Friday, April 29, 2011

Traveling with Babies

We traveled a lot before having kids. We knew this would slow down, but hoped to continue traveling some. With family spread across 3 countries and friends spread out even farther, this is a reality for us. I don't think we realized how much we would be traveling in the kids' first year. Between holidays and weddings, we went on 4 road trips and 3 air trips all in the first year.

Our first trip was to a wedding in Chicago. We debated going up until the last minute because the kids were only 7 weeks old, but we really wanted to be there to support our friends. We flew and it went well. We bought everyone a seat on the plane and the kids slept in their car seats during the flight. We wore them anytime we went out to keep them safe, happy, and away from germs. This was one of our easiest trips with kids mostly because they were so young. It also helped that we were so sleep deprived to begin with that the extra stress of traveling couldn't push us any farther over the edge.


Our second trip was to visit family for Thanksgiving. The kids were two months old and it was a car trip. Somehow this was more complicated. We had to stop multiple times to feed/change/entertain kids. A trip that before kids would take 3.5 hours, took around 5 hours. We had planned it to leave during nap time thinking they would sleep the entire way. They didn't and it wasn't fun.

Thanksgiving with Grandma

Our third trip was for Christmas to the same place. So kids were three months old and another driving trip. This also didn't go well. In fact, it was this trip that made me say we were never going to travel with the kids again. While it was great to see family, it was stressful. The kids didn't travel well. They didn't sleep well. We were still in protect the kids from germs mode and sick people wanted to touch and hold them.

Christmas with great-aunt and great-grandma

Our fourth trip was for Christmas to the other side of the family. So a week after the last trip, we went for a plane trip. This time the flight was not direct and we were going out of the country so we had the added fun of customs. Once again we got the kids their own seat and they were really good for the flights. We had scheduled a long lay over and needed every minute of it. Trying to schedule everything around feeding/changing/nap time is difficult, but possible. It was great seeing family and friends that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Father, Son, Grandson

Our fifth trip was six months later. The kids were 9 months old. We went to Florida for a family wedding. Another plane trip and we used the same plan. This time we had the added fun of a car trip in Florida for part of the vacation. Once again, the kids were better in the plane than in the car. We had a ton of fun on this trip and I started to think about more vacations again.

Florida Keys

Our sixth trip was the next month. My wonderful husband surprised me with a road trip to do something I had always wanted to do (trapeze lessons). This road trip also didn't go well. We were stuck in traffic, the kids were hungry and dirty and we couldn't exit. There was a lot of screaming and the kids ended up off schedule. Some kids are fine without a schedule, but our kids are miserable and make everyone around them miserable if we get off schedule. While it was an incredible trip and I'm so glad I got to go, our kids aren't great at road trips.

Sight seeing

Our seventh trip was when the kids were right at a year old. This was another wedding trip and a long road trip. We planned more breaks and changed our timing and it went better. By this time we were getting good at knowing what to pack, what we needed to buy when we got there, and how to manage the kids in a hotel.

Babies on an oil rig

Here are some of our tips for plane trips:
  • Get the child their own seat. It's more expensive than having a lap child, but it is so much safer. If your child is hurt it will cost you more than the ticket in the long run. Your child will also be more comfortable in their own car seat. If you are going to need a car seat once you get there, this way you know it won't be damaged by baggage handlers.
  • Feed during take off and landing - sucking helps keep the ears clear and pain free.
  • Attempt to schedule your flights during nap time.
  • Look up family bathrooms at the airport before you leave home. If you only have one baby this might not be such a big deal, but with two infants and needing to pump breast milk this was a must.
  • Have a "new" toy for the flight in case your child is awake. We would take away a toy for a month before and then give it back on the trip.
  • Know the regulations for traveling with milk and read online stories of how babies are treated at security at that airport. This varied widely and even changed because of an attempted bombing a couple of days before one of our trips.
Tips for car travel:
  • Know if your child will sleep in the car and plan around that.
  • Plan on each trip taking almost twice the usual amount of time. If you get there earlier, no big deal, but this will hopefully keep you from being late!
  • Have a plan for feedings. We used the back of the car, but a park or restaurant would have worked also.
  • While we got better, we didn't figure this one out for infants.
Tips for hotels:
  • Call and ask if they have a crib you can have in the room. We have used small cribs, folding cribs, and pack-n-plays. Not having to bring your own (or two of your own in our case) saves a lot of time and trouble.
  • If possible get a room with a blocked off area. This helps keep the kids area dark while allowing us to be close by without having to tip toe around them.
  • Get a room with a fridge.
  • Once the kids were eating solids, we would have them sit on a clean sheet rather than on the floor. 

Try to relax and have fun. If you are stressed, your child(ren) will feed off of it and make everything worse. It's a great adventure and go into it knowing things will go wrong.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Teething Necklaces

When pregnant, I learned about teething necklaces. I heard that babies and kids would wear these special necklaces and it would relieve teething pain. After spending years working with kids this seemed crazy.

What necklace?

I did more research. A lot of information is included on the web pages of people selling the necklaces. Of course, this is in their best interest and I didn't trust it. I always track down peer reviewed articles, but this was difficult. In America, the only research I could find was done by geologists. Not something a typical parent would search out. I continued my search and found a ton of research done in other countries. This research was done by medical doctors, pharmacists, psychologists, and on and on! All of the studies seemed to show the necklaces work. So, we figured we might as well try it.

Necklaces under clothes

The necklaces are made of baltic amber. The research shows that when the amber is against the skin the body naturally warms it up and it releases a natural anti-inflammatory. This decreases the inflammation and pain when new teeth are coming through the gums. Honestly, at this point it still sounded crazy. I actually justified it by saying, "Best case scenario, it works. Worst case scenario, they are wearing a necklace."

Happy baby, happy dog

While the most important part is the amber, there were other considerations as well. The necklaces are supposed to fit around the neck comfortably, but not big enough for a child to place in their mouth. They only work when against the skin. Each bead should be individually tied on so that if the necklace breaks, you don't end up with an entire string of choking hazards rolling around the floor. Many of the necklaces are also made with a "weak" spot so if the necklace gets caught on something it breaks at that point and no beads get loose.

Necklace doesn't fit in mouth

We put the necklaces on our kids when they were just a couple of months old. They wear them all the time. There was a time the kids were being cared for by someone else for a few hours and they took the necklaces off, thinking they were dangerous. The kids were upset, fussy, and miserable. Within 30 minutes of putting the necklaces back on they were fine again. They wear them to bed, in the bath, literally all the time. We have not observed any teething pain. My kids aren't miserable before teeth break through. Most of the time when a tooth has broken through we don't even realize it until we see it inside their mouths. My son does have an increase in drool when teething, but it's much worse without the necklace.

Necklace and a cloth diaper, what more do you need?

I did meet one mom who bought a necklace from an unknown website and when it arrived it was plastic rather than amber. If you want to order a necklace, I recommend either of these retailers. This is not a paid advertisement. These companies have no clue who I am and I am in no way benefiting from recommending them. I have ordered items from both and have received great service.
Inspired by Finn     Hip Green Baby

Finally, a picture that shows both necklaces

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Most people in the area I live have never heard of a doula. A google search came back with multiple, often contradictory definitions. Here's the closest one to what I'm referring to: "a woman who is trained to provide support to women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth, and the period of time following the birth." Even that is such an oversimplification it's like saying a wheel is round and supports the weight of objects you want to move. True, but there is so much more to it.

 Sweet Daughter
 Sweet Son

We debated hiring a birth doula, but decided against it. Hindsight is 20/20 and we should have. I don't know anyone who has hired a birth doula and regretted it. Doulas aren't just for women wanting a natural birth. They work at hospitals, birth centers, and anywhere else you want to give birth. They are there to support the mother and her wants and needs. If you want an epidural and a c-section they are there to help you. At the end of pregnancy most women are overly emotional and a doula not only understands, but can expertly handle any situations that may arise. They can help the father (or partner) to understand and support. They know where to place pressure to help relieve pain. They know breathing techniques that should help and if nothing else, they are simply someone who gets it.

We did hire a postpartum doula. She was going through her training so we did not pay full price. Many times if someone can't afford it, doulas will work with you through payment plans, bartering, or they can refer you to someone going through training. Our postpartum doula was wonderful! I was overwhelmed with everything, still highly emotional, and trying to process everything that had just happened. There were many times I just needed someone to talk to - it sounds crazy (I was way past crazy at that point), but that's what I needed more than anything else. She supported me emotionally, helped around the house, held babies, and offered tips for making life a little easier. 

 It also made my husband feel better when he was going to work if he knew she was coming over for a few hours. Twin infants are amazingly difficult to take care of and when you add recovering from major surgery, sudden drop in hormones, and a sweet, but needy dog to the mix, I was overwhelmed. I would set goals like learning how to leave the house for a minute - literally how to check the mail. Getting caught up on laundry and dishes was a joke. Everything was just never ending work on no sleep.

I highly recommend hiring a doula for your birth and postpartum. It's a strange word for someone who is a huge help and will always be loved!

 Also by Jennifer Lauren Photography

Friday, April 15, 2011


 Cloth books are great for this age.

We read a lot around here. Everyone knows you should read to your children, but we take it to an extreme. I decided to add it up one day this week and the kids were listening to us read books for a total of 3 hours and they spent an hour looking at books by themselves. Of course this was spread out during the day, but that's pretty typical for us. If given the choice of books or toys my kids choose books most of the time.

Board books are also yummy.

We always have books out and available, usually in multiple rooms. Even if everything else gets put away, the books are always out. We have a lot of board books, enough to rotate so they aren't all out and we can have "new" books every month. Our bookshelf shows the covers of books, rather than the spines which makes books a larger focus and more attractive to everyone.

Our bookshelf (bolted to the wall)

We have a variety of types of books. When I taught we were required (by accreditation) to have books from each of the following categories: fiction, non-fiction, rhyming, concept (shape, color), multi-cultural (gender, age, ethnicity, and ability), story, themed (whatever we were teaching), books with photographs, and alphabet books (for over the age of 2). We constantly have all of these represented at home as well. Old habits die hard.

This book has photographs and concepts (big and little).

While most of the time we simply read the books, at least once a day we discuss them more in depth. We will talk about the illustrator or photographer that made the pictures. We will mention the author is the one who wrote the book. We also point out the cover, spine, words, and pictures. They listen and while they don't completely understand yet, they are learning new vocabulary.

Fighting over a book

We talk about the pictures and point out small details that aren't important for the story, but are interesting. Our kids started to sort books early. If you read Fuzzy Bunny you also had to read Pat the Bunny and if you read How to Build a Snowman you also had to read Shimmery Glimmery Snow. A month later they started showing some symbolic recognition. They would bring the bunny puppet to read a bunny book and a toy airplane to read a book about airplanes. Even before they could verbalize what they were learning, we could see it through their actions.

"Reading" Fuzzy Bunny

They know when to turn pages when we are reading. They have memorized the text and will tell us when we miss a word. When "reading" on their own they will turn the book so that it is right side up. We can say, "Go find Silly Sally" and they walk past 10 other books to find the right one. There are many times I'm tired of reading these books. One of the benefits to having them all memorized is I get to watch my kids' faces as I read to them. That makes it all worth while.

Fighting over a book again. This happens a lot.

What's your favorite part of reading to your kids?

I love watching them learn.