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Traveling with Her: Some Ideas

Being a focus group moderator, traveling is part of the art and exercise of my job. It’s like exercise because it is a bit painful. It’s like an art because I do love the challenge of packing the most efficiently. Thus, it is my new quest to travel lightly as I endeavor on my first solo journey back home to Minneapolis with our 7 month old daughter and without my husband in tow.

As any parent knows, traveling with a baby usually takes two parents. Getting the bags thru security, finding the toys in the bag when she needs them, the bottle making as she screams inexplicably in the middle of the airplane as others try to sleep — it’s just a balance that works best if you have a 2-on-1 scenario. Now, I’m a worrier… but if I plan ahead the anxiety of traveling alone with her is lessened. I’ve researched ideas online. I’ve talked to my girlfriends who do this often. In fact, I even strategized with my husband – the only other person who knows our child better than me.

Here’s what I’m thinking will make travel easiest (both from the experiences of two previous round trip flights with her and from what we know she’s like now at 7 months old):

1) We got one of those inexpensive umbrella strollers at Babies R Us to bring her through security and around the airport hands free.

2) I plan to check our clothing suitcase that will be packed lightly, but still is one more bag to carry. (A cardinal sin for me usually when traveling for business).

3) We will bring on TWO compact bags — 1st bag will have my laptop. the contents of what would be my purse, as well as my work files and some easy toys for her to grab, change of clothes for her/shirt for me (spit up is possible) and snacks for both of us (she’s ready for those teething biscuits now).  The 2nd bag will be her diaper backpack that will be categorized into several zip lock bags with the most important one placing diapers, wipes and lotion/diaper cream together placed as handy as possible in the middle compartment. Our diaper backpack also smartly offers side pockets that will handily present me with two bottle options and plenty of Simulac power packets are already placed in the front pocket of the backpack (where most moms keep their keys — I am always armed with Simulac… my girl can eat).

4) I’m buying a big spring water bottle in the airport gift shop AFTER security — This is big. The time it takes to bring already mixed formula through security (they make you taste it) is just too precious when traveling with your 7 month old child alone. Simulac has wisely created these ingenious powder sticks that carry 2 scoops of formula or enough for 4 ounces when mixed with plain spring/filtered water. And if you are unlucky with security lines and are rushing to the flight, I have found the flight attendants to be really helpful with a bottle of spring water when you need it too.

5) The Oh My She Did A Real Doo Doo back up Zip lock Bag — I have also created a special zip lock with a change of clothes for her. The funny thing is that having my dog before my daughter has also prepared me for the idea that all things below protected in a zip lock bag when traveling. Not only does her change of clothes have a zip lock bag, but I carry a few extra deodorized bags and zip lock bags to accommodate any bad, smelly diapers that well… don’t belong inside a tight airplane bathroom (Remember, I am a frequent traveler as well… so thinking of others is important too).

6) Travel at Less Busy Time — Another trick I read about and totally agree with from previous experience as that frequent flyer business traveler is that moms traveling with kids should travel at times when those busy business folks aren’t. I booked myself on a mid-morning flight to Minneapolis and a mid-afternoon flight back home. This way, those busy business folks rushing to their next meeting probably won’t be on my flight and I won’t be in their way.

7) Booked My Seat Ahead of Time — Perhaps this is just a fortunate item from being a frequent flyer, but I’ve already booked us in the front seat in coach. It’s the one that kids and those who are in wheelchairs or the elderly often sit. We will work hard to get on first and immediately put our bags in the overhead and under our seats to not be in the way of the loading of passengers. Plus, if we need anything from the flight attendants it’s usually harder to forget where we are. (Just a trick — if you’re not a Silver Elite or frequent flyer of an airline, book your flight online and then call the 1-800# asking them to put you in one of those seats when you’re traveling with a child under 2 years old. They appreciate the forewarning too as they will only book certain people in the seats next to you).

8) Bringing a chocolate bar for the person who helps me — Whether it’s a nice flight attendant or the good person next to me, I am going to plan on rewarding the person who is nice to me on the flight. It just feels right. The last flight with her I got bumped into first class (so nice) because of my flight status and the time of day. My seat mate was a nice grandmother traveling for business. She was so kind, but probably wanted to sleep or study before her big meeting. Instead, she had my daughter flirting with her and holding her hand. I wished I had something to reward her for her kindness (and keep her happy for that business meeting). I figure I’ll spread the love this way. Chocolate is always a good thing!

So…I think I have it all covered. With everything to think about, I bet I forgot something. If you’re on my flight, I apologize up front for any babbling or smell coming from my daughter. She’s awfully cute and there’s chocolate for you if you’re nice!!!

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Sippy Cup Transition – Mommy’s Intuition Works!

So, she turned seven months. She’s sitting up and clapping. She’s grabbing everything in sight and putting it in her mouth. She’s almost crawling (okay, rolling from a sitting position onto her tummy and trying to lift off). But for me, the lady who loves food and drink — I’m most excited that she is holding onto and drinking from her own bottle. She’s figured out to tip it upwards to get more formula. She’s ready for the sippy cup!!

I’ve done a little research — e.g. asked moms I know, talked to different people in the store and read on the Internet about it. It’s important to transition with the nipple from the bottle brand you are currently using onto the sippy cup, so I’ve chosen the Advent sippy cup. It fits the nipples from the Advent bottles that I mostly use (I also use two 9 ounce bottles from the new Dr. Weil brand that is similar in nipple outline to Advent I’m told). The Advent bottles leaked big time a few months ago and I had to throw away a few. The bottles were the culprit not the nipples, but I wasn’t too happy with the brand then. I do like Advent mostly though because you can easily make that transition as the bottles are available everywhere. They even help you with a diagram and a whole system. Plus, they’re not too expensive and often on sale. My designer “Dr. Weil” brand is only available at Babies R Us here on the East coast (weren’t at the Minneapolis or Lancaster, PA BRU stores I visited when seeing my parents and in-laws).

My daughter is officially working this transition as of yesterday and I’m so proud. Last night while sitting on my lap, she held the smaller 6 ounce sippy cup that comes with “grabbers” with a grip that would make any businessman swoon. (The grabbers are the funny plastic thing that hangs on the rim of the cup and has a handle on each side). And miracle of miracles, she easily held the sippy cup to drink out of it as if it were her 9 ounce bottle. The transition was no big deal. All my fears were for naught.

It’s amazing how I researched and researched the best way to transition her off the bottle, and got a Pediatrician in the local Babies R Us warning me to be careful not to push this too fast (she believes babies should do this at 9 months old or older), to have it all be no big deal. This episode taught me that I should trust my mommy instincts. I saw her holding her bottle and feeding herself. This was the sign to help her make this transition. I will never doubt this mommy intuition thing again.

January 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Toy Story – Her First Seven Months of Toys! And a little planning for later…

Okay, so I am surrounded by mothers who buy buy buy every developmental toy on the market. It’s lucky for me because I inherit some good ones, but I figure there are many moms who won’t have that same good fortune. I thought I’d help with a few pointers. Again, I’m trying to be practical, but also am having some fun buying my daughter toys too. It’s just such a racket. In her first six months, I’ve accumulated quite an attic filled with toys she isn’t using now. Anyway, here’s my quick guide to what she’s needed so far:

– Infancy (1st three months) = The Glider/battery operated rocker was where she spent most of her time. She also loved rattles and anything that was soft with beads that made noise. Manhattan Toy makes a fabulous “Skwish” toy that still is her favorite grab it toy. Anything she can grab was the key for the first three months. We received the cutest ever “Pancake Bear” that is a huggable toy she loved from two months on. There is also a Baby Einstein ball with beads inside that has been a big hit with her.

– Babyhood (up to six months) = This is the mysterious stage. I’ve talked to other moms (see earlier blog) about what to get her, but the old stand bys are definitely important here. Those stackable rings you all had as a kid from PlaySkool are great. She was teething from four months on, so she liked the teething toys with bumps especially. Her favorite ones were the teething toys with handles. Links are a HUGE help here. I highly recommend buying a bag full of links to put all the toys on. At about four months, she was happily spending time in her Jumperoo at home and when at her grandparents, the exersaucer. These are similar things. The EvenFlo exercsaucer is perhaps the Cadillac with great activities. (It’s often on sale at Babies R Us and Target). EvenFlo is far superior. My parents have the extra special one with add ons that my friend gave to them. I highly recommend it. These toys last about two months, so don’t spend too much on them. Get them at a thrift store, or inherit them from a great friend or relative. It is a great gift if grandparents or good friends want to buy it for you. Just know that it lasts a total of two months in her interest. Our daughter is just about done with the Jumperoo (same thing as exersaucer except instead of a round thing, it’s on two poles and she literally jumps up & down as she plays busily with all of the buttons).

– Older Babydom (six months to seven months) = She is now at the “Fascination” stage where every motion is carefully planned. She is able to push, pull and move her self into position, so her toys that are her favorites are the ones she gets to practice this. This is especially where the toys you remember as a kid are making her happy. Sassy makes a super fun mirror with balls she can move and silly strings she can pull. Plus, the mirror makes her laugh. PlaySkool also makes an incredible drum that lights up and plays great music if she hits it that is fabulous! (We bought a poor imitation of it and are about to buy the PlaySkool version because it’s far superior. She eyes it every time we’re in Target or Babies R Us). Her favorite is another toy from my past – the PlaySkool Pop Up Friends — she has spent hours trying to figure out the up down motion of pushing or dialing and loves to push DOWN the pop up. The plastic beads are also really great for her as she can pull them apart, push them together, suck on them (she’s getting the front top teeth now) and hold them — all actions she is mastering. Today at Babies R Us, she happily played with a waffle ball that had big enough holes for her to grab. She held the ball throughout the shopping trip with great fascination. It was on sale, so I gladly bought it for her at $4.99. She sits up easily, so we put her on a blanket with toys and a pillow to support her back. She can spend hours just hanging out and playing with almost anything – including plastic lids from old oatmeal tops and tupperware. It’s fun to watch. I’m working hard at just allowing her to explore most anything.

Walking/Crawling Toys (7 months to 9 or 10 months and later) = Our daughter is about to be seven months, so she’s a bit young for these toys, but I am exploring PlaySkool again with the walk and ride toys. There are also great blow up round rattle drums from Sassy that I’m told will be great for her to work to grab as she crawls. My sister-in-law just gave her the walk-and-sit lion that I believe is a PlaySkool mainstay again. These are great. We are also about to inherit a wonderful musical table that again is a PlaySkool thing sitting on legs with tons of buttons and dials with lights that make great music for her to stand up with support and continue her fascination stage. Hoping that comes soon. She is actually ready for this one even sitting up and not standing. We also are outfitting her with Robeez these days in case she decides to walk without fully crawling. I’m told by my smart, physical therapist sister-in-law with a two-and-a half year old genius that these shoes help her grip hard surfaces and walk correctly without slipping. We have hard wood floors, while day care has industrial carpeting, so I’m aware that both surfaces have different, but equally hazardous pitfalls for the first-time walker.

Where To Shop = When I’m exploring new toys, I like to  go to small toy stores. There is a great one in my home town of Minneapolis called Creative Kidstuff, but I’m not there as often as I like living in the New York City area. She is also growing way too fast to pay full price. Kohl’s has great toy deals, where you buy one and get the other free — but they are absolutely no help if you don’t know what you’re buying. Target and Babies R Us, even Buy Buy Baby also give coupons. Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby are great for expert advice on what to buy at what stages. If you’re more diligent than I am, Babies R Us and Target will meet a toy price with an advertisement. I’m buying these toys with coupons now to plan ahead. I am also asking friends if they have left overs, and exploring the great thrift shop in Pennsylvania where my in-laws live this month when we go visit. Our attic is carefully being categorized to insure easy access if either we are blessed with another baby, or we will give a lucky friend the fruits of our daughter’s interests like we have been given. Garage sales are also a possibility.

SPECIAL NOTE/A REQUEST TO MY READERS: I urge you all to add their input to the comment section of my blog. It’s helpful. My hope is that other new first-time moms and dads can learn from my story and others. This blog could become a resource. Please post comments!!!

January 10, 2010 Posted by | kids marketing, marketing to new moms, New Moms | Leave a comment

Special Request: The Hurts & Hows of Breast feeding

This was another special request that one of my “readers” had for this blog. She like me might be considered a more “practical” mom and wanted me to spread the word to help others like us.

Okay, so I’m not the best example for the La Leche league about how to go about breast feeding. In fact, I’m thinking that they might ban me from their local clubs everywhere, but I have to tell you that after all of the hurt and complaining I did about breast feeding in the first month of my daughter’s life it has been well worth it. I’d liken it to dieting. I knew I wanted to do it. It just was sooooo painful!  (I thank the makers of Lanolin – that little purple tube – for helping me get through it. Those breast pads they make are also amazing because they have some of that in there and when everything hurts, their pads don’t).

My recommendation is for anyone who wants to breast feed to decide what they want out of it. I was very clear (I’m a goal-oriented lady, so it works for me). For me, I wanted the bonding that only I could have with my daughter. The whole chest-to-chest sweetness that makes you cry every time you do it. (Six wonderful months later, it still does)…

To this day, six months and many early mornings later, I am glad about my decision. However, I was quite clear as well that breast feeding was not going to be my noose. I was going to supplement. The idea of pumping really just didn’t appeal because it meant that I was always tied to breast feeding, and could leak in very awkward moments. Sorry, Medela and all of you great people who create wonderful breast pumps, but I liken these devices to boobie guillotines.

Pumping also defeats my whole purpose for breast feeding. The bonding thing with a plastic, humming device sort of de-romanticizes the whole breast feeding thing. My job requires some travel here and there, so when I had to go on the road I did consider trying to pump — and did risk losing my milk not doing it — but luckily it came back without any problem. I am also lucky because my daughter is very flexible. She enjoys both bottle and breast.

The whole breast feeding debate is one that comes with so much guilt. There are scientific reasons that support it. There are also some religions that require it. My very basic research — as both a former market researcher who was lucky enough to moderate two projects for an infant formula brand AND a daughter of a pediatrician — is that infant formula is highly regulated in our country with wonderful advancements that make it very similar to breast milk. It isn’t breast milk though, and I don’t deny that. My daughter does need my breast milk if I can give it to her, but she will not suffer if she doesn’t have it. It’s like organic foods. You could buy everything organic and be extra vigilant. Or you could buy the things that really should be protected such as meat and thin skinned fruits and veggies. I’m some one who errors always on the practical side. It’s important to be knowledgeable but not overly zealous. You can do just as well with infant formula. My daughter wouldn’t be worse off. I just love the feeling of her close to me. It’s something that I can do with her together, so she enjoys both infant formula and breast feeding until she segues completely into solid foods over the next few months.

I highly recommend you come up with your goals as a mom. Do you want to be exclusive or mix in a few different ideals to bring flexibility to your life?  There are no wrong ways or right ways to do it. Supplementing is so easy and wonderful. I’ve loved the happy medium of providing her with infant formula when she’s at day care and with her father or any other family member. You may not want that. You may want to provide her with all of her nutrition until her introduction of solids (another blog topic – my daughter is just now entering this fun stage with exciting results). You also may not have enough milk to keep up with your child. There are so many things to figure out. Just know that there are no wrongs or rights. Just do what feels right.

Believe me. Everyone has an opinion for you on breast feeding. Don’t let those other folks influence you. Figure out what’s best for you. Nothing you can do will hurt your child if you love him or her completely. Enjoy it!  You’ll never have this kind of control again!!! (At six months old, I’m already realizing she has my husband and me completely in her hands)…

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment