Just a few weeks into parenthood, E wanted to take Q and I on a trip so we could spend a month of unobstructed quality family time together. Many thought we were crazy to take our little one out of the country before my maternity leave was up. “She’s so small!” “What about her ears popping on the plane?” “How will you manage?”
I had the same reservations as the naysayers. I didn’t want to go on an extended Caribbean vacation while Q was so young either. For me, there was no place I’d rather be besides cuddled up with my baby girl in my cozy bed at home. But E could not bear a dreary cold January in New York, “ordering Seamless every day, or going to the grocery store, cooking food and passing out.”
“You could spend the last month of your maternity leave on the beach in the warm sun, and Q could see the ocean for the first time, ” E argued. We’d rent a condo on the beach with all of the amenities of home, cook fresh seafood dinners on our patio, go surfing (E), and do yoga (me). We’d watch sunsets over the ocean and lull Q to sleep to the sound of the waves. It sounded idyllic. But I foresaw catastrophe.
My biggest fear about traveling with a newborn was how the baby would do. Would she scream the entire flight, upsetting our fellow frequent fliers, or would I be using the airplane bathroom, a known cess pool of germs, as my private changing room, locking out other passengers? Would she be bitten by a mosquito, or a spider, or worse? Would she get sick while down there, and how would we find a doctor if so?
I consulted no less than 6 American pediatricians and nurses at my hospital about the trip, and all of them said it was fine to go. Q got her first round of shots and a clean bill of health to travel. Despite the medical approval, the new parent in me was still nervous. Finally after weeks of terse discussions, several trips to the post office to get the baby’s passport and booking tickets at midnight in a huff, we took off.
I’ve realized most of my fears, while justified, have not come to fruition. We’ve enjoyed quality time together with the baby on the beach. We wake up every morning with her smiling at us as the ocean laps at the sand underneath our balcony. We drink freshly squeezed fruit juices at the local crepe place next door or at the FreshFresh cafe up the road. We take late afternoon walks on the beach with Q in a baby sling, her head and body covered in UV protective gear. I admit, it’s better than being snowed in in Brooklyn.
Preparation of our beach condo with all of the baby goods we had at home and taking precautions when going outside have helped. But there have been other challenges beyond my scariest, new parent dreams. It’s these challenges and fears that may keep some new parents close to home during a newborn’s first months in the world. But if you want to travel, there’s no reason not to with a baby.
Here’s what I learned from planning our trip to the Caribbean with my darling Q:
- Don’t listen to other people’s fear:
People will tell you not to do anything that they’re not already doing. I caught grief from many of my mommy friends who thought I was nuts to agree to this trip, and I told myself I shouldn’t go because of the backlash. But what am I going to do, stay home forever? In the end, I prepared as much as I could, got on the plane, and prayed Q would stay healthy during the trip (or at least the flight down).
- Flying on planes with baby is easier than pitched. The baby slept most of the way, only waking once for a bottle. Her ears bothered her only enough to flinch quietly during takeoff and landing, but never waking her from her nap. She needed a change, but I could only do that after we landed since the captain had the seatbelt sign on most of the 3 hour flight because of slight turbulence. No one even knew she was even on the flight!
- Getting a passport for a newborn is challenging.
It will take three weeks, most of that eaten up by actually getting the photo right, since the Passport Control center is very specific about how babies are photographed. It took three different visits to the post office to complete her application, but we got the thing within 10 days. More on that in a separate post.
- Don’t bring everything…
You don’t need five baby carriers, a stroller, and every single onesie that baby owns. We brought one baby sling, and then fashioned another out of a large piece of fabric we bought in town. We left the stroller behind since we would be on the beach most of the time, but brought a car seat (had to get her to the airport somehow). And for clothes, I brought a stack of white onesies and anything that was for babies 0-3 months, since she’d outgrow anything smaller by the time we got home. I left the fancy dresses and frilly outfits behind, which are just a pain to clean and dress the baby in on the beach.
- But these Dr. Brown’s sterilization bags are a godsend, so bring ’em.
I have the Dr. Brown sterilizer on my kitchen countertop, but for travel, the disposable sterilizer bags are awesome. You stuff bottles, breast pump parts and pacifiers into these microwaveable bags with a little water, and they come out germ free. You can also reuse each bag up to 20 times. One box of 5 get you 100 uses.
Now, I’m far from an expert on parenting. And I’m still navigating traveling with a newborn–I haven’t yet driven alone with the baby in the backseat further than 20 minutes! So, I’d love to hear from you parents on your best tips while traveling with a baby. What parenting hacks must we know when away from home with child? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. And please, just leave tips that have worked for you. No judgements, no lectures. We parents have enough fraying our nerves already.by