There’s nothing quite like driving for the first time with your newborn baby in the back of the car.
It can be exciting and terrifying in equal measure.
To help you prepare yourself for that first anxious drive back from the hospital, and in the weeks that follow, here are some useful driving tips for new parents.
Learn to fit your child seat properly in advance
Plan ahead and allow yourself plenty of time to get the right car seat – see our guide here.
Child car seats aren’t always simple to install and its important you get it right, so practise putting the seat in your car before your baby is born. Better that than spending time at the hospital frantically trying to get the seat fixed in place.
Most hospitals won't discharge new parents unless they have a child seat in their car. If you’re concerned that the straps are too loose or tight, ask your midwife to check it.
Rest after a C-section
If you have a Caesarean section, then you may need to rest for around six weeks before driving again. This all depends on your individual circumstances.
Ask your midwife - or your GP at your 6-week postnatal check - for advice if you're unsure when it's safe to start driving again. It’s the medical advice that matters and you don’t need to inform your insurer if you’ve had a C section.
Don’t get distracted
By instinct, you’re likely to drive more carefully with a delicate new life in the back of your car.
You may find yourself driving more slowly than normal, while wearily staying clear of other drivers who are speeding or getting too close to your car.
But you’re also at greater risk of getting distracted. It’s hard to resist the urge to constantly check on your little one, especially if they’re crying.
When you’re at the wheel, you mustn’t allow yourself to take your eyes off the road.
You can buy a baby car mirror so you can more safely watch your little one. And for those first journeys, if you can, there’s no harm in one adult sitting in the back with the baby.
Avoid long car journeys
A long car trip is probably the last thing on your mind anyway, but if you do need to hit the road, beware the most recent advice from the Lullaby Trust charity. It says parents should avoid travelling in cars with pre-term and very young babies for long distances.
It bases its advice on 2018 research in which babies showed signs of potentially adverse cardiorespiratory effects when seated in an upright position at 40°.
You’ll need to keep your nappy bag easily accessible in the car.
It’s also worth keeping a few other bits in a bag in the boot, including a first aid kit, warm blankets and bottled water, just in case you ever have a breakdown or are involved in an accident.
While you’re at it, removable window shades to shield your baby’s skin and eyes from the sun are a valuable investment.
Choose the right car
Not everyone has the luxury of buying the perfect new car to accommodate their newborn.
But if you are car shopping, boot size, fuel economy and crash-test ratings will all be important considerations - see our guide to the best cars for new parents.
Grow your confidence and skills behind the wheel
As a new parent you may suddenly have to spend more time driving than you did previously. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s worth considering if you’d benefit from refreshing your driving knowledge.
Safe Driving for Life, an information resource produced in partnership with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), recommends new parents try a mock theory test.
Or you could go a step further and take some refresher driving lessons.
Prepare your car
Whether it’s a flat tyre or dead battery, a car failure and a newborn baby don’t make for a good combination.
So, do what you can to avoid any issues. Keep up with essential car maintenance, especially ahead of that first drive home from the hospital, and keep your fuel tank topped up.
It’s not just a matter of keeping your car roadworthy. You also want to be sure it’s clean and tidy inside, with nothing loose that could fly about.
Other people’s cars
As road safety charity Brake notes, it’s just as important that your child is appropriately restrained in other people's cars, and driven safely.
So don’t be afraid to say no if a friend or family member offers a lift and it doesn’t feel right.