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Have Baby, Will Travel

150803_Anderson_Family_HR_043_0010Jean Merrill, Maryland

Now that you are a mother, are you sometimes overwhelmed just getting to the time when you and your baby need to leave the house for a brief errand? One last nursing, followed by one last diaper change, followed by one more last nursing. And then, because more than a few minutes have passed, there is another last diaper change! After all of this, you finally head out to the car and realize you needed to be at your destination 10 minutes ago.

If arriving on time to a play date or to the local store seems overwhelming in your new motherhood role, how do you travel with a baby when the distances are longer? I promise it can be done. You will find that once you feel organized and actually leave the house, it can be pretty easy!

My husband often traveled for work when our oldest baby was young. Using frequent flyer miles, we accompanied him. By the time our daughter was two years old, she had averaged one airplane trip for every month of her life. It was an extended family “honeymoon” period in our marriage and led to great adventures for my nursling and me. Travel slowed down after we had a second and then a third baby, but we have still managed a fair share of globetrotting, happily exploring much of the United States, Central America, Ireland, and Europe with the three children.

The breastfed baby needs surprisingly little. Diapers, a few clothing changes, disposable bags for soiled clothing or diapers, and you! Really, those items are just about it. Your breasts and arms provide all the comfort and food your baby needs. Babies are entertained by life and are happy to be out living it with you. While you’ll probably want to bring along a few toys for entertainment, you don’t need bags of baby toys. The simplest items are fascinating as babies learn about the world. For example, use a half-full water bottle left over from lunch, the laminated trifold-safety brochure in the seat-back pocket of the airplane, or even a makeshift rattle of an ice cube in a lidded cup. A little creativity and your intuitive parenting are all the tools you need.

Traveling in the pre-walking months is especially easy with an exclusively breastfed baby. It really is a “honeymoon” period before roaming time needs to be built into travel plans and baby proofing becomes necessary at your destination. Baby wearing keeps your arms free to pull a carry-on case behind you, and you might even add a diaper bag on top. If you prefer to take a stroller to manage gear, roll it up to the airplane entrance. An attendant will store it until immediately after the flight. After landing, it will be ready for you to pick up as you exit.

Car trips can be a little trickier when baby is young and nursing frequently. Build time into your schedule for plenty of stops. If your baby sleeps a lot in her car seat, lucky you! If your baby was like mine and acted like the car seat was torture, you might need to be a little more creative. Many mothers find that it is more peaceful to sit in the back seat next to baby’s seat where she can see you at all times. You can sing songs, play, offer toys, and maintain physical contact by hands-on cuddling as much as a car seat allows. Our family always had some admirable sing-along songs for baby’s entertainment. If you have older children, they often like to join the baby-entertaining fun, too!

When the daily diaper bag list seems long, what to pack for an extended trip can feel overwhelming. As I previously mentioned, the essential list includes you, diapers, and clothing. Bring enough diapers to get you through the first few days. Depending on your destination, you can pack a small supply in a suitcase or buy more at your destination. Pack enough clothes—plus a few extra changes of clothing—for both of you for unexpected leakage outside her diaper. Try to mimic your home sleeping situation. Consider packing familiar blankets or bedding.

The intuitive parenting you already practice has prepared you well for meeting baby’s needs wherever you are. You can read subtle cues and respond to them expertly. Last-minute challenges? No sweat! You are an intuitive, creative, problem-solving explorer. You are a mother, already perfectly equipped with what you need. Get ready, world. Off you go!

Image by Shutterstock
Image by Shutterstock

Travel Do’s

  • DO allow plenty of time to get out the door (last minute emergency feedings and diaper changes).
  • DO pack plenty of snacks and drinks for yourself and your toddler.
  • DO pack new things for your baby to look at, or be creative with instant baby “toys” for amusement along the way.
  • DO have a sense of humor.
  • DO keep your routine somewhat intact and be flexible enough to have fun.
  • DO remember your baby’s birth certificate if flying with a lap child under two years old.
  • DO nurse your baby during takeoff and landing. It will help her ears adjust to the in-flight pressure changes (and will help baby nap, if you’re lucky).

Travel Don’ts

  • DON’T forget a sling or hands free baby carrier.
  • DON’T panic! You comfort your baby better that anyone else. Even if it takes a few minutes, calmly keep trying.
  • DON’T let the opinions of fellow travelers dilute the confidence that you know what is best for your baby.
  • DON’T throw the routine out the window. Your young traveler will be happier if she knows what to expect, is rested, and is well fed.