The mile high pumping club

I just survived 60 baby-free hours traveling to and from Denver. They were filled with trains, planes, automobiles, uninterrupted meals that I was able to eat with both hands, and the first time I’ve slept through the night in a long while. I missed my family terribly, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to get a bit of a reprieve from changing diapers, endless laundry, cooking and more. I wasn’t off the hook completely though – as a breastfeeding mom, I still had to pump about 15 oz. of milk each day to maintain my supply.

This meant dragging my breastpump – encased in a stylish shoulder tote – and all of its glorious accessories, chargers, and spare parts with me. That bag has an unspoken power to connect people who know what it is. And now, after many months of pumping, my pump should probably be considered a significant other – we spend a lot of time together, things get pretty intimate, we’re never far apart, and we were finally taking our first plane trip together.

The inspector gadget of pumping bags - you'd never know!

The inspector gadget of pumping bags – you’d never know what’s inside…!

Want to see how it works?

On my way through security in LGA, TSA pulled me aside, inspected my bags, and swabbed the pump for explosives. We began talking about breastpumps, starting with the TSA agent asked me what “it” was. I mean, shouldn’t he have asked “who” it was? (My boyfriend, obviously.) Plus, he just got pretty personal with my pump when he started prodding with the swab. I explained it was a boob-squeezing, milk-sucking, monster of a machine.

“I need you to tell me how it works,” he said. “I’m going to open this bag with you. Would you like to go in private? I know this is a sensitive topic.”

Little did he know that in the recent past I had given birth to an audience in the hospital and along with the baby, pushed out all sense of shame I could ever possibly feel for the rest of my life about natural bodily functions. Private? AS IF.

I then did what any brazen, super-duper-pro-nursing-in-public-mama (who thinks the only way that we will normalize breastfeeding is by talking about it) would do: I offered him a demo with a straight face at 5:30am on a Wednesday. Not surprisingly, he declined. We then talked about how it worked, how I planned to bring my milk back, and he sent me on way to board my flight – another adventure in and of itself.

Joining the mile-high pumping club

Just some of the interesting places I’ve pumped include: a car parked in a pull-off on the West Side Highway, the bathroom of the corner deli somewhere around 49th and 10th, a locker room, and perhaps the most random: in a closet during a climate-change event being held at the Jewish Heritage Museum while listening to the audio of a movie about World War II.

The time had come for us to join the mile high pumping club. I thought about discreetly pumping at my seat, but the bathroom was a better option than sitting through another moment of being subjected the make out sesh going on between my row-mates – I’m surprised they weren’t capitalizing on the unoccupied bathrooms, too. Their loss, because “we” were headed in there to get down to business.

At this point in time I’d need to acknowledge how critical it is to have a battery adapter for a breastpump. Sometimes outlets are nowhere to be found, and if you don’t have the battery pack you better get to squeezin’.  Also, if there is someone out there who can shrink a monster computer into a handheld rechargeable marvel of modern engineering and technology that is also a mobile phone then there has got to be something they can do about THE DUMBEST, MOST ENORMOUS, LOUDEST F&*KING MILK MACHINE CONTRAPTION EVER THAT REQUIRES EIGHT AA BATTERIES TO OPERATE. I repeat: EIGHT AA BATTERIES.

I got set up and things started flowing. My mind was wandering to places like, “I wonder how altitude impacts milk production?” when we hit a pocket of turbulence that almost knocked me off my feet. Becoming a parent has encouraged me to jump to the worst possible scenario so I immediately thought, “I DON’T WANT TO DIE WITH A MEDIEVAL BOOB TORTURE DEVICE ATTACHED TO MY CHEST. I WILL NOT GO DOWN LIKE THIS. THIS IS NOT HOW IT ENDS.”

The plane evened out, I finished up, and asked the flight attendant for a handful of ice. A handful turned into about 2 pounds. Since beggars can’t be choosers, I shoved it all in the cooler, settled in for the rest of the flight and crossed my fingers that the ice didn’t start to melt out of the overhead bin and onto someone’s head. After we landed, I made a pit stop in the airport bathroom to unload some of the ice when a woman spied my pump bag (I TOLD you so) and said she was a lactation consultant. She then went on to say the single nicest thing a complete stranger has ever said to me (yes, even better than that time the creepy pet store guy told me I had “nice thighs”): she told me that she was proud of me and that it made her day to see a nursing, traveling mama with her boyfriend breastpump. Lactation brings people together in some strange ways.

Just for lunch 

48 hours and about 35 oz of milk later, I found myself back at DEN. Despite my best efforts to alert every TSA agent I saw that I was declaring breastmilk, I managed to hold up the line for a good 10 minutes while they found someone “authorized” to test my milk. I offered the agent a swig; he refused. Since my pump was the only one NOT rejecting me, I repeated my “pumping in an airplane bathroom” trick on the way home, again asking for ice from a flight attendant. He dutifully filled up my Ziploc bag and when he saw me putting it in the cooler he said, “Oh, I thought it was for a sprain or something. Turns out it’s just for lunch!”

“You’re right,” I said. “Just not for my lunch.”

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Clutter, or the lack thereof

In stark contrast to the last post I reblogged from Dugan InCahoots, I writing to say that I’ve figured out how to keep your home clean and uncluttered: put your house on the market and live in fear that at any given moment someone might want to come inspect every nook and cranny, judge you (hard) for your decorating choices, and consider buying it.

The best part about selling our house? It’s never been so spotless, uncluttered, and clean… because it forces us to put things away and make sure everything is presentable all the time. The worst part about selling our house? It has never been so spotless, uncluttered, and clean… because it requires constant cleaning, decluttering, organizing, sorting, vacuuming, scrubbing, and picking up an unbelievable amount of dog shit… UNBELIEVABLE.

The initial cleaning frenzy was horrifying. I took some time off work and was like a rabid animal, foaming at the mouth as we decluttered, threw out, and donated things as quickly as possible. My husband was more than happy to go to the store and pick up more storage bins and hangars when I started freaking out about needing more places to store things, MORE! Although he never said it, I know that anything at that point, even going out to find the perfect snap-top bins to hold our precious crap, was more enjoyable than dealing with me.

In all seriousness though? I can’t organize everything without these watertight bins [clicking the pic will take you to Amazon].

We got everything to a point of ultimate cleanliness. The hard part has been keeping it that way with a baby, 90-lb furball of a dog, and two working adults living in our home. While it has been a bit exhausting making sure everything is clean and/or ready to be thrown in a box and put in the car during a showing, after about a week keeping things sparse started to feel routine. And more and more I’m realizing how much I like it.

I’m less stressed when I walk in our house and way better balanced. There’s room for me to put down my bag when I get home – I’m not setting it on top of a pile of other things that needs my attention, too. Cooking is easier because I don’t have to rearrange the room to find enough counter space. I can make a mess because it’s easier to clean up when I’m not worried about spilling sauce on a pile of important mail. Dry, clean dishes don’t sit around next to the sink because they are tucked away in the appropriate cabinet. The little tchotchkes that I hate to love aren’t collecting dust on the windowsill. Cleaning countertops and dusting furniture is a breeze when they aren’t covered in crap. LOOK! IT’S SO … CLEAR!

Don't open the dishwasher, everything from the counter is in there!

It almost looks like no one lives here… and apparently I like it that way.

Our mudroom has always been a catch-all for crap... until I put it all away.

Our mudroom has always been a catch-all for crap… until we put it all away.

This is not to say that when this journey is over, and we settle into a new home, that things will always look so naked – I mean, it will be nice to put the pictures back up at least – but there will be way less “accessorizing” going on. I’m not ready to give up the tchotchkes all together, but I am starting to think that the Gretchen Rubins and Real Simples of the world who tout all this decluttering just might be on to something.

We can’t be friends.

suzannebroadbent:

To a T! Help me fold my laundry, I’ll help you fold yours.

Originally posted on Dugans InCahoots:

Moms,

See that picture above?

Thats my life. 90% of the time- that beautiful mess is my life. Despite my best efforts, it is crazy, chaotic and absolutely unorganized.

I like you. I think you are sweet, and fun to hang out with. But let me give it to you straight. If I have to clean for three hours before you come over…

We can’t be friends. We just can’t.

It’s just way too stressful, and trying to keep my home perfectly neat in this stage in life is impossible and overwhelming. I used to be more put together, believe it or not, I am naturally organized ( and a little OCD) . But then my kids became mobile, they ganged up on me, and my life and time were no longer my own.

If you do come over, and I really want you to, I won’t pretend that I…

View original 248 more words

#momsbeauty

I know I promised to write more often, and I have a lot to share and say and all of that good stuff… but just not a ton of time to put it into words. I have a few extra minutes tonight, and wanted to share with you a couple of really great things.

1) This post from Gabrielle on takesavillage.net. Read it. Look through the pics (you might even see a familiar face or two) and share it. It’s a great piece about motherhood, beauty, and more. Plus, it gave rise to…

2) #momsbeauty. I love this idea. So often mamas, new and seasoned, don’t feel nearly as beautiful as they should. Hopefully this campaign will help to change that. Check out the Facebook page and follow the blog at: momsbeauty.net. I know there will be lots of great things to come!

That’s all for tonight. Now, to get some serious writing in before some serious sleep…

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Super easy crockpot lasagna

OK, it’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe so here is a SUPER INCREDIBLY EASY recipe for crockpot lasagna.

Our oven was on the fritz and we had people to feed! In a pinch, I threw together some ingredients we had on hand for a crockpot lasagna and it came out SUPER AWESOME. It was like magic, and did I mention this is an easy recipe? Perfect for a weeknight, and yummy leftovers to boot. Enjoy!

Super easy, quick, and brainless crockpot lasagna

Super easy, quick, and brainless crockpot lasagna

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 15-oz. cans of tomato sauce
  • basil, mushrooms, whatever misc. veggies you have on hand
  • 1 package of uncooked whole-wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 15-oz container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • shredded mozzarella (2%)
  • 1 egg
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine tomato sauce, basil, mushrooms and other vegetables – blend with an immersion blender and salt to taste. Set aside.
  2. Brown meat in a large pan. Drain grease and add tomato sauce.
  3. Mix ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, sprinkle of parmesan, and egg.
  4. Layer some tomato sauce, broken (uncooked) lasagna noodles, and cheese mix in crock pot. Repeat – sauce, noodles, cheese – with final layer being sauce.
  5. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until noodles are cooked.
  6. Once cooked, turn to warm and top with remaining mozzarella until melted.

Serve with garlic bread and a side salad. BAM. Meal complete!

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Check out my post on The Lil’ Mamas!

More on this later, because I want to write an entire post about the fabulous mama community I’ve been a part of… but in the meanwhile, check out a guest post I wrote about baby products for The Lil’ Mamas blog:  THE LIL’ MAMAS DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO ALL THE SHIT NO ONE TELLS YOU TO PUT ON YOUR REGISTRY.

Enjoy!

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Nursing in public? Don’t mind if I do…

To cover or not?

I was on the plane after spending a few days in Arizona, dreading the return flight to New York. Our trip to Phoenix was one for the record books (read all the gory, puke-covered details here) and while I had done a ton of laundry once I got there, I failed to wash my nursing cover. A beautiful hand-made, hand-dyed nursing cover that I simply didn’t have time to hand-wash (weird, right?…. no time to wash something by hand with a baby around?).

Anyway, the cover reeked like it had been sitting in puke for four days so I didn’t even bother to bring it in my carry-on – I figured I would just use a blanket to cover up and make do. As the baby started getting hungry, I started setting up logistics in my head – I had to juggle a nursing pillow, blanket/cover, baby, and myself in the cramped airplane seat. It was already uncomfortable enough, and with the Arizona heat and poorly circulated airplane air, I was sweating and not looking forward to layering up just to feed the baby.

My thoughts turned to a few days prior at JFK when I saw a woman nursing her baby, sans cover, in the middle of the airport. If I was just a passer-by, I would never have even noticed. But I knew what she was doing, and I knew she was my people – a nursing, traveling mother who just wanted to get to her destination without anyone losing their shit. I thought if she could do it, why couldn’t I?

Want to know why nursing in public is such a big step for moms to take in our fair country? Because people react like total assholes, and the last thing a tired mom wants to do is deal with someone outside of her family giving her a hard time (is it not enough that she deals with pint-sized tyrants at home – must she deal with adult-sized idiots in public?). Look at the search results for “breastfeeding discrimination” or see how many women have “nurse-in protests”  for stupid shit like someone being asked to stop breastfeeding because she was “scaring children.”  These were news stories I never really paid attention to until they pertained to me directly – I began to wonder, as a breastfeeding mother, when I might be impacted by this type of discrimination – not if. It seems inevitable.

My rant beings

For whatever reason, we’ve gotten away from breastfeeding being the norm and it’s seen as the exception to the rule or something people do “in private.” It offends people, it makes people uncomfortable, boobs are “private” parts, the library is no places for nipples… and so on. But really, how could you justify taking offense at a mother feeding her child? It’s like, one of the most harmless, selfless acts EVER to share your nourishment with a baby. Amiright… or amiright? 

How often do people excuse themselves from an activity to go eat “in private”? Do they put blankets over their heads to eat a sandwich simply because it’s lunchtime? No, and no. So why would we expect these beautiful, tiny babies and their lactating mothers (who, quite honestly, have enough to worry about) to hightail it out of the room/restaurant/wherever when hunger strikes or literally take cover? (And before anyone jumps down my throat – I recognize that there are cultural/religious/personal views that require covering up in public. This post isn’t about that.)

I wish I knew what about breastfeeding makes normal people turn into awkward, bumbling fools because their totally unsupportive (and dare I say… selfish?) reactions to maybe seeing a nipple for 3 seconds can send a shy nursing mom into corners, under covers, and into closets. There are so many double standards going on it makes me sick. When someone gets all weird the second they see a mom expose 3 square inches of flesh to feed their baby, I hope they don’t think they’re fooling anyone into thinking they’re modest and really truly offended because in today’s day and age, I seriously doubt that they offered a blanket to cover up the scantily clad woman walking down the street, someone wearing a string bikini at the beach, the man without a shirt on playing basketball at the park, or had a hissy fit when an ad for Victoria’s Secret comes on during the commercial break of their favorite television show.

Guess what people? It’s a boob and there is nothing “scary” going on. It’s nothing sexual, or “adult,” or XXX happening. The 3-second flash of a nipple you might see if you’re looking close enough while baby latches is not going to blind you or cause any lasting damage. In fact, it’s probably going to calm the fussy, hungry baby and allow everyone to get on with whatever they were doing in the first place – shopping, taking public transportation, or enjoying the park.

But if this all isn’t sad enough, it breaks my heart that our society is so ass backward that we had to go and pass laws protecting nursing mothers – stating that they have the right to nurse their child in a place where they have the right to be. While I’m glad the laws are there – because people harass nursing mothers kind of a lot – I can’t help but think it’s pretty pathetic that breastfeeding is such a hot button issue that we spent money passing legislation to protect something that mammals have been doing since the dawn of time. Breastfeeding isn’t new. It’s not deviant. It’s not harmful. In fact, it’s healthy, normal, and natural.

How can we fix this? Do better next time!

OK, I’m done ranting. It’s time to figure out where we go from here. Maybe you’ve been a total ass to someone without even realizing it – whether it be gawking, offering a cover, leaving the room/business, or otherwise being a totally unsupportive human being/family member/friend. Maybe you thought you were making mom more comfortable by offering a cover – or whatever you did – but probably not. It’s time to do better next time.

Try this: act normal. Be yourself. Don’t turn into a bumbling idiot because ohmigod there’s a nip. Smile, make eye contact, continue your conversation, and for pete’s sake… don’t gawk. Bring that mom a glass of water or maybe a little snack because nursing is exhausting, and dehydrating, and literally sucks the nutrition out of her body for another human being (I told you it was selfless). At the same time, it’s also breathtaking, and beautiful, and amazing so let her know that, and let her know what a damn good job she is doing. Take the opportunity to teach your children, your husband, your friends that breastfeeding is how babies eat – just like kittens, puppies, and baby mammals of all kinds  - and there’s really nothing offensive or scary about a lactating human.

Basically, if I had to sum it up in a nutshell, I’d say: OFFER SUPPORT AND DON’T ACT LIKE AN ASSHOLE. It’s that easy, folks.

A Phoenix returns (oh please, I couldn’t help myself)

So I went for it on the plane – coverless. I popped my boob out of my shirt, latched the baby on, and much to my surprise, no one had a hissy fit or called the authorities (but I was ready to go all mama bear on them if I had to). It was pretty much a non-event; I switched sides, put myself back together, and the baby went right to sleep for during the red-eye back to JFK. And you know what? It felt AWESOME. I didn’t have to mess with the cover, neither of us started to overheat, and I didn’t feel like I was very publicly hiding something that I wasn’t ashamed of to begin with. We were both happier, and so were all of our seatmates on the plane. Since that moment, I’ve never looked back and nurse freely all over the place – restaurants, airports, parks, parties, while I’m walking the dog around the neighborhood, wherever. I can only hope that another mom will see me and think, “I can do that too.”

Because she can, and dammit, she should.

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Maternity Leave (or training for my new job)

It was never a question of if I would return to work after having a baby – it was a fact. Like many working mothers before me, I would return to work. I would take the U.S. standard of 12 weeks postpartum before jumping back into my day job and resuming the new normal of life as a family of three (well, four if you count the dog). Before going out on leave, 12 weeks sounded like forever. Looking back, it went by in the blink of an eye (and it’s not nearly enough time… but that’s something I can tackle in another post).

Maternity leave was tough – after 10 months fraught with physical changes, crazy hormones, emotional challenges and more – she was finally here. And it’s different for everyone, but I had kind of a rough time postpartum. Between our breastfeeding challenges, PUPPP, and taking care of a newborn, I felt a little bit crazy. Add to all of those things normal, every day necessities like eating a meal, taking a shower, or finding time to pay bills and I felt mentally maxed out. It was easy to think, “Nursing will get better once she can hold her head up,” or “When I’m not itching myself until I bleed I will enjoy the weather more,” but I promised myself I wouldn’t wish it all away because all those people who’ve said, “It goes by fast,” when they talk about their children growing up are right. Time moves differently when you’re a parent, quicker than you can ever imagine and in a way you don’t understand until you actually are a parent.

Going from having a pretty normal everyday routine – work, gym, family time – to having a completely open and unpredictable schedule was jarring. There were times when I literally did not know if it was day or night. Some days I stayed in bed with the baby nursing for what seemed like the entire day, only to climb in to “sleep” at night which was more like a series of catnaps with hour-long nursing sessions in between. It was a total haze but looking back, it was the routine things that helped anchor me when I was feeling really turned around. Brushing my teeth twice a day reminded me that there was a morning and night, eating regular meals reminded me that yes, my body needed nutrition and paying bills reminded me what day of the month it was.

I think It was the latter that stressed me out the most – my leave was comprised of short-term disability, paid time off, and unpaid leave – meaning that my usual income took a decent hit over those three months. I planned as much as I could, and had plenty to bridge the gap between paychecks, but I constantly worried, “What if?” Looking back, I wish I would have started to plan even sooner. So soon-to-be mamas take heed and plan as much as you can! Here’s a link to some good tips about preparing financially for maternity leave.

But by far the biggest challenge about maternity leave was its inevitable end – I felt like the minute our daughter was born, the countdown to my return was on. Throughout my leave I vacillated back and forth between wanting to spend every waking minute of every single day with our daughter and really missing, and craving, the challenge that comes with pursuing a career and getting some mileage out of my degrees. There were days when I said to my husband, “I could never stay home full-time. That’s just not me.” There were other days when I simply couldn’t imagine dropping her off at daycare and returning to work, days I thought I would chain myself to the bassinet and refuse to budge.

It feels like as soon as leave began, it was over. My first day back at work came and went and I’ve been back for about two months that have completely flown by. I jumped right back in and picked up projects, started new ones, and caught up on what I’d missed. I’m still adjusting, for sure, but now I look forward to my days at work. On top of giving me an outlet to channel my professional energy, being back at work also allows me to eat at least one meal a day with both hands, put on grown-up clothes on a regular basis, and shower much more frequently. And let’s be honest here – at this point, those are all pretty major accomplishments.

I dutifully go to work now with new goals on top of my general career aspirations. Working means I can provide my daughter with the best and most amazing opportunities that i can. Whether it’s swim lessons or music class or traveling or saving for college – she’s my new motivation to work hard every single day.

Every minute I’m not working is devoted to our family – fun-filled weekends and evenings, special snuggle time in the mornings before the day gets going. We laugh, walk, play, go for walks and more. Of course we miss each other a lot during the day, but it makes the time we do spend together that much more precious. Quality over quantity never rang more true. In a way, maternity leave was never something with a set end – it was really just training for my new full-time gig: being a mom.

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I’ve thought long and hard about this…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted (and I think that phrase is on repeat on this blog). Sure, I have been a bit of a crazy person since I went back to work but also I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this blog and where I want to go with it. I started to wonder if I had strayed too far from my original intent with the mommy and parenting posts as of late. It got me thinking – should I start a new blog? have two blogs? retire this blog all together? I was at my writer’s block blogging crossroads when I saw this post from Muskoka Baby. Not only were Annie’s words incredibly flattering, but it really renewed my energy for sharing my experiences as a mom as honestly as I can.

So right then and there I decided to carry on with this blog. To help ground my thoughts, I looked back at my very first post:

I am determined to lead a better balanced life. I want it all (or at least, as much of it all as I can get): a successful marriage and (at some point soon) children, a satisfying career, a healthy & fit lifestyle, fantastic relationships with my family and friends, a full night’s sleep, and more… not in any particular order. I’ve been learning the hard way that as lovely as it sounds, your life won’t just “fall into place” without a lot of hard work.

As it turns out, I’m not so far from my original intent. I’m still determined to have a better balanced life it’s just that all of the things I’m balancing have shifted around. Now that I’m a mom, I feel like a different (better) version of myself. Everything has changed – from the intangibles like my attitude, perceptions, and judgements to the physical like my body and disposition. Yet, in all that change, I’m still the same person. It reminds me of that quote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – which translates to “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.” Well Monsieur Karr – you were damn right.

There is so much balancing going on in my life right now that I would be a fool not to write about it. So here we go: Better Balanced Life 2.0 – stick with me as I navigate the territory of balancing all of the things I was trying to balance before just with the most wonderful addition in the world: our new baby girl. Stay tuned for stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly – coming soon…

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Tips for flying with a baby (or how not to smell like roadkill by the time you arrive)

traveling

So I decided to pack up Elizabeth when she was two months old, get on a plane, and fly across the country. Call me crazy but it was the quickest way to get to Phoenix and we had some really important business there! Anyway, we made it about 30 miles into our 2,500 mile journey – approximately to the runway at JFK – before she puked all over me and proceeded to cry her face off for the next two hours while we were then delayed and continued to sit on the runway. And when I say “puked all over me” I mean all. over. me. I brought an extra shirt in my carry-on, just in case, but I hadn’t anticipated the volcanic eruption of projectile vomit that necessitated an extra pair of pants and bra.

Let’s just say that I smelled pretty ripe by the time we arrived at midnight local time and looked like a wild animal – my hair was a mess, my shirt was half on/half off from our last nursing session, and of course Elizabeth woke up screaming with a vengeance by the time we arrived at the rental car counter. The guy working the night shift did us a solid and used his car rental powers to give us his employee discount, plus upgraded us to a really nice SUV. But I’m pretty sure he would have done anything to get rid of the crazy lady who smelled like roadkill and her screaming, smelly spawn at that point.

This being my first time traveling with the baby, and solo to boot, I learned many lessons very quickly. Some things I did worked out (like shipping things to my destination ahead of time); other things left much to be desired (like why the hell did I bring 3,000 onesies?). If you’re getting a plane with a baby, here’s my advice:

Before you leave:

  • Look up the airline’s policy before you book a ticket. Many airlines offer discounted infant seats so you can bring your FAA-approved car seat on board instead of flying with the baby in your lap.
  • Cut in half what you plan to bring. Lay out what you want to pack ahead of time. Cut it in half. If you are going somewhere that has a washer/dryer…. cut it in half again. Seriously – take as few things as you could possibly need. The less you have to carry, tote around, and retrieve at security or the baggage claim… the better. Bring only a couple of your child’s favorite toys.
  • Do a dry run. I had never used our car seat without the base, but was not bringing the base on the trip. The day before we left, I practiced putting it in (and taking it out) of my car at home with the shoulder belt. I also practiced rolling my suitcase (full of our crap) while pushing the stroller before we left. I was glad I felt comfortable doing these things because I was pretty frazzled by the time we landed and didn’t have much mental capacity left. I was glad to know “it worked” beforehand.
  • Make sure you have all your essentials and don’t sweat the rest. Chances are you can purchase anything non-essential that you might have forgotten at home once you arrive at your destination.
  • FedEx! Send out what you won’t need until you get there – like all the OTHER diapers and wipes you’ll use – ahead of time.
  • Take only one carry on. JUST ONE! And pack an ENTIRE extra outfit on there for you and some layers for the baby in case temperatures fluctuate between the airport, plane, etc. I also put everything in clear plastic bags – from onesies to pacifiers – in case they searched us going through security. Security agents are constantly touching tons of things, so when they paw through your bag they won’t come into direct contact with your baby’s pacifiers, clothes, etc.
  • Track your flight before you leave. You don’t want to arrive too early!
  • Pick your travel outfit wisely. Pants with big pockets to stash stuff, slip on shoes, you know the drill. All those tips about how to get through security quickly become way more pertinent when you are trying to get through with a baby.
  • A note about expressed breastmilk or formula/baby food. You can usually bring these items as a carry-on in unlimited amounts. Check with the airline first.

At the airport:

  • If you are traveling solo, assume you will be doing everything yourself. A lot of fellow travelers are parents themselves, and were even in your shoes one day. They will likely take pity on you and offer help, but you can’t count on anything. If you assume you have to do everything yourself, that second set of hands from a kind stranger sitting next to you is a welcome relief, but not necessary.
  • Hand wipes and sanitizer. All the time, on everything. I’m not a germophobe until I walk into an airport. I wiped the hell out of everything I touched and wherever I put the changing pad down. We made it through the trip and neither of us picked up any bugs.
  • Anticipate delays. Bring enough diapers, wipes, etc. in your carry-on for a potentially long haul.
  • Wear your baby. I really like using the Ergobaby for traveling because it has the sleeping hood AND a pocket for your things you need to have accessible. They will make you take the baby carrier OFF when you are going through security, but I put Elizabeth in the Ergo while I broke down the stroller and car seat (which also need to go through the x-ray machine), then sent the Ergo through the machine while I carried the baby. By the time we got to the other end of the line, the car seat had come out and was ready for her to sit in while I gathered the rest of our belongings.*
    • *This lovely story is from when we went through security on our return trip. Our voyage through security before we departed? Horrible. Not only did I lose Elizabeth’s blankie, but I also had to shove her under my arm like a football (Elizabeth, if you’re reading this one day: I’M SORRY) while I broke down the stroller and car seat with one hand which is umm next to impossible because I didn’t realize the entire stroller had to go through the x-ray machine. Let’s call that a “lesson learned.”
  • Gate check your stroller. For most airlines you can check the car seat/stroller travel systems at the gate. Having use of your stroller through the airport is awesome for carting carry-on(s) and you know, actually holding your baby. We only have one stroller and car seat**, so I bought these big red gate check bags to put them in to protect from scuffs. If you’re solo, wear your baby at the gate when you are packing these up as well. I was glad I bought the bags, because there were scuff marks on them and it was raining when we arrived so the car seat would have been soaked when I picked it up at our arrival gate.
    • **If you are going to travel a lot, you may want to consider getting a second travel system that you don’t care that much about getting scuffed and skip the gate check bags. One less thing to worry about bringing and doing!
    • Also, you can check your stroller before even going through security if you don’t want or need it. For that, I would suggest getting the luggage bags for whatever brand you have – they are generally sturdier and protect the stroller better while it’s getting tossed around on conveyor belts and such.
  • Get to your gate a bit early, about 30 mins before boarding. Talk to an airline rep – they might be able to get you a better seat, provide assistance boarding, or even hook you up next to an empty seat to give you a bit more room. Or, in my case, they could kind of be bitches about everything but I think those were two isolated employees at JFK who fed off one another’s misery.

In the air:

  • Nurse, nurse, nurse… or do something that comforts your baby. I found that Elizabeth was unsettled by the experience at first, but nursing brought her a lot of comfort and on the first leg of the journey that’s pretty much all we did.
  • Water, water, water. Not only to hydrate yourself (especially if you are breastfeeding), but you can also use the water for mixing formula, etc. Most flights will have this on board and you can purchase once you are past security.
  • Use the seat back pocket. Stash anything you want to have easy access to there. Since you packed everything in plastic bags in your carry on, this makes it easy to keep everything clean and organized within easy reach.
  • Relax. Baby will pick up on your stress and respond in kind. It’s not fun traveling with an infant, but you can pretend.
  • Pat yourself on the back. You made it through security, through boarding the plane, and are on your way. It’s almost over.

Once you arrive:

  • Wear your baby, again. Before you deplane, get situated with the baby carrier of your choice so that you can collect any gate checked items before proceeding to baggage claim.
  • Ask for help, if you need it. I can only assume flight attendants want to get the hell out of there as much as you do. They will probably be more than willing to help expedite your exit so whether it’s getting a bag from the overhead (which you don’t have, because you only brought ONE carry on, right?) or holding the baby for a second, ask for help and usually ye shall receive.

That covers all of the wisdom I can impart from our trip. Any other traveling parents out there? Since I’ve only done the plane thing once, I bet there are a LOT of other tips out there. Leave a comment with your two cents!

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