eyes won’t be coordinated and they may keep their fists clenched. In fact, they’re not even sure at this stage where they end and you begin which is why they investigate their own hands, fingers and toes with as much curiosity as the bits of you they can reach. But they recognise your voice and show a preference for it, and want to be held and rocked and to hear you. Safety comes first in a car however so they need to be strapped into that seat, but keep a hands-on close connection and sing and talk to them on the trip home and go back to cuddling and holding as soon as you can."
We followed this advice and I sat in the back soothing Danny for this long journey. We stopped for rests and to tube feed him and change nappies too. Thankfully, he slept for most of the ride.
The First Long Trip
While Danny's first long trip was his journey home from hospital his first fun long trip was our first holiday with him to Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria. I didn't mean for his first holiday to be such a long car ride away (6 and a half hours, but a lot longer with our needed stops) but I booked the least expensive Center Parcs instead of the closest one (a rookie parenting mistake that I never repeated with the girls).
Here are Suzie's tips for the first holiday visit:
"Small children may sleep through long journeys but older ones can make the experience absolute hell. So prepare in advance. Start a countdown days ahead and get them to help plan packing, travel and what you’ll do when you get there. Ask them to think about ways of passing the trip happily – their favourite toys, games, videos, music. Use a mix of digital media and traditional games such as I-spy and 20 Questions. The best way of avoiding ‘are we nearly there yet’ is to keep up a running commentary and once they’re old enough, have them look at the scenery and maps and work it out themselves. And allow plenty of time on your trip for stops so every two hours - 60 to 90 minutes for younger children – you can all stretch your legs."
We are a huge fan of car seats that grow with your child. We had the Graco Nautilus Elite, which was suitable from 9 months to 12 years.
The new Graco Milestone All in One Seat goes even better than that and is suitable from birth to 12 years so is the only car seat you'll ever need for your growing baby.
This convertible car seat has three different modes - transitioning from rear-facing infant car seat (birth to 13kg) to forward-facing 5-point harness seat (9-18kg) to high-back booster (15-36kg).
So from the first car ride home from hospital, first holiday road trip to the first day of school, all of those milestones can take place in the same safe, comfortable and easy to clean car seat.
What's your favourite milestone moment?