If you can believe it, when my parents said they wanted to take the whole family to Mexico, my husband and I had a moment of hesitation. The reason? I was pregnant, and would have a one-or-two-month-old by the time we got on a plane. I didn't exactly want to be the person with the screaming baby who all the other passengers resent, and I was also a little nervous about the heat. But we said yes (and "thank-you!"), and am I ever glad we did. Today, I'll share with you a few tips and essentials that made traveling with my little one a special, wonderful experience. And, because it was my first time doing this and I was bound to hit some bumps, I'll also let you in on some things I learned along the way. By the end, you'll want to have a(nother) baby simply for the travel companionship!
Perhaps the most daunting baby-travel chore was getting a passport photo. I tried to get this thing done on FIVE different occasions and four of those times were disastrous. One time, my daughter Petra wouldn't wake, once she wouldn't stop crying... well, you get the gist. My advice? Go to Don's Photo. I still spent an hour there, but it was the most comfortable experience and it did happen (as you can see). Yikes to the end result, but whatever, it worked.
UPDATE: My friend Amber reminded me of another baby-travel chore you should consider: any shots that might be required. Hepatitis shots can be given pretty early so consult your pediatrician before heading off to a tropical destination!
Getting a baby wardrobe together that is suitable for the climate to which you're headed is a pretty big undertaking, especially if they're only going to fit it for a moment. For me, the secret was thrift stores. I started collecting and laundering in November, and by the time Petra was born at Christmas, her 0-3 summer wardrobe had eclipsed her 0-3 winter one. Does it look like she can tell that it's all second-hand? Nope.
As for sunglasses, I will be impressed if your infant will wear them. I took a few different styles and Petra was not having it. Her giant hats and life in the shade were good enough, though.
When packing your own wardrobe, pack only nursing-friendly clothing if you're breastfeeding so it's not difficult to get your kiddo a meal in a hurry. That formal dinner dress you'd have to unzip at the back to get your nipple out? Leave it at home. And though nursing-specific pieces are awesome, wrap tops and low-cut necklines (like the one I'm wearing here) that you can just pull down are nearly as good. Just beware button-ups: they seem convenient but leave sad little indentations on your newborn's cheek when you're snuggling.
A nursing cover (pic from the Booby Trapper website) is awesome for a bit of privacy if and when you want it, and I recommend purchasing one with two curves of boning in it so it's not stuck to baby's head and you can easily see if your latch is looking good. I find they're mostly ugly (what's with damask being the default "fashion mom" design?), but I picked the above polka dot one and whatever, it's classic enough. I'm not always a "coverer" but I find my babe likes the one-one-one time without distractions when we're out.
Speaking of breastfeeding, that's the secret to protecting your newborn's ears and keep them from crying in pain on the plane. They can't chew gum, make themselves yawn, or keep swallowing nothing... so give them a reason to swallow. My Doctor and many friends passed the wisdom to me, and now I'm passing it to you: nurse on the ascent and descent and your baby will likely just sleep for the rest of the ride. If you're not breastfeeding, those times are bottle o'clock.
Another flying tip: did you know your liquid allowance is huge on an airplane when you fly with a baby? I wish someone would have told me this, but they totally let me through security with a bottle of water I'd forgotten to take out of my diaper bag. Just a little insider info for ya.
UPDATE: My pilot friend Kate reminded me that parents should always take advantage of the pre-boarding call. Not only is it awesome for the new baby to get situated and to get items stowed without hassle (your diaper bag is a bonus carry-on), but it's also easier on the cabin crew and gives flight attendants a chance to go over special instructions with you.
A stroller that's light, easily collapsible, durable, and whose bucket carseat comes off quickly and noiselessly is a must not just for travel but for the rest of your life. Read reviews. Watch YouTube demos. It's your baby's vehicle, so get the best you can afford! I like Petra's Peg Perego Book Pop-Up SO MUCH, and it fit easily everywhere and is so simple and durable, it doesn't need a fragile sticker. I bought it at Ready, Set, Baby in Martinsville (and yes, it's worth the jaunt out of town).
Even with the bucket seat's UV-repellent hood, there would have been sun beating down on Petra mid-day without a UV cover. Mine, a shower gift from my husband's sis Danielle, is made by Brica and fits most buckets. It not only was great on walks (like this one with my daddy and husband), it also served us well at nighttime because of its mosquito netting and folds conveniently into a disc that tosses into the bottom of a stroller.
Also folding up into a disc and protecting your baby from the sun is a beach tent. If you're going to the lake this summer, BUY THIS. But a word of warning: practice folding it up a few times at home first because no matter how many times you watch the YouTube how-to, it's tricky. This one's by Babymoov and was sixty bucks at Babies R Us.
The back of baby sunscreen always has the "suitable for six months and up" warnings but after consulting a pharmacist, I went ahead and used it on my two-month old anyway. Her advice was to only apply when she's going to be in the sun, to keep that minimal, and to clean it off afterward. The reason for that warning is that there hasn't been much testing and newborn skin is particularly sensitive. Otherwise she wouldn't have been able to attend this little listening party I was having with my brother here, nor would she have appeared in ocean-front photo ops like my title pic.
Get a sling. No matter if your baby insists on being carried most of the time like mine or if you're just looking for something to throw in your diaper bag for fussy moods, I wish I would have had a more convenient baby holder than my Moby (which I love, but a million feet of fabric isn't fun to wrap on a beach when you don't want it to touch sand). Above, I can see Petra would cry if she were to be put in her stroller. It's that "wish I had a sling" moment.
You're probably wondering how to pack all the muslin blankets, bandana bibs, and burp cloths you go through in a day. The answer is, you pack a ton and take laundry soap because you'll never be able to bring enough. I just packed a bar of Sunlight but if you're concerned about sensitive skin, I've heard great things about Dr. Bronner's Castile Baby Mild Bar. It's five bucks from Well.ca.
Something else you should pack, even if your baby is soother-free, is a couple of sterilized pacifiers in a ziplock bag. When Petra was screaming in a van full of people, there was nothing I could do to calm her and was I ever glad we had a soother at the ready. She looked confused, but she went silent!
And my last tip? Travel with your family! Because you know that saying "It takes a village to raise a child"? Well, when your baby wants to be carried for the third hour straight, it's nice to have people who will take a shift.
Thanks to my mom and dad for the awesome holiday, and happy travels to you! M