Air Travel with Multiple Young Kids

Last week I wrote about our preparations for traveling with our newborn and 2 other children. We flew to St. Louis for the weekend for my husband’s brother’s wedding. I wanted to share what worked well and what I would change for next time–except if I have my say, there won’t be a next time because air travel with 3 young kids is for the birds!

We decided not to pay to check any bags, choosing to use roller bags as carry-ons. I would totally change this. Who wants to schlepp three roller bags through the airport? Even though we got my 5-year-old to cooperate and pull one, it was still a huge pain and we just had to constantly keep track of the bags in addition to the kids. Next time, I’d use a huge bag, pack our whole family’s clothing in there, and just pay whatever the fee was to check it106089018_078d03d0d6_m

At the last minute, I bought a used snap and go stroller frame to click the bucket carseat on to. This turned out to be a fabulous idea. It was a great luggage rack through the airport, it was great to have a stroller on hand on our trip, and we could gate check it. I felt sad I hadn’t owned one of these for any of my older kids. I don’t even like strollers! But maybe this converted me? Sometimes I would wear the baby in the sling and push the 2-year-old in the contraption.

I failed to pack plastic bags in the backpack I had handy under my seat. We learned that our toddler gets airsick, and so we really wished we’d had some plastic grocery bags to store the soiled clothes that came from that. Next time!

I did a good job packing snacky food for on the flight, but wished I’d thought ahead a bit and brought substantial foods. We had such a short trip, so we didn’t really have much down time since my husband was in the wedding party. We never made it to a grocery store and when my kids woke up at 5am with no food in the hotel room, we were in a tight spot until a place opened to buy bagels!

Our return flight was, of course, delayed, and so we really would have been better served having substantial snacks both on board and afterward, while we waited in traffic driving home.

It turns out the newborn was the easiest traveling companion. As long as he had steady access to the breast, he was quiet and content. The other ones were very happy with their new-to-us magazines and dollar store Halloween critters…for a few minutes! Then we had to work hard to imagine stories about the people in the Sky Mall catalogue and negotiate iPad turn taking. Things got a bit hairy, but I was glad we limited the amount of toys and reading material we lugged along.

Next time we travel, I will bring a small nightlight. Cracking the closet or bathroom door with the light on in the hotel wasn’t a good solution for ME because it was too much light shining right into my eyes all night long. I felt myself longing for the soft glow of the little blue nightlight we keep at home. I think it would have helped add a familiar element to help the boys sleep better in a strange bed, too.

Have any of you traveled with multiple young children? Leave us a comment to share your best tips!

Nursing-Friendly Wedding Attire

At just six weeks postpartum, I felt anxious about attending my husband’s brother’s wedding. What would I find to wear that flattered my changing body? When would I find time to shop for such a dress? Would it even be possible to find something that worked both for nursing and figure-flattering?
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I made my way to A Mother’s Boutique one day with my newborn in tow (I took advantage of the comfy armchair for a nursing break) and tried on pretty much every dress in the store before I found this wonderful cowl-neck dress tucked among the others. I am here to tell you that yes. It looks awesome on the skinny mannequin. But it also looked and felt fabulous on me!

The jersey material will not wrinkle, so I knew it was a great choice to stuff in my carry-on bag among the diapers and burp cloths while I flew to this wedding.

The ruched design of the dress, meant to accommodate a pregnant belly, also flatters a postpartum body. The dress has drapey ties that gather to one side and draw the eye away. The cowl neckline was so cool I felt like I didn’t need to worry about a necklace (that my older kids might tug and break anyway).

But my favorite part was the nursing opening! There’s a flap across the top of the dress, so if I pulled down the cowl a bit and lifted the flap, I could discretely nurse my newborn and no one was the wiser!

Many of my husband’s relatives came up to me to say, “Let me hold that baby so you can have a break!” And they didn’t even realize he was having a snack at that moment.

I need to mention that I received an employee discount to purchase this dress, but I would have happily paid full price for it.

I asked whether Judy had it in other colors, because I was prepared to buy 5 of them.

I think it would work great for fancy occasions, and also be appropriate for networking or other work events that pop up for me. I can imagine this nursing opening in particular working very well for pumping moms as well. I give this dress two enthusiastic thumbs up!

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Have you bought a dress from our collection that you just love? Leave us a comment to share your favorite.

Becoming a Milk Donor

I’ve never had a comfortable relationship with the breast pump. I fell victim to a number of booby traps with my first son and wound up unable to express any milk for him while I was at work, even though he nursed directly from the tap until he was 27 months old. Along the way, a few friends gave me bags of expressed human milk, which felt like such an amazing gift. My son primarily drank formula while I was at work, but I felt so happy to feed him these baggies of liquid gold when the opportunity arose.

Fast forward five years, and I have milk in abundance. So much milk, it seeps from my opposite breast when I have a letdown. I have a baby who is gaining 2 ounces a day, fattening up into 3 month clothing by the time he was 5 weeks old. We’re up to size 2 diapers, which is nuts because my 2 year old is only in size 4 diapers.

For the first time, I have milk to spare! I immediately thought of the developing Three Rivers Mothers Milk Bank in my city, but they are not yet set up or accepting milk donation. The next closest milk bank is in Columbus, Ohio. I choose to give to a milk bank because I know the demand for human milk far exceeds the incoming supply to meet the needs of just the sickest premature babies. Studies have shown that human milk can dramatically improve these babies’ survival rates.iStock_000018764386XSmall-breastmilkbag

I gave the milk bank a call one day to learn about the qualifications and process to become a milk donor. There was a brief pre-screening, where they asked if I take medication or have gotten a blood transfusion or tattoo or acupuncture in the past 12 months. Then, they emailed me some forms to complete (one involves getting the pediatrician to verify that my tank of a baby is gaining well, etc.) and will send along a kit for me to get a blood draw. The milk bank will analyze the blood and test it for a number of diseases, including HIV.

They are sending along milk collection containers because their minimum donation is 200 ounces. It sounds staggering to me. 200 ounces! For a woman who was never able to pump before, just would not let down for the darn pump despite many suggestions from an IBCLC–for me to think about gathering 200 spare ounces of milk is amazing. And yet, each time I sit down to pump, I’m getting at least 2.5 ounces. That means in about 3 months, I’ll have my stash all ready to go.

We only have a combination fridge/freezer, so I’ve got 90 days to gather the milk unless I call upon a neighbor with a deep freeze to store my stash. Then, I would get 6 months.

I’m excited about the idea of using my milk to help the youngest, most fragile babies get their best chance at the start of life.

I know that the very conditions that cause premature infants can lead to challenges for their mothers expressing milk for these wee babies.

I love thinking about another mother like me getting the peace of mind knowing her baby is receiving the very best food.

I’m also trying to be realistic about my donation efforts. I have 3 kids at home now and I don’t get a ton of time to sit and pump. If it’s looking like I can’t gather 200 ounces in time, my plan is to switch to an informal milk share arrangement. That way, another local mom can use my milk to supplement her own and I still know a baby somewhere is getting food that’s perfectly designed for him or her.

I never imagined that I would be in the position to share milk with another family. I’m so excited to be doing something so amazing. Breastfeeding has become such an important part of my identity. Milk sharing feels like the right thing to do. Wish me luck as I work toward the 200 ounce mark!

World Milksharing Week takes place September 24 through 30. We’re pairing up with Snugabell, maker of the PumpEase hands-free pumping bra, to share my personal story about milk sharing. Hop on over to their blog to read some others and enter a giveaway for a PumpEase prize pack! Want to save on PumpEase? Enter the code  GIVEMILK at checkout to save 15% on PumpEase from September 24 through 30.

Travel Preparations for Young Families

I mentioned that we’re getting ready for a complicated journey to two weddings. We’ve got a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 6-week-old baby. Even generating a packing list took all of my concentration over the course of several days. Since I already had diapers sent ahead and arranged for a pack-n-play to be in our hotel room, I wanted to share what else I’ve been doing to try to make the trip go smoothly.106089018_078d03d0d6_m

First, I made an extremely detailed packing list. If I don’t have “drivers license” written on the list, I’m not sure I’ll remember to bring it. My brain is so frazzled and sleep deprived! I can’t count on myself to remember anything right now. Then, I showed the list to my friend, who gets plenty of sleep, to see if she thinks it seems complete.

Then came all the laundry. So much laundry was involved in packing these bags! We have decided not to check anything, because that costs a zillion dollars, so while I was waiting for the washer to spin, I got all my liquids or quasi-liquids into a quart bag for easier tossing onto the security belt. When I bought snacks, I avoided anything that seemed like a liquid.

I read some other sites with tips for traveling with youngsters, but none of these tip-givers seem to have more than one child. “Sit separately so you and your partner can trade off the kiddo and one of you take a nap” doesn’t work when your family is so big you can’t even all sit in the same row! I ended up calling the airline for advice and arranged our seats so I am sitting with my infant and kindergartener and my husband is in front of us with the toddler.

I’ve been prepping the big kid that he will wear his backpack, which will hold his inhalers and the iPad, and be in charge of pulling one rolling suitcase, to which we will jigger his carseat using the latch hooks and the tether. I plan to wear the baby on my front and a stuffed-with-diapers-and-snacks backpack on my back. I will have a hand free to wrangle the toddler, who is in charge of only his baby doll. My husband will pull another rolling bag with the toddler’s seat jiggered to it, lug along the bucket seat (we’ll just do a seatbelt install on the bucket–no base!), and probably wear his own backpack. Our fancy clothes will probably be a bit rumpled when we get to St. Louis. So be it–hotels have irons!

(Actually, I’ll be updating more about this later, but my dress won’t be rumpled because of the wonderful wrinkle-proof material.)

I’ve got copies of all the kids’ birth certificates printed out and I bought them some silly putty and plastic worms at a dollar store. We have new-to-us issues of Ranger Rick Jr. for the plane and gummy worms as bribes for calm behavior in the security line. My husband has been made aware of the extreme importance of arriving at the airport with enough time for me to get a very large mocha once we’re through security. Plus time for me to use the bathroom before boarding. Use the bathroom by myself, that is. What a treat, even in a dirty airport bathroom, am I right?

The last time we flew, my boys fought each other over empty cups from the drink cart, so between those and the Sky Mall catalogue, I feel ok that I’m not bringing any toys for them. If memory serves again, the excitement of the rental minivan will keep them entertained for hours. Failing that, I’ve loaded the iPad with apps and videos that don’t require an Internet connection.

At this point, I’ve done all I can do to prepare logistically. All that remains is for me to surrender myself to the idea that all three of the kids will pee and poop during takeoff, that we will arrive stinky and covered in somebody’s spitup, and that nobody is going to sleep more than an hour at a time. If I just accept this in advance, it won’t surprise me as much when it all happens. I’ll see you on the other end to let you know how it went!

Have you flown recently with a new baby and other young kids? Leave us a comment to share your experience!

A (Rough) Day in the Life with 3 Wee Ones

5am: the baby wakes up and starts to poop, very loudly.

5:30am: he’s all done, ready to be cleaned up and looking to nurse

6am: well fed, clean, the baby drifts back to sleep just as the older 2 wake up and thunder down the hallway. They want to know if the iPad is . . . → Read More: A (Rough) Day in the Life with 3 Wee Ones

Wedding Season

Many moons ago, when I first learned I was pregnant, I wrote about locating a bridesmaids dress I could wear in my sister’s wedding and still nurse my baby. That wedding is approaching! And the week before it? My husband’s brother gets married in St. Louis. 

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What this means is that . . . → Read More: Wedding Season

Adventures in Tandem Nursing

Well, it’s happening. I’m nursing both my newborn and my toddler. And it’s actually fine.

For one thing, my milk came in almost immediately after my baby was born. By the time he was 24 hours old, he had a real breastmilk poop in his diaper, which excited the pediatric resident so much she called her . . . → Read More: Adventures in Tandem Nursing