So had to rush to the mall today for some last minute Christmas shopping to tick ✔️ all the boxes left on my list… all while still having to deal with my baby’s separation anxiety! My 8 month old won’t leave me alone these days not even for a 5 sec streetstyle pic! (more on that challenge with baby soon…well that’s if she gives me some time to type it up!)
A couple of months ago, amid the chaos of our post-baby#2 summer London move, my husband announced to me that his October vacation request was approved. It was his attempt to cheer me up at the end of a long hectic day while I was still trying to put to bed a restless newborn. My initial reaction: Traveling with a breastfed baby and a restless tot? Thanks but no thanks… it was just impossible for me to picture through tantrums and colic how traveling would be anything but exhausting.
Sales pitch: (1) only way to break the exhausting homebuilding ride I had embarked on; (2) keep my older daughter entertained during her October mid-term break; and (3) to compensate for not being able to head to a beach destination in the summer because of the move logistics.
I was sold on (2) and set myself deadlines for things I wanted to achieve at home before our departure and started planning the trip trying to balance making it as kids friendly as possible while still making it enjoyable for my husband and I… still, I wasn’t very thrilled.
Before we knew it, 2 months had passed and we were off to the airport, a kid strapped to my husband, another holding my hand + 3 travel bags, a car seat and of course my Coco Cocoon bag / diaper bag.
Bad Start: After going through the painful airport security checks with our two kids, we decided to grab breakfast… my toddler was restless and the infant was crying and when I tasted the ‘yogurt’ and granola I had ordered for my daughter I discovered they gave her mayonnaise and granola! To say the least I was already ready to head back home by then, but somehow I managed to keep calm and go on (well maybe the waiter there might disagree with the keep calm part).
Surprisingly the Plan Worked: Much to my surprise and delight however, after this initial hiccup, things started lining up and the vacation was a success to both parents and kids. Having been back for a couple of days and had the chance to reflect on how we pulled this off, here’s what I think are the key components for a successful trip with your kids and hopefully this will convince you not to always rush to your parents/in-laws to drop your kids before heading on vacation!
Planning, planning, planning…
Destination: The key is to minimize being on the go with the kids as they will get exhausted and in consequence will exhaust you through whining and having to deal with their many needs in unexpected places (changing diapers and breastfeeding while hiking or just visiting touristic sites + museums in a new city is therefore not the best idea). You want to be somewhere where you can enter into a comfortable vacation routine to address your kids’ needs (fun, food, sleep and WC) without that becoming stressful to you. We chose to go to the Maldives and stop on each way in Dubai. Despite the fact that there was some long and varied traveling involved (by land, air and sea…as we had to go far to find sunshine in October), we thought that this was balanced out by the fact that we planned for a very kids friendly environment to await us in each destination.
In the Maldives, we chose a resort that has a kids club and thankfully we got lucky as we found a local babysitter we were able to quickly trust with both our kids. We would therefore drop off both kids with her at the kids club in the morning and get some time for ourselves while knowing that they are safe and being entertained. The kids club was managed almost like a pre-school and they had a daily schedule of activities. At the end of each day my toddler would come back with different arts and crafts achievements and many stories about the different activities they did (from a crab race, to visiting the turtles at the turtles conservation program at the hotel to feeding the fish in the ocean…).
Of course, we would pull them out from time to time during the day to spend time and play with us at the beach or pool. My toddler loved the formula and would wake up looking forward to seeing her friends at the kids club while we were grateful to be able to relax, listen to music and read our magazines (we had left our books back home as we thought we wouldn’t get a chance to read at all but perhaps in retrospect we could have managed a bit of reading…) It was also amazing to see how our own patience and interaction with the kids would change once we had the ability to relax a bit between playtimes with them. By the time we saw them again, we were recharged and ready to go build that sand castle or splash in the pool. The balance of solo relaxation and family quality time was just perfect.
In Dubai, both the hotels we stayed in and my main shopping destination there (The Dubai Mall) were also very kids friendly and had enough to keep us and the kids entertained. I was particularly thrilled to be able to leave my daughter for a bit at a kids club in the mall as well where she did some arts and crafts while I got a chance to really shop (vs. the running after her in stores and apologizing to the salespeople which is what my shopping experience sometimes turns to with her). She then joined me and hopped on a pushable car-type stroller, which she loved and kept her distracted. The mall also had regular strollers which we took advantage of for the baby.
Packing light, packing right: As a fashion lover, I always found it hard to pack light. I like to bring lots of options! This time around, I was realistic about the number of outfits I would pull off with the kids and favored the practical + kids friendly options since I knew I would end up opting for those anyways once there. A stylish familly vacation wardrobe should make you feel voguish without sacrificing comfort as your time spent there will involve dealing with kids, hence running, jumping, sliding, floating, splashing, carrying them around, breastfeeding…
Expectations: The fact that I had low expectations to start with and anticipated a trip revolving around the kids was key in feeling that it was a success at the end and in making me appreciate the amount of adult time we ended up having (which was much more than what I had anticipated). If I had embarked on this expecting to have something more similar to the kind of trip we used to have pre-kids I would certainly have been disappointed… therefore expectations (here & pretty much regarding everything else in life) are key to satisfaction.
So start planning your next family vacation and take the challenge of not dropping your kids off with your parents/in-laws before traveling!
While waiting for the real deal to flow, the first milk a breastfed baby would savor for a couple of days after birth is the colostrum. Colostrum is a thick yellow-orange fluid with creamy texture, concentrated and not very abundant. Highly packed with so many goodies (proteins, vitamins, minerals and antibodies that boost your infant’s immune system), it protects your baby from disease and gives baby everything he/she needs. It’s the best way to start your baby’s nutrition, nothing else comes close. This incredible substance acts as a natural vaccine and has certainly contributed to protecting my tiny little baby from the harsh flu I got shortly after my delivery, even though baby and me are practically glued 24/7! (of course a protective mask for mommy and other sanitary precautions around the house are also imperative to minimize the likelihood of baby catching the virus)
- Start breastfeeding right away, even in the delivery room! Nursing in the next hour or so of your baby’s birth is very important to stimulate milk production. You won’t be too sad to learn that you might be asked to do away with the lovely hospital gown for your first breastfeeding, as skin-to-skin contact between mommy and baby is recommended to jump start the natural bond and breastfeeding.
- Avoid or minimize bottle or pacifier use, as it can get in the way of developing a good breastfeeding routine.
- Have your baby in your room the first few weeks so you can nurse more often and on demand, this will help improve your baby’s sucking which in turn will build up your milk supply.
- At least 3 comfy and well-fit nursing bras
- Nursing pads
- Nursing pillow
- Lanolin (nipple cream)
- Breast milk pump
- Nightgown, pajamas or other clothes that button or snap down from the front
- Hand sanitizer
- Burp cloths
- Sterilized milk bottles for when you need to pump your milk (either buy a sterilizing machine for the bottles or you can just boil them for a couple of minutes in hot water)
- Make sure your washer and dryer are in good condition because they will probably be running non-stop!
- Wait until the colostrum phase is over to introduce your favorite onesies as the stains it creates are much harder to wash off.
- Train another person to burp your baby after each feed (so you can take turns) and this way you can get some extra time for rest between feeds.
Easter Sunday had more in store for us than predicted and baby # 2 hatched out of her egg shortly after the beginning of the 39th week. My labor was quick, no complications and we were out of the hospital with our Easter baby shortly after the mandatory 24h waiting period.
It was now time to adjust to the delicate balance of taking care of the fragile newborn while making sure that my soon-to-be 3-year-old wasn’t feeling alienated. Of course it didn’t start very well, as my first daughter seemed to think we brought home a new doll toy for her to play with and got upset that we wouldn’t hand it to her. On the first day, she would follow me around the house with her toy milk bottle and didn’t seem to understand why I was so attached to this doll. It didn’t take too long however for her to figure out that this doll was different: it moved, made a lot of noise and was getting much more of my attention than any other doll… which prompted her telling me two memorable (and heartbreaking) things: “Maman arrête avec le bébé!” (ENG: “Mom stop it with the baby!”) and “Je ne veux plus acheter un bébé!” (ENG: “I don’t want to buy a baby anymore!”)
My first priority was to orchestrate a system whereby between my husband and I, we can still give our eldest the same degree of attention she had prior to her sister’s arrival while making sure that our newborn’s needs are attended to on time. It has been a challenge (despite both grandmas joining the effort), mainly because the newborn’s sleeping and eating hours are unpredictable at this stage and my eldest was acting out and trying to grab our attention in many creative manners (such as jumping on couches she would not have dreamt of stepping on before and screaming at new high pitches).
I had learned from my first post-pregnancy experience that it is better to have a plan and sway from it, as newborn demands, than not having one to start with. Today my eldest spontaneously hugged and kissed the baby and said “7ayeteh bébé!” (ENG: “My darling baby!”) It’s making me feel that maybe we are on the right track… As for baby, she just seems to be oblivious to the power struggle and anything else happening around her… she is exclusively interested in sleeping and breastfeeding, whenever it pleases her!
After my manicure, I decided to get a massage to relieve some of the strain in my back haunting me since the beginning of the 3rd trimester.
3:00am: Woke up with sharp spasm pain in my back!
4:00am: Woke up doctor. Doc asks: Why aren’t you sleeping? I explain. Advice: don’t take any chances (maybe kidney stone?) and go to ER to see what’s happening.
5:00am: Yellow cab —> ER (argh this was really starting to feel like a labor drill).
6:00am: Resident sees a contraction on the monitor and makes a weird face. Here I’m panicking, i’m really not ready nor is the baby for this to happen. Resident doesn’t rule it out as a possibility. They monitor me and do some more tests to assess whether it is labor or even a kidney stone.
6:30am: Final diagnosis, probably muscular (thanks nail salon massage!) and they gave me some pain medication and some fluids.
6:50am: Feeling exhausted because of the physical and emotional ride.
7:00am: Back home to sleep…
2:00pm: Baby shopping therapy and since I was not in a state of mind to spend time picking my outfit before going out, it was LBD to the rescue.
This whole experience is making me feel like I’m definitely not going full term but hoping it will be more than just a couple of days and perhaps a bit over a couple more weeks. Each day the baby stays in (at least until 37 weeks) will prepare her more for the outside world.
No more nail salon massage + I need to finish some of the preparations I’ve been procrastinating on!