Tag Archives: checklist

Traveling with Baby? Review This Contract

15 Jul

A summer on the road? I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

My daughter and I have spent the summer visiting far-flung friends and relatives all over the place, and by a narrow margin the rewards have outweighed the challenges. Annabelle, now six months old, has been showered with love and affection, and she has brightened all the faces of those who wanted to meet her. I, too, have loved watching her interact with all the special people in our lives and re-introducing myself to close friends and relatives as a newly minted mother.

But, it has not been easy.

I think anybody planning a similar journey — particularly with a difficult baby like my own — should first consider this five-point checklist:

1) I understand that no room will be dark enough, no house quiet enough.

If your baby is like mine, she needs silence and darkness to achieve anything remotely close to a restful nap. This is great in her carpeted, blackout-shade-adorned nursery, but when you’re on the road it means making room in your luggage for a white-noise machine and going to lengths to outfit a makeshift sleeping space wherever you go. You might have to get creative, using towels to cover cracks of light or attacking a bright window with a roll of tin foil and masking tape (I have done this one without shame). Or it may mean putting your kid to sleep in the bathroom.

Sometimes you will have to share a room with Little Miss Sensitive herself, which means perfecting your tiptoeing skills, changing into your PJs in the hallway and staying perfectly still in bed no matter how uncomfortable you are. As for quiet, you have to accept unaccounted-for sounds of other people’s homes: creaky floors, neighbors’ loud weed whackers, or my mother’s notorious habit of slamming doors and cupboards instead of closing them quietly.

2) I know our schedule will fall apart.

The problem with doting relatives is that they actually want to see the baby! They don’t go out of their way to come over and visit your new bundle of joy expecting you to have successfully put her down for her third nap of the day (which is, in fact, the ideal number of naps for a cranky baby like my own). And you know better than that, too. After all, how often is it that your own grandmother has a chance to cuddle with her first and only great-granddaughter? You would rather rob your baby of a nap than steal a single second of such rare cross-generational bonding. And so, no matter how resolved you are to adhere to the routine you fought so hard to establish at home, you gladly go with the flow and skip naps or stay up later than usual to encourage quality time between your child and her admirers. Your baby, in a fun and exciting place, enjoying lots of attention, will be full of smiles and wonder. But it won’t last, and you will pay for breaking the routine. No good visit goes unpunished.

3) I will be living without the usual baby “stations.”

At home, the changing table is at just the right height. The crib is right by the nursing couch. The swing is off in its own, quiet room. The little baby chair is right by the kitchen table. Everything has its perfect place. In other people’s homes, you will likely be breaking your back changing your baby on the floor or a bed. And if that doesn’t break your back, nursing without your trusty My Brest Friend will. Instead of its perfectly placed mounting on the wall at home, your video monitor will have to rest at the top of a makeshift pile of pillows and blankets precariously balanced on a chair next to the Pack and Play. And in your well-honed Fearful Mommy Mind, this pile will undoubtedly come crashing down in the middle of the night and bury your helpless child. So you keep the monitor on extra loud to make sure you hear when disaster strikes, which is the 77th Reason You Won’t Sleep Well Tonight or any night on the road.

4) I know I will be a burden.

Everybody worries about their baby crying on the plane and bothering strangers, but that’s only one way you’ll piss off other travelers. My little girl started solids the night before a flight, and she had the smelly diaper to prove it. Only problem was she hit that special milestone (First Toxic Diaper) while landing in Boston, so no baby-changing allowed. “Fasten your seat belts, folks. This landing is going to be extra stinky!”

Then, when you get off the plane and have to assemble your Snap N Go while holding your carry-on, your purse and your baby, all while standing at the base of the jet bridge, getting in the way of stressed-out passengers with 15-minute layovers, you will definitely feel like the world’s biggest jerk. The businessman talking on his Bluetooth can’t hold a candle to the obnoxiousness you’ve got up your Mommy sleeve. You’ll wonder how you went from savvy traveler to that lady, virtually overnight. Then, when you get to your destination, you’ll still feel like a little too much guest for even the kindest host. Using their trash for diapers. Making them listen to crying through a monitor during dinner. Letting them scrub down their sink so you can bathe your baby. Handing them a damp towel when your tyke spits up all over their new blouse. There’s simply no way, with a baby in tow, not to impose.

5) You will get advice you don’t need.

Staying in other people’s homes means they get a close-up look at your everyday parenting choices. If your baby fusses, people have opinions about what you should do. My dad thought I should “go cuddle” Annabelle when she cried during sleep training. My mom suggested I was “conditioning” Annabelle to only be able to sleep in dark, quiet places by trying to carve one out for her while traveling. I told my mom I’m not conditioning Annabelle to be like that, she IS like that. You have to stick to your guns about your own convictions, which is hard when your baby is fussing and others see that you aren’t immediately able to calm her. It’s kind of like when somebody is trying to open a jar with a tight lid. It’s almost impossible to watch them struggle without offering a hand. Then you take the jar — “here, let me try,” — certain that you can get just the right angle and exert that extra dose of strength to open the jar, only to find that you, too, are unable. That’s how it is with a fussy baby. It’s easy to look at one and suggest solutions, much harder to actually find the magic bullet.

Congratulations! By reviewing these five central truths of traveling with an infant, you’re more prepared than ever to load up the Boppy, the Bumbo, the Bjorn and the baby, and hit the road. I promise that it’s worth it … barely.