Sunday, October 23, 2011

Child harnesses--useful or mean?

Before I had experience with toddlers I looked at the use of child harnesses as rude, treating your child like an animal. Then I had a family member who before age 2 became a FAST runner. She loved to dart off and could disappear in a second. Then I understood. The harness/leash is simply a method of keeping your child safe.

I took a facebook/twitter poll on the subject. Here are the results:

46%  It's a good option to keep my child near and safe.
30%  I thought it was bad until my child became a runner.
12%  I'd rather be embarrassed than lose one. (Fan write-in)
12%  It's inhumane, the child is not a dog!
0 votes: I'd be too embarrassed to use one.

Only 12%  chose "the child is not a dog!" and 88% agreed that it is a good way to keep the child safe. I bought a harness for E. shortly after she started walking but never had to use it. I lucked out and she was very good at staying nearby. Not every child stays close, so if you have a runner don't feel guilty for using a child harness. Keep your child safe.

Reader C.G. from Alabama said she used a harness when walking with her toddler daughter around the neighborhood. There was heavy traffic near the house and it was unsafe to let her daughter walk freely yet her daughter refused to hold hands. Perfect solution! Her daughter was happy with her freedom and C.G. knew she could keep her child safe from harm.

Here are a few very cute options that should make your toddler safe and happily unaware its purpose is really safety:

Sponge Bob Tether Buddy

Munchkin Stay-Close Harness and Handstrap

Infants on the Plane

The first thing people tell you about flying with an infant is to make sure they are sucking a pacifier or bottle on ascent and descent. This is not necessary. My doctor informed me that a newborn's ears have less fluid than an older baby so there shouldn't be a problem with pressure equalization. If your baby is uncomfortable, he will let you know. If he is sleeping soundly, there is no need to wake him in order to have him take a bottle. In the words of Dr. Marc Hubbard, "Never wake a sleeping baby (except to preserve a schedule)." If the baby has congestion the pressure may cause some discomfort, but you can wait until he squirms to let you know before you force a bottle on him.

If your baby's ears DO bother her and she is crying, do what you can to soothe her, but know that letting her open her mouth up to cry may be just what she needs to equalize the pressure. Most of the time other passengers understand as long as they see you are not ignoring the baby. You are more likely to get sympathy than harsh looks.
Have you ever used the toilet while holding your baby? You may need to practice this before your flight. But know that it's okay to ask another passenger or the flight attendant to hold your baby so you can go to the bathroom.

As I've said before, infants normally sleep well in flight. The engine noise seems to lull them to sleep. Many advise booking your flight to coincide with the baby's nap schedule. This worked for us until "E" was about 10 months old. After that she fought to stay awake. Luckily for most parents her behaviour is not the norm.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Traveling with toddlers--getting through security

(This post was first published as a guest blog on The Third Boob)

Traveling with toddlers can be a challenge. They want to explore and be independent and they don't understand all the sights and sounds around them. It might be useful to have some practice "flights" at home. Walk through a doorway pretending it's the security checkpoint; set up some chairs to be the airplane. Talk through as many details as you can think of. When my niece was 2.5 and getting ready to take her first flight she said, "I won't be scared...I'll just hold on really tight." It turns out she thought she would be holding onto the wing.

Try to describe the details of everything you're doing while at the airport. Taking the time to do this may prevent a tantrum. You'll feel rushed and frazzled no matter how experienced you are with flying (toddlers will do this to you); but showing calm patience to your child will keep things much more sane. If your child has a special toy or blanket that he likes to carry with him, be sure to let him know that it gets to go for a ride through the scanner and you'll pick it up on the other side.  Let him feel he has control by allowing him to place the item in the bucket by himself.

Good news! The TSA has recently updated it's shoe policy and children 12 and under no longer have to remove their shoes. This is one less step for you and every bit helps! When walking through the checkpoint most airports allow you to carry your toddler. If permitted, do this. The "door" can be intimidating to a toddler who isn't familiar with all the machines and gadgets.

When traveling with a toddler I bring a backpack and a cooler. Essentials in the backpack, snacks in the cooler. Check your luggage even if there is a fee. You need your hands free to attend to your child.

Although it's one more step at security, I liked bringing 2 milk boxes and 2 juice boxes. It may be simpler to just bring a sippy cup and buy milk or juice once inside security. Many airlines do not cater milk after 10am, so don't rely on them having milk on the plane. If you bring liquids you'll need to put them in a seperate bin and will be asked to step aside with the TSA agent as they scan the milk/juice boxes by hand.

We love our Go-Go Kidz Travelmate and it allows you to easily get the car seat to the aircraft for the safest way for your toddler to travel on the plane. Otherwise, consider and umbrella stroller. If you have to make a run for a connection flight you need something to help get your toddler there in a hurry. Wheels of some sort also help when your toddler falls asleep at the end of the flight and has to be carried a mile to baggage claim. Many airlines are now restricting the size of stroller you are permitted to gate check. Don't bring your deluxe stroller to the gate.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Packing for Onboard the Plane--Infants

"E" as a happy 3 month old frequent flier
The packing can be the hardest part, so here is my advice on how/what to pack:

Many people advise to pack minimally. I don't agree. You should *concisely* pack everything you need for worst case scenarios like lengthy delays, unplanned overnights, spit up, and diaper blowouts. Illnesses creep up at the least convenient times. On one flight I was working a child vomited on his mom. She was soaked and had no change of clothes. It was just the start of a 7 hour flight. I have learned it's best to always have at least one complete change of clothes for everyone traveling, down to socks and underwear. Bring at least 2 spare outfits for baby. Always bring some kind of fever reducer just in case.

I pack the following in the diaper bag:

  • Small blanket
  • 6 diapers
  • Travel size diaper wipes case
  • At least 3 small trash bags (for dirty diapers, soiled clothes, or trash--I reuse grocery sacks)
  • 3 burp cloths
  • 3 bibs if your baby is a drooler
  • 2-3 NOISELESS toys (No need to annoy other passengers with anything more than baby crying.)
Bright Starts Buzzin Around Bee
  • Pacifier (multiple ones if baby loves paci)
  • Teething tablets
  • 1 change of clothes for baby including socks
  • Baby sweater
  • Snack for me such as Luna Bar, Mixed Nuts
  • Your purse or wallet (With experience you'll be able to blend this with your diaper bag always.)
  • Nursing cover (if nursing)
  • 3 empty 4 oz. bottles (if bottle feeding)
  • Formula (if using)
  • Both Enfamil and Similac have formula packets. I love these for traveling!
Then I pack my backpack:
  • 1 change of clothes for me (including underwear and socks--put in Gallon size Ziploc bag)
  • Sweater for me
  • Additional change of clothes for baby (pack in ziploc bag)
  • Additional diapers and wipes (I like to bring 8-12 diapers for a 10 hour travel day.)
  • Small magazine for me (Don't bother with a heavy book. Even if baby sleeps you'll find it difficult to focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.)
  • Any prescription medicines for me or baby
  • Glasses/Contacts/Phone Charger/Other Essentials
  • Ear bud headphones
  • Additional snacks for me (maybe an apple and peanut butter and jelly)
  • Quart size Ziploc bag with baby medicines (Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Teething gel), hand sanitizer, any other liquids you need such as contact solution/lotion/etc.
  • Thermometer
Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer--so easy to use and very accurate!
In the airport you can buy water. If you're nursing you're going to be REALLY thirsty on the airplane. Plan on at least 1 liter up to 6 hours. Buy more water if you'll be using it for the baby's formula. You CAN bring water for bottles/mixed formula/breast milk through security, but if you're able to just buy the water in the airport it will be a much simpler process getting through security.

*Buy at least 1 liter of water for the airplane trip
You could fit all these items in just a backpack, but I find it tends to get too heavy and things become difficult to find. For me it helps keep things organized when using 2 bags. The list looks long, but almost everything is small and will fit easily in 2 easy-to-manage bags. Once it's all organized and packed you'll know where everything is and you won't have the stress of needing something you don't have while away from home.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Traveling With The Breast Pump

"E" was never that excited about eating. I had to supplement nursing with formula from week 2 but I tried to give her as much breast milk as possible. That means I pumped along with nursing for 10.5 months. I went back to work when she was 8 months, so I became very experienced with pumping wherever possible. Here are the products I liked best and a few tips. (Although I am mentioning several specific products here, I am not representing or being paid in any way to mention them. They are just my favorites from my experience.)

If I was traveling with "E" by myself, I simply did not pump in flight. I would try to pump right before I left the house and then as soon as we got to our destination. (She refused to nurse in public, so this was challenging, but we managed.) If I was working or if my husband was with me, I locked myself in the lavatory, hung the pump on the clothes hook on the door, then set up. I used the Medela Easy Expression Bustier, attached the Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags with Masking Tape, then sat down on the the toilet lid and pumped. Clean up was simple with Medela Quick Clean Accessories Wipes. I marked the bags with date and amount of milk using a Sharpie, then put them in my cooler with blue ice. I did not carry bottles with me, just pumped directly into the bags.
I used the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Backpack. I loved this, but had I known I would be pumping regularly for nearly a year, I would have purchased the Medela Freestyle Breast Pump. Such transportablity!
It looks ridiculous, but what a help this bustier is! If you're wearing a button-down shirt you don't even have to remove your shirt. Hook it up and you have your hands free to check out my blog on your smartphone while you pump. :)

Some people have difficulty when away from baby getting their milk to drop. Have a photo of baby in your Pumping Kit and a small lovey or something with her scent on it. That seems to help some people. You could try recording some of her coos and cries on your Smartphone and playing those back.

Using the set-up I have mentioned I have even (out of extreme necessity) pumped in "public" on a rather empty train! I just used the nursing cover and hovered in the corner. No one noticed. I've also used a comfortable chair in a restroom (not in a stall). People walked by and even conversed with me and had no idea I was pumping.

Storing the milk

I brought along a pack of blue ice. It was always a bonus if my hotel room had a fridge and freezer in the room. If not provided they are available on request. Many hotels charge for a fridge in the room, but not when there is medical necessity. Ask for the manager if the front desk doesn't consider breast milk storage a medical necessity. At times the hotel may be happy to provide a fridge but they ran out of them. Ask to use their private fridge to store the milk. I was never denied this request. Try to have a brown paper bag with you to put the milk in. It's kind of embarrassing for people not often exposed to this sort of thing. Put the milk in the freezer if there is room so it will stay cold longer. Refreeze the blue ice to keep the milk cold the next day.

Here is a good guideline on safe storage temperatures:

Monday, October 3, 2011

E.'s 1st Flight

E. was only 6 weeks old when I took her on her first flight. My husband was working, so I was on my own. Walking onboard I had a backpack on my back, a breast pump over one shoulder, and a diaper bag over the other shoulder. I was carrying E. strapped into her car seat. We used a convertible car seat (the huge ones they use up to 4 years) and not an infant carrier, so you can imagine the struggle. Not one person offered help. Business men looked at me in disgust as I (accidentally...maybe) bumped their elbows and shoulders on my way back to my seat.

We fly often and E. earned elite status on our primary airline when she was only 20 months old. I only cried 4 times in that 1st year and a half of travel with her. (joke) Through our frequent travel and my observations as a flight attendant for 12 years, I have collected many tips and tools on making traveling with kids a little bit easier.

Hopefully you experience more kindness from strangers than I did on that first flight. On our second flight at least 5 people offered assistance. I would help you if I saw you struggling. But I am sharing these tips so you won't need to depend on others. So you can be self-sufficient when traveling with your kids and so you can eliminate as much as possible the stress of traveling with kids.

The best thing about travel with infants is they sleep a lot!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Travel with Infants-- Getting to the aircraft.

Traveling with infants is easier than you think. Infants often sleep much of the flight so you can at least breathe once you settle in your seat. The toughest part is getting through security, so that's why I start here.

Do yourself a favor and check your suitcase. Even if you have to pay a checked bag fee, it's worth it. Can you imagine lifting it into the overhead bin while juggling your infant? Even if you have baby in a carrier, it will be nearly impossible to safely lift that bag. Yes, it would be nice if someone helped you, but you can't count on that. Simplify the trip in any area you can. I carry on only a backpack and diaper bag (or combine the two).

You can check your car seat (airlines do not charge for car seats/pack 'n' plays/strollers), or do what I do: Use Go-Go Babyz Wheelz.

One hand to carry, unfold, secure car seat, and push
Go-Go Babyz Infant Cruizer AT

Go-Go Babyz  has amazing products to assist in air travel and if you fly with the baby more than once a year, the cost is DEFINITELY worth it! The Infant Cruizer comes with an adapter to allow you to use it with a convertible car seat once the baby gets bigger so it's a great investment.

Even if the baby will be in your lap, not in her own seat, it's nice to have wheels to push the baby or the bags through the airport. Leave the wheels attached and gate check if the baby does not have a seat on the plane and will be held in your lap.

Getting through Security:

Many large airports have a line at security dedicated to families with children. Look for this line where there will be less pressure to rush from the passengers in line behind you.

It's nice to have baby in a front pack/sling/or infant carrier while setting everything on the scanner belt so you can have both hands free.
-Remove your Ziploc baggie of liquids and place in
their own bin. (Add to this bin liquid for bottles, if bringing. More advice on this next week.)
-Put the backpack and diaper bag straight on the belt (no bin).
-Remove your shoes. Even though you no longer have to remove shoes on children under 12, it's best to not put shoes on your infant for travel. They slip off unnoticed. I recommend Trumpette Shoe Socks. All the cuteness of shoes but much more cozy.

-If you have the car seat and wheels, detach the wheels and put both through the scanner.
-Last, remove baby from carrier and put carrier on the belt.
After walking through the scanner don't feel you have to rush in reassembling, but move out of everyone's way. Push all your belongings to the end of the belt and assemble in reverse of how you put bags on in the first place:
-put on front pack/sling
-put baby in carrier
-shoes on
-wheels on car seat
-backpack on car seat
diaper bag stacked on backpack

Or, of course you can use the Infant Cruizer the way it's intended and put the baby in. Then wear the backpack and carry the diaper bag. (Go-Go Babyz also has a great Diaper Bag that attaches to the Infant Cruizer handle.)

You made it though the toughest part of travel with an infant! Next week I'll show you how I pack for the airplane with an infant.

**I do not represent any of the above mentioned companies. I am simply a fan of their products and want to share them with you.**