Things change so quickly with a little one it is just seems yesterday that I was desperately searching the internet for what I REALLY needed for a tiny human. I have written about what the toys we loved from 0-7 months, board books that are must haves, diaper bag essentials, but a few of my friends keep asking me what about the things you need when that first little one comes home… here are the my top 10 things for bringing home baby!
A car seat and stroller: you gotta get that little one home and safe. For me I wanted a car seat that clipped into my stroller (hence why I put them in one category)… this was a must for me, I needed this sense of convenience when everything else is a bit crazy! I LOVED my car seat… the stroller itself… meh… the access to the basket is kinda brutal to access.
Something for them to eat: A great tip I was given was to check out the big formula brand websites and they will often send you samples! This is great because if there is an allergy or if you eventually want to start supplementing. you can test them out! I was fortunate that nursing came relatively easy (for sure not the case for everyone) so something for H to eat wasn’t much of a challenge… however things as a nursing mom I can’t imagine not having breast pads and I lived in nursing tank tops! There is a lot of support for breastfeeding, but there is also a lot of pressure that can become rather intense. I have always believed, and more so even now, you can only do so much… as long as you are doing your very best to keep your baby healthy, safe and happy (forumal or breast milk) that’s all you can do!
Somewhere for them to sleep: I know many people who have thrown up a pack and play in their room as a temporary bed for their tiny human, I would have gone this route most likely but I was lent a bassinet. Being that we live in a bungalow I was super excited to be lent a free-standing bassinet with wheels (It looks like this)! It was super convenient for us… unfortunately because out munchkin was rather large she didn’t stay in there that long (glad I borrowed it!). I know some people choose to co-sleep, so you might decide you don’t actually need anything, but it is important to have thought about logistics at the very least!
Swaddle: You can buy special swaddle sacks or just use a blanket… we loved using a light muslin blanket from Aden + Anais (they have come in handy for more than just swaddling as well!). Anyone else thinking about that “How I Met Your Mother” episode where Marshall Swaddles Lilly… hehe
Little hats/tiny clothing: You will want something for your munchkin to wear and depending on when your little one is born a hat can be very important. I have seen some articles about over heating baby… we had H super bundled and she seemed to love it… even in July.
Soother? Maybe? I fought giving H a soother, but eventually caved. I was convinced that my child would NOT use a soother (why and how I came to this conclusion I can’t actually tell you!). I do know initially I really didn’t want to mess with her feeding but once that was well established I don’t know what my issue was! She had a high need to suck thing and would often suck my finger to calm herself to sleep (I think she was trying to tell me something!). Once we introduced a soother I was kicking myself as to why I fought it so bad! We are very limiting with it still… but it was the best thing ever! We used a Wubba Nub for the first few months with it. It was great because you could sort of balance it on her and find it very easily. I do know that some babies just have no interest… so this might not be any help at all!
Poop changing stuff: That would be what my husband said when I asked him what we used when H was really little… and it’s a fair point! Baby poop is so odd… the funniest thing is that I bet any parent, with an older child still in diapers, will tell you they miss those early poops… seriously as soon as you introduce real food… game changer… and not in a good way!
Big exercise ball: This is one of those items that someone told me I needed to get and I was a bit confused about, but now it is the first thing I suggest to expectant moms! This ball saved my life I swear!!! When it is 5 in the morning and you barely know your own name, being able to sit on this ball while lightly bouncing a very grumpy baby achieved some magical results. Even at 9 months is H is really upset about something (darn teething!) a gentle bounce will usually calm her down when nothing else has worked!
Noise machine: We found this really helped H sleep… but to my surprise it really helped me sleep! I had no idea how loud babies are… and when you are a new mom and they are right beside you… you hear EVERYTHING. Having a noise machine in our room with her was awesome!
Support: Whether you find support through a partner, a family member, friends or even an online community… having support is so important to your mental and physical health… and as I often tell my husband after a bit of a shopping spree… happy momma = happy baby!
I think it is important to acknowledge that travelling can be very intimidating and sometimes kind of scary. I like getting out of my comfort zone, but at the same time there is a reason why it’s called a “comfort” zone! Before every trip I have ever taken I always have at least a tinge of anxiety… Will I like this place? What if I get sick? Am I going to have any fun? And so on and so on… so often we think about the worst-case scenario. I think this is normal; we just need to be able to realize when we might be being a bit silly and overcome these fears. I remember friends “confessing” they were nervous about going somewhere, like it was some something to be ashamed of… Are you kidding me… when I went to Egypt I was so nervous, South East Asia I thought for sure I was going to have a horrible time, even my first all inclusive I remember worrying I would be bored silly (all these trips were amazing!!). Once I acknowledged my worries or concerns, I always try and think about all the positive things that might happen!
It won’t be long now until we are off for a two week vacation to France with little Miss. H. Am I nervous… YUP! Do I occasionally find myself thinking, “what have I committed myself to!!” maybe for a few seconds, then I remember I LOVE THIS! Could it be very challenging with a time change and a different culture… sure! Will we survive… absolutely and have some amazing stories to tell, no matter what! So much of travelling is about your mind set… if you let your fears and anxieties take over you are most likely going to have a horrible time, but if you acknowledge these things and then move on you are going to be in a much better state to accept the awesome things a trip can offer you. Having a positive attitude will always win over a negative one!
Now that we are travelling with a little person I think our mindset is even more important than ever… these little munchkins pick up on a lot more than we give them credit for! If mom and dad are stressed do you really think the kiddo isn’t going to be stressed? Even in everyday life how many time have we seen a kid fall, look around, notice no one is looking and carry on playing or OR the opposite… kid falls, adult comes rushing over and the child pauses, realizes they should be frighten, and loses it! Obviously there are exceptions to this given example, but generally if we have a positive attitude kids will reflect this, if we are worries, stressed, scared, whatever… kids reflect this!
I will leave you with two of my favorite quotes that I think apply to my general travel philosophy….
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do.” Helen Keller
I remember wondering when my little munchkin would move… I remember her dad trying to show her how to crawl… I remember thinking “oh I hope she can crawl soon”… What the heck was I thinking! Gone are the days of putting my little munchkin down, turning away, and turning back with her being in the same spot… she is on the move people! Destruction seems to be coming hand in hand with movement! Baby is a gogo (I couldn’t help myself)! I am a believer that you should baby proof at least a little, but that doesn’t mean bubble wrapping your entire house. I remember hearing somewhere to have a safe space where you can put your little one if you need to answer the door, or go to the bathroom, and I thought this was great advice! Another great piece of advice was when you decide to baby proof get down to your baby’s level and look around… you never know what might catch your (or your babies) eye when your at such a low level! I know that as she starts to be more consistent with pulling up and walking we will discover more things to baby proof… but here is what seems to be working well for us so far!
We installed baby gates before H was fully moving… only having one staircase going downstairs we made the choice to have two gates not at the top of the stairs. Knowing me I would have somehow managed to trip and fall down those stairs if there was a gate at the top! We installed them pre movement to allow us, and George the cat, to get used to them (it worked well I think).
Plug covers – quick, easy and makes me feel better!
Dangerous furniture to the basement – I knew that we didn’t have a very child-friendly coffee table (glass, jagged corners, perfect baby head bonking, eye poking height) so it was only a matter of when, not if, we moved it! We still have a few things that I would rather she not play with, but so far they haven’t been a huge issue so I am not going to move them until I need to. Two examples: a side table with a low drawer, and a low open shelf filled with board games. I have also heard many people talk about securing items such as bookcases to walls… depending on what you have this may be something to consider.
Heating vents – So this one was something I didn’t expect… little miss H loves pulling up the heating vents and checking out what might be in them. So those need to be taped down!
Door latches – ok first off no one told me what a pain in the … you know what, these would be to install! Perhaps it was the brand (safety first), but these things were the WORST! We were going to install more but after three we were like… “nope”. So we did a tiny bit of rearranging and figured now if she gets into the unlatched cupboards there is nothing she can’t play with if she REALLY wants to! We made sure to latch the two doors under the sink and a cupboard that has some medicine in it (all other cleaning supplies are located in a cart in the basement so there is no chance of her getting at them!)
Daily – Tiny objects – I always make sure that their aren’t any tiny pieces of anything on the ground… this means more vacuuming and sweeping… a necessary evil! With a little one crawling around all over the floor it just makes sense. I was told somewhere that if it can slide through a toilet paper roll is it too small… I think that is a great rule of thumb!
So we had a great time skiing Kimberley but how did we actually get there and back you ask… well here is the deal… going there I am fairly sure I aged more years than I care to admit… coming back… not bad! Usually H is great in the car, happily looking around or napping. Here are a few of the things I did right and wrong… and how I made the way back better than the way out there!
We had a very full car heading out to Kimberley… 3 adults, baby H, ski equipment, games, food, and H’s sleigh (I just had to bring it). Our Vehicle features a middle folding section, which we stuck our ski’s through… first mistake! The way we had them set up H could just see a bit of me… now usually she is fine in a vehicle but I think the fact she could kind of see me, but not very well, made her rather annoyed. We still stuck our skis through on the way back but made she had a clear view of the person seated beside her… much better!
Timing… we managed to be on the road during regular nap time… minimizing time when H would have wished to wiggle! When H did get a bit wiggly (on the return trip) I made sure to have one of two toys for her to chew on and play with. She has a tiny little Elmo that she loves to watch “fly” around!
My snack game was also lacking heading out there… what was I thinking! Little Miss H loves her snacks and drinking from her sippy cup and yet heading out there I didn’t make these items easily accessible! I made sure that on the way back we had plenty of easily accessible snacks and a full drinking cup!
Again a lesson I have learned before and I am sure will re learn many time… the baby is the boss. As much as you can try and push things… when baby needs to eat, be changed, or just get out… unless you want to drive with a screeching banshee behind you… you will do what baby wants!
One of the activities that baby H and I have been really enjoying is swimming. In fact she enjoys it so much that dad takes her to swim lessons on the weekend, while I do aquasize during the week. It doesn’t matter if she is hungry, tired, grumpy… she gets in the water and is so happy! Also her naps after swimming… awesome!
Aquasize means that everyone puts their babies in a little boat… so stinking cute! The cute factor can actual be a bit of an issue as we are often distracted and miss what we should be doing! We do laps with them, jump around, all kinds of water exercises… it’s a ton of fun. If there is a class nearby I highly recommend giving it a go with a little one! If you have another kiddo they actually have a little shallow swim area right beside the big pool where they get to play in the water with a lifeguard… those kids are always having a great time! Swim lessons generally consists of songs and some dunking (they aren’t ready to work on their front crawl just yet!
We found a great pool nearby that is boarder-line a hot tub, if you ask me. The average temperature… 34 degrees (93 Fahrenheit for my American friends). This pool also has many programs for people with a variety of disabilities so in the change room are large padded benches… perfect for changing a squirming baby! Once your baby is changed you can put them in these chairs fixed to the wall, that you clip the little ones into. There is an open swim before aquasize and you always hear giggles and oohh’s as everyone sees the babies in their little swimsuits. I don’t care who you are… it’s like a parade of cuteness!
A few things to consider when bringing baby swimming:
Personally I wouldn’t rush to put a baby in a pool too soon because of their sensitive skin
Your peanut will need decent head support to sit in one of the little boats for programs like aquasize (we started at about 4.5 months)
Some babes, even when a bit older, have sensitive skin so you might want to space out when you go (we go on Wednesday and Saturday for this reason)
You will want to rinse your babe off as soon as you are out of the pool, which can be a bit scary for your wee one at first (exposure to a shower has really come in handy when we were in a pinch for a bath in Hawaii!)
If you have a wiggly one try to be as prepared as you can be when you are getting dressed so you don’t have to continually ask your neighbor to make sure your baby doesn’t roll away on you! Depending on the lay out of the change room if you can leave out babies towel, lotion, clean diaper and clothes you will be in great shape (if not have them ready to grab!)
You might want to consider the outfit your munchkin is wearing to make changing easier (we like H to be in her PJ’s! One piece and your done!)
If you find that your little one does have skin sensitivity (H does!), really make sure to shower baby off very well and apply lotion ASAP!
At 6 months we started bringing a sippy cup for H… because the pool is so warm I feel this helps keep her hydrated and I prefer her chomping on this rather than another random toy the pool provides
Gear we actually use (rather than bring our diaper bag we have a backpack set up to grab and go on swim days):
towels (if you can splurge these ones are amazing)
swim suit (honestly this isn’t necessary, but they are just soooo cute!)
plastic bag for wet suits and towels
clean diapers and wipes because you never know!
Plastic swim cover (most pools require this but also will sell this to go over the swim diaper). I know many baby boutiques also sell them… I am working on finding one that has adjustable legs as this one, from the pool, is a bit tight on little H!
Swim diaper (this is really only to contain solids hence the additional plastic cover above): we used Huggies Little Swimmers… and now have this reusable one (purchased at a local baby store). The reusable one works great. I love that it has numerous snaps so it will lasts a really long time! This being said I do always have a back up diaper because if there is a poop… well I think you know where I am going with this.
Baby boat: if you are going to be swimming on vacation these are the boats we use, I would highly recommend getting one with a canopy for extra sun protection!
How quickly time passes… I feel like it was only yesterday that we were taking a tiny baby H to the mountains for the first time! We decided to head back to Lake Louise to get a photo of baby H at 31 weeks old… to compare with my 31 week belly shot! It turned out to be a slightly different trip than last time.
Packing up our gear we headed off… right at H’s nap-time… did she nap… eventually. It did take a certain amount of singing and my arm reached around, so she could hold a finger, before she passed out! We stopped in Banff at our absolute favourite restaurant for a great lunch. It was busy and it was baby H’s first time in a restaurant high chair… she rocked it! I had brought a little dish of baby food (spinach, pears and strawberries), which I added a little bit of baby oatmeal cereal to and then realized… I forgot a bib! So I tucked a little washcloth, I had in my diaper bag, under one of her many chins… and we were good to go! She ate like a champ… sure it took a while, as she needed to smile at everyone who passed her… but she was awesome! After so much action in the very full restaurant munchkin passed right out!
Our next stop was Lake Louise. Arriving at the Lake we bundled H up in her little bear suit and I decided to wear her in our carrier and off we went. The amounts of comments we got was fairly ridiculous… but she was bloody adorable, so I don’t blame anyone for the need to oooh and ahhh over the baby bear. It was then time to get the baby bear home before she turned into a grumpy bear. She was rather loud on her the way back, chatting up a storm, trying to play peek-a-boo through her mirror at us… but finally she had another nap and we made it home just in time for dinner, a little play and bed!
What we learned:
Take your time! Seriously I learn this every time I go somewhere new with babe… but it never gets less important! Whether it is time to feed, change or simply get the little one out of the car seat it is so important to not be in a rush.
It is important to figure out what makes your munchkin calm down (even for a moment) while still in her car seat. Sometimes you just can’t stop right at that exact moment… but your little one may be losing it… with baby H singing her “high chair song” or lately playing peer-a-boo or sometimes just giving her a finger to hold onto
Be flexible… if H had fallen asleep right when we wanted to go for lunch we might have done things a little differently. She is still in the car seat that clips into her stroller so we would have probably tried to get her to her stroller and then gone somewhere a bit calmer.
Gear we actually used:
plastic baby spoon and dish (we had her food in a glass Tupperware dish that we used)
Now that you have figured out where you are going it is time to sort out where to stay exactly… Choosing the right place to stay on a vacation, be it for two weeks or one night, can make or break a trip in my opinion! Here are a few things I have found helpful to think about. I am going to use an apartment as my example, but these thoughts can totally be applied to hotels, hostels, camping… whatever! If you choose to rent an apartment my favourite websites are listed at the bottom with a few more tips.
Location, location, location… take some time to research the exact area that you want to spend your time in and then book a place there! This will allow you to really make the most of your vacation. Having a little one you never know when you will need to make a quick trip “home”! Being close to your home base allows you to come and go as you will. I like to take note of parking options (if you have a car) and/or access to public transportation. You would be shocked at how much parking can be sometimes and if you are staying somewhere for a while it is nice to be near public transport! In Europe I have noticed that not all public transportation is created equal. You may need to lug a stroller up and down stairs… so be prepared!
How much space do you and baby need to sleep soundly? If you have a sensitive munchkin you might put the most emphasis on this, or if not this might not be a big deal. For me I have a very hard time sleeping beside H… I wake up to every sigh, peep and squeak. This doesn’t necessarily mean we need to have a separate bedroom for baby H, but we do require a large enough room that she is not right beside my head! Having a separate bedroom for naps is glorious. Also having a separate bedroom for when the little one goes to bed early is nice (so that you don’t have to hide under the covers watching Netflix with earphones). Depending on your little one, splurging on having a bedroom can make all the difference or, if you are really lucky, maybe it doesn’t matter as your babe can sleep anywhere!
Safety… I have noticed looking at many apartment photos that some people just really love to decorate… this can make a place look far more inviting, eclectic or sometimes a bit odd. An apartment’s decorating style is something that takes on a whole new level of importance with a little one. If you have a curious munchkin seeing a thousand knick-knacks might now be a good idea. If there are numerous open fireplaces with massive pointy coffee tables… perhaps this will be an issue for your family. Are their stairs in very inconvenient locations? These are all things to consider… None of these things would necessarily sway me away from a place, but if there were a place next door that didn’t have these issues why wouldn’t I book there instead?
Cleanliness (floors in particular). After our house in Hawaii I realized once H was mobile I would need to pay more attention to the floors… seems a bit funny but with a little person crawling around and sticking everything she can possibly get into her mouth, floor cleanliness takes on an entire new meaning.
What extras does the apartment come with? Not necessarily a make or break, but something that might just sway you on one place over another. For our France trip I made sure that each place we are staying at has a washing machine. Sometimes places will specifically list that they have things such as cribs and high chairs, which can be totally awesome! As I mentioned in my previous post (about choosing a destination) if you don’t want to bring things with you, renting is also an option. I found that if baby things were not listed, if you ask, often places would still provide them! If you are staying in a hotel you will want to ask them as well. Something to keep in mind is that some cribs/high chairs or whatever might not be in the best condition. At the bare minimum I always like to bring my own sheet for baby H. Also, most likely there won’t be any crib bumpers or anything like that. I always have in the back of my mind that if something looks REALLY not clean or safe enough for me I can always either make H a bed in a bathtub, or N and I have even discussed how he can sleep on a pull-out couch and I can sleep with baby H… you can always figure something out!
Other things that might make a difference if you have a particularly fussy little one: noise level of the area, what sort of blinds do the rooms have (is it going to be dark enough for babe to sleep) and heating (in colder months some European houses really have poor insulation)!
I love booking accommodation with airbnb.ca and vrbo.com. I have used both of these sites and have never had issues with either. Make sure you don’t forget to look at the cleaning and service fees. Sometimes the cleaning fee can be significant and then other times it is nothing! It is worth noting that with airbnb you can have rates in Canadian currency, and with vrbo the rates are in American dollars. Also don’t be afraid to branch out and try other sites depending on where you are going. When we were in the Cinque Terre, Italy we found an individual website for what turned out to be a really wonderful apartment (most of the rentals in this area at that time had personal websites and were wonderful)! The key is to do a little bit of research to make sure it is legitimate but sometimes you can find some hidden gems!