Where to Travel to in 2019

I was honored to speak at the LA Travel and Adventures show for the third time this past weekend. This year I decided to share more top destinations for 2019. I chose to give you alternatives to some more well known, more touristy places. By the way, the more touristy options are popular for a reason! I love all these places listed. However, if you want more value, more authenticity and just less tourists (I do!) than this is what I suggest.

Instead of South Africa, go to… CHAD

Zakouma National Park, Chad

Chad’s Zakouma National Park is proud to have bounced back from nearly decimated wildlife populations due to poaching. Their conservations efforts have led to a park teeming with life. However, access is limited. Come 2020, only those who’ve made large donations to the park can enter so get in now while you can!

 

Instead of Thailand, go to… VIETNAM

If you are in the market for a beach vacation with history, amazing food and that laidback Southeastern Asian vibe, Vietnam is your best bet. Far less touristy than the very well known beaches and islands of Thailand, Vietnam’s central coast has over 2000 miles of sandy while beaches, not to mention a ton of new hotel openings ranging from a luxe Anantara, a J.W. Marriott and mom & pop beach bungalows.

 

Instead of Beijing, go to… SUZHOU

Suzhou’s Canals

If it is Ancient China you seek, you will have a hard time finding it in the smoggy, trafficky city of Beijing (I swear the traffic there is the worst in the world). Suzhou, a stunningly preserved city that was the summer playground of the emperors, is a step back in time. You can float down canals of the old city, walk through working silk factories (silk was discovered here) and partake in calligraphy lessons. Not to mention, there are over 250 gardens for you to find your zen.

What makes Suzhou even better–no cars needed! Fly to Shanghai and take the 35 minute bullet train into the city and you are all set.

 

Instead of KYOTO, go to… SETOUCHI

Iya Valley, Setouchi, Japan

Kyoto has long been touted as the cultural place to go in Japan. Well, though beautiful, this city is VERY popular. Instead, check out the region of Setouchi to the south. Just a bullet train or short flight away, this watery region is all coastlines and islands. Seaplanes, biking paths, kayaking by temples–there is so much outdoor adventure in addition to all the authentic local culture. Soba, Sake and Kobe are from here. Stop by the oldest onsen in Japan for the ultimate relaxation or stay in a farmhouse in Iya if you want to feel like you are in the Japan of centuries ago.

 

Instead of Cinque Terre, go to… SESTRI LEVANTE

Sestri Levante

In Sestri Levante, you’ll find a seaside, medieval village with local kids licking gelato scoops and old men gossiping on benches. This is real Italy and a great value for that seaside Italian escape. Far less crowds and far more authenticity awaits you in this Ligurian charmer.


Instead of Barcelona go to… GIRONA

The walls of Girona

Girona is like one of Barcelona’s medieval neighborhoods, but without the chain stores, throngs of tourists and cheesiness that accompany a big city. Girona’s stunning look has made it an important location in Game of Thrones, and walking through the walled streets you can really see why. Quite classy with excellent Catalan food (you can have Michelin here if you like) and charming bed and breakfasts (Check out Hotel Nord 1901), the walled city of Girona is wonderful stay. Bonus: you are 20 minutes from Costa Brava!

 

Instead of Caribbean Cruise… MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE

Monaco, from the Viking Star

Hit up some of Europe’s poshest ports via cruise, and not have to deal with teh prices and hassles of visiting on your own. The cruise lines tend to attract a tamer crowd more interested in the local history and stops, than the party scene. Plus, I recommend that you choose an embarkation or disembarkation city that you want to stay a few extra days in so you can really dig into one spot.

 

Instead of Cancun… Zihuatanejo

Just a quick flight from LA, this Mexican beach paradise lacks the high rises and spring break feel of Cancun, in favor of local fisherman, thatched palapas and sunset that will knock the mezcal out of your hand. Whether you stay at the bougie Thompson Zihuatanejo or a smaller boutique hotel, you will want to be near Las Ropas Beach.

 

Instead of Hawaii… Tahiti

Tahiti has captured the heart of the US all over again, this time with Obama vacationing there for weeks and Moana capturing the hearts of all the kids out there. Now, Tahiti is not just for honeymooners or the rich & famous. The once exorbitantly expensive flight over has been cut down to only $330 each way (FrenchBee.com, SFO to Tahiti). Air France and other airlines have followed suit and cut their fares.

If you want highend, try The Brando on its own private island. For a more cultural and affordable experience, Tahitian pensions (bed and breakfasts) are great options.

 

Instead of Rio de Janeiro… SALVADOR

Salvador’s Pelourinho Neighborhood

The capital of Bahia, Salvador as an edge. Afro Brazilian culture meets Portuguese colonialism, and all of this is set on a coastline. You will have a much more local experience as soon as you set foot here. Don’t miss the multi colored buildings of Pelourinho, the old village.

My recommendation is to use Salvador as a base to explore the surfing in Itacare or the waterfalls and grottoes of Chapada Diamantina, both short flights from here.

Agree? Disagree? Have places to add? Leave them in the comments!

xoxo Kelley

Starting Baby Solids: A Feeding Guide for 4-6 Months

After working so hard to master breastfeeding, introducing solids was a little intimidating. There are so many options, methods and conflicting advice out there that I was overwhelmed. My babygroup leader and my pediatrician never seemed to say the same thing! I however polled a lot of other moms and did some of my own research to come up with what I felt was a suitable time to start for Aurora.

I also heard that Feeding Littles, an online tutorial, is very useful in helpings parents to navigate the best solid food choices for their little ones. I haven’t tried it yet but so many friends rave about it!

We first tried solids at exactly 4 months. She was holding her head up well but could not sit up unassisted. We sat her in a baby Bumbo seat and started with only purées. The first attempt was pretty good! She seemed interested and surprised and would open up her mouth for more.

So far the only food she very much hasn’t liked is plain greek yogurt! But if I mix in a fruit, she loves  it!

 

Allergens

We started with one ingredient foods and continued the food one to two times per day for 3 days to make sure that she didn’t have an allergy. The 3 day rule is because sometimes they don’t show an allergy right away.

Eating Eggies!

We were told to introduce allergens (Dairy, Egg and Nuts) early, so we made sure to expose Aurora to each of these at least once per week and have continued that to now. There is conflicting advice on this but we decided this was the best route for us, after researching and talking it over with our pediatrician.

There is also an option to add these allergens to the baby’s bottles in a powder form, called Ready, Set, Food. I didn’t go this route as she doesn’t have bottles consistently but I have heard very good things.

 

Baby Solids at 4 Months

We decided to start with only purées. I was not making homemade food at this point since she only was just starting to eat and eating very little. I decided to wait till she was eating more in quantity before I went the homemade route as that’s a lot of time and energy to be wasting most of it. The brands that I used were HappyBaby, Earthganics, Peter Rabbit and Plum Baby.

However now, I wish I had known about YUMI and Once Upon a Farm, both are fresh and require refrigeration and in my opinion, better than the shelf brands (which need preservatives to stay fresh).

 

  • HappyBaby Oatmeal mixed with Breastmilk
    • Very thin consistency
  • Avocado
    • Smashed and mixed with breastmilk
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Winter Squash
  • Peas
  • Carrots

Baby Solids at 5 Months:

  • Egg Yolk
    • Scrambled and mixed with breastmilk
  • Broccoli
    • Smashed with a fork
  • Peanut butter
    • mixed with breastmilk
  • Prunes
  • Pears
  • Banana
    • Jarred & smashed
  • Full Fat Greek Yogurt

Breakfast at the Woodstock Inn in Vermont

Baby Solids at 6 Months:

  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry
  • Blueberry
  • Blackberry
  • Whole Eggs
    • Scrambled with whites
  • Steak
    • Filet mignon pieces
  • Salmon
    • Flaked pieces
  • Cheese
    • Mozzarella, Cheddar and other mild cheeses
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Pineapple

 

Solids While Traveling

Aurora was 6 months old when we traveled for 3 weeks for Christmas and it was during this time that we started using more puree pouches as it was much easier on the go than trying to spoon feed. Aurora loves to suck right out of the pouches!

We found the fewest ingredient pouches and stuck with those (ie. Sweet Potatoes, Prunes, Applesauce) but we did graduate to some combinations as she approached 7 months.

I tried to be mindful of each pouch’s ingredients to make sure she was only being exposed to ONE new ingredient each time. For instance, if the pouch was apple, squash and blueberry, I made sure that she had already tried apple and squash so I would know if she had an allergy to blueberry.

 

Foods to Avoid

  • Honey
  • Milk
  • Added Salt
  • Added Sugars
  • Juice
  • Too Much Water
    • 2 oz per day is recommended as a maximum
    • The worry is that they will fill up on water over breastmilk

 

Conclusions

Since we do a mix of baby led weaning and purées, I can tell that Aurora prefers to feed herself. She loves chunks of food and holding the spoon, though it can get messy in both cases!

However you decide to do it, is great! Just be sure to remember that breastmilk or formula should still be pretty much the only source of nutrition as this stage.

Best Winter Baby Gear

Living in California, I never realized how hard it can be to dress a baby warmly for the cold temps. However, with our Christmas Holiday travel involving 3 weeks in Vermont, my home state, I had to do some major research. The frustrating thing about buying warm clothing for a little one is that they will most likely grow out of it by next season. And if you are only needing it for a cold weather trip, it is annoying to shell out serious cash for something that will not get used that much. BUT, your baby has to be warm, so unless you have hand-me-owns or can borrow gear, here’s what I think it is worth it to spend the money (note: I left off a lot of things that I bought but didn’t like!). 

**Nothing in this article was sponsored or gifted. 

Winter Gear Winner’s Circle

Snow Suit: Ralph Lauren

I bought (and returned) a wide variety of jackets and snow pants so I can give some honest feedback here. Most (I’m looking at you North Face) jackets were far too thin. They were like lightly lined shells, and though cute, you’d need to have about 5 layers underneath them to keep your baby warm. Aurora hates getting clothes on so much, I couldn’t handle that prospect. We were going to be dealing with well below freezing temperatures in Vermont, so I wanted to take no chances.

The Ralph Lauren Quilted Snowsuit was a winner for so many reasons.

Pros:

  • The Ralph Lauren snowsuit is SO warm and so well made.
  • I loved how the mittens attach right to the sleeves.
  • I liked that the jacket separate from the snowpants because we might want to just throw on her jacket if we are going for a walk and she wasn’t going to be in the snow.
  • The pale pink was a neutral color that wouldn’t clash with hats/boots. Lots of the jackets I saw had wild patterns which I wasn’t thrilled about.

Cons:

  • It is quite thick (aka WARM) so when she was in it, her movement was limited…lol

 

Hat: The Blueberry Hill

I discovered The Blueberry Hill in a shop here in Santa Monica and when I looked online, I was overwhelmed by all the cuteness. Started by a mom, these hats are seriously cute. I could put her in one even if it were hot just because the photos would be so damn adorably.

I bought the lion hat and was gifted the reindeer hat. I have to be honest, we will be buying these in bigger sizes and more styles throughout Aurora’s life, I am sure of it.

Pros:

  • Um.. Adorable
  • Well made

Cons:

  • For us, we felt the sizing was off. We had to buy the 12-24 months size for our 6 month old.

 

Boots: Zutano

We actually were given pink fur lined Ugg boots. They are adorable! But, they are almost impossible to get on. They are very stiff and the fur is so thick, you almost need to size up 2 sizes to get them on your baby’s foot, especially if your baby has socks on.

Pros:

  • I preferred the Zutano booties because they were easy to put on and the clasp made them stay on.
  • They also had grips on the bottom for those that are standing/walking.
  • I liked the simple colors for easy coordinating.
  • I liked that they went up her ankle a little so her ankles were less likely to be exposed.

Cons:

  • Not waterproof
  • Not super warm but with good thick socks, they worked for us.

 

Bunting: Hanna Andersson

I am a fan of Hanna Andersson’s high quality and bright, easy to match styles. This bunting was perfect for the Christmas season but they do have other colors that would make this more of a year long piece.

Pros:

  • Roomy fit allows for extended use
  • Super warm–you only need a long sleeve/long pant underneath.
  • Easy to put on and comfortable

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Too thick to put a jacket over

I know that Rory might wear these things often but they were worth it to keep her warm and cute to boot!

What your favorite winter clothing? I’d love to know!

Is First Class/Business Class better than Economy for a baby?

This came up as a very contentious question when I asked my followers on Instagram. Many were adamantly against First Class with a baby. Some even said that several airlines don’t allow babies in First Class. Others said they 100% would if they could, or have and loved it.

Now, after having used an upgrade for a first class ticket cross country (from Boston to LAX), I feel like I can weigh in properly with my opinion.

Pros

Priority Boarding & Lounge Access

  • No waiting in lines
  • You are able to board last if you want to maximize freedom off the plane (I always do)
  • Some first/business class tickets include lounge access which is nice for food, changing areas and play areas for baby pre-flight
First Class Baby

First Class Baby

More Space

  • Easier to entertain your baby
  • More comfortable to hold her, share the seat or in our case,
  • Or… give the baby the whole seat and you & partner share the other seat, which we did…
First Class Baby

We even let her play a little on the floor. Not my favorite thing but helpful!

More attention by flight attendants

  • They are there to help you with tissues, ice, plastic cups (Rory loves chewing on them) or WINE FOR YOU (which I recommend on these long hauls).

More privacy

  • You can breastfeed easier. This is huge! 
  • You can sing, play games and pass the baby without disturbing others.

Cleaner

  • I am not sure if this is true, but it seems to be a bit cleaner than economy seats.

Better bathrooms

  • Given that a fraction of the amount of people use the first class bathrooms compared to the economy bathrooms, this is definitely true. Also, flight attendants clean it more often.

Cons

  • Annoying other people that paid up for a better experience.
  • It is expensive!

 

My Summary:

If you are able to afford it (or have an upgrade like I did), I DO think it is worth it on longer haul flights. Anything that can make it a little more comfortable for your little one will make it easier on you as a parent.

I do not think that you should worry about bothering others on the flight. Everyone has headphones and in the higher classes, you are further away from others than normal.

I personally think a sick, coughing person is way more offensive than anyone with a baby!

And I have to be honest, the actual first class on our particular United flight was in no way comparable to other first class/business class experiences I’ve had, particularly on international flights. We flew from Boston to LAX during the first week of January and it wasn’t super clean, few extra luxuries, food was not great and staff were just okay. BUT sure did beat the other options!

 

Other Good Options that I recommend (in order of preference):

Bassinet in Economy Bulkhead (alitalia)

Bassinet in Economy Bulkhead (alitalia)

Economy Bulkhead

  • Extra space to move around
  • Bassinet access for babies under 25 lbs
  • Occasionally only 2 seats so no extra person if you are traveling with a partner
  • Easy access to bathrooms & flight attendants
  • *** If you are going to request a bassinet, you have to CALL. Do not expect them to give you one even if you have a ticket with a lap infant. You have to call ahead as they don’t always have them.

Economy Plus Bulkhead

Economy Plus

  • Any bit of more space is key, especially for active, larger or older babies. Mine has always been active and larger for her age and not interested in napping in bright or loud places.
  • Priority boarding helps!
  • Better access to overhead space

Economy: 3 Seats Together

  • If you can buy an extra seat and have 3 seats together, that might be comparable to first class in my opinion!
  • I wouldn’t rely on getting an extra third seat for free as planes, especially high traffic routes between hubs, are often overbooked. Even if it says that the seat is open at check-in, standby passengers often fill it.

And at the end of the day, flying middle seat economy is HARD but doable and always totally worth it (especially when you land!).

 

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Tell me below!

Winter in Vermont at the Woodstock Inn and Resort

Each time I go back to my little Vermont hometown, I am reminded that I basically grew up in a storybook. Woodstock, Vermont is a bucolic little village nestled amidst rolling hills, hugging a charming center green and a briskly flowing river.  Stone, brick and cape houses line the ambling streets that make up this 3000 person town, every bend of it steeped in time.

The Woodstock Covered Bridge

The Woodstock Covered Bridge

It’s no surprise that my fellow New Englanders know of Woodstock, VT. I’d even say, many beyond the Northeast are aware of this popular weekend hideaway. For such a small town, its reputation precedes itself — and for good reason.

The hectic, digital day-to-day stresses are buried beneath the quiet splendor of village strolls, breathtaking hikes up Mount Tom or afternoons spent skipping rocks along the river.

Though you do get cell service here now (we didn’t when I was growing up), you just might want to turn off your phone and enjoy the rare and simple pleasures of this place.

When asked about Woodstock, the one word that usually comes to my mind is “quaint.” But don’t get my wrong,  that doesn’t mean it is boring! There’s a lot of energy in this 350 year old town, and every time I return, I see that energy increasing. I’d attribute a lot of that forward progress to the town’s centerpiece, the Woodstock Inn and Resort. (My father runs his jewelry shop in the heart of town, and has for the last 30 years, and he definitely agrees that the Inn is a huge factor in keeping Woodstock so relevant.)

Gillingham’s, the town general store

Some iteration of the Woodstock Inn & Resort has been welcoming guests for 225 years.That is crazy! I’ve traveled all over the world, filming some of the world’s best hotels, and that type of hotel history very is RARE, especially in the USA.

The Inn started out as a small bed & breakfast, and over the centuries continued to expand and gain more and more popularity. In the mid 1900s, Laurance Rockefeller, a former resident of Woodstock, bought the hotel and it was under his leadership for 50 years. He definitely helped to put it on the luxury hotel map, in a big way.

I am very fortunate to have had such a legendary resort in my hometown backyard. It has been part of my family’s story forever, playing host to special dinners, celebratory breakfasts, parties and even prom!

Woodstock Inn during Christmas

It was such a treat to return to the Inn just after Christmas and share this special hotel with my daughter, Aurora. I look for different things in hotels now that I am a mom and I have to say, the Woodstock Inn & Resort surprised me with being exceptionally family friendly. They had undergone expansive improvements when I filmed the property in 2013 for my Get Lost in Woodstock series but now, they’ve added even more luxurious detail to all the public areas and the guest rooms in particular. 

 

Fireside Ambiance

Fireplace at the Woodstock Inn

Fireplace at the Woodstock Inn

Ever since I was a little kid, I was drawn to the oversized fireplace that greets you as walk through the Inn’s entrance. The cozy feeling with the couches and sitting areas, beautiful wall color and attention to detail, makes the entire main area of the Inn so welcoming. I wanted to sit in on each sofa and relax with a cup of tea (you can actually do that during their daily afternoon tea time). We of course didn’t have spare moments for that with a 6 month old, but it was fun to daydream about as I hurriedly walked past these lovely areas with my tired/hungry/active baby. 

 

Legacy Suites

Having a little one with a strict bedtime of 7pm complicates hotel life a bit for us parents. After 7pm, it is lights out (and complete silence) so having an additional room is more than necessary. We absolutely loved the newly renovated Legacy Suite. Ours in particular was the Frederick Billings Suite, the legendary local that was a pioneer in the farm industry and a famous face in Woodstock. It was situated in the main part of the inn and had tasteful decor that highlighted Vermont’s farm history. 

Woodstock Inn & Resort

As you enter, there’s a long tiled hallway to the bedroom and adjoining sitting room. (You can see a walkthrough on my Instagram stories here) I loved how the suite was situated far from the door, with the bedroom set back against a lovely view of the Inn’s snowy backyard. This distance made the whole suite feel more private and like our own apartment as opposed to a hotel room.

Frederick Billings Legacy Suite

The stone bathroom and rain shower with Zents products was modern and chic. The separate sitting room was decorated in rich hues and woods, making it feel like a cozy study. Though it had a wet bar, TV and pull out couch, this room became our daughter, Aurora’s room. The Inn provided a crib and we set up her changing area and toys in here. It was perfect! She happily napped here throughout the day and fell asleep at 7pm each night, and mom & dad could close the door and relax.

We were even able to order room service and hang out for a few more hours with my parents while Aurora happily dozed next door. This is a parents’ dream! We had the best of the Inn’s dining and didn’t have to disrupt our daughter’s sleep. 

Room Service dinner with the parents!

 

Red Rooster

Breakfast at the Red Rooster

What a delicious way to start the day! My parents met us here at The Red Rooster for breakfast and we all followed our noses to the two rooms filled with a sumptuous breakfast buffet. Fresh fruits, made-to-order omelets, a variety of homemade pastries and specially crafted breakfast treats awaited our empty plates. I was especially excited to see the giant, serve yourself maple syrup stand! (As a Vermonter, it runs in my veins of course 😉 

VT SYRUP! YES PLEASE!


Happiest Hour

A favorite of my parents’ for decades, Richardson’s Tavern has not lost any of its signature warm ambiance. The dimly lit room is where you want to be to unwind fireside after a wintery day, holding a drink and enjoying pub style bite.

Red Rooster Cocktail Bar

Red Rooster Cocktail Bar

I also was impressed by the newer bar at the Red Rooster. A brighter version of the tavern, the bartender makes excellent cocktails here and I loved the elegant style of this space and its marble bar.

 

Retro Game Room

Game Room at the Woodstock Inn

Retro Game Room at the Woodstock Inn

Even in the game room, the Inn retains its personality here. This classy area showcased working vintage pinball machines and a long wooden shuffleboard table. There was a pool table, a fireplace and more–no wonder it was packed! These games might have been out of Aurora’s age range, but hey, they sure entertained her competitive parents very well.

 

Woodstock Athletic Club

I am very familiar with the Woodstock Inn’s Athletic Club as I used to be a part of the Woodstock’s high school tennis team and these were our home courts. All guests of the Inn have free access to the pool, gym, tennis courts and workout classes. We opted to take a dip in the pool as Aurora finds pool time SUPER exciting. I think she thinks we are all taking a big bath with her. We splashed around and enjoyed ourselves for a morning.

 

Suicide Six Ski Area

We left Aurora with her grandma and myself, my husband and my dad hit the slopes of Suicide Six! My first time of skis was on this bunny hill and I spent too many afternoons and weekends skiing all these trails with my dad and friends throughout the years.

Located just 15 minutes from the Inn, this mountain is perfect for those that are into a fun, laidback day on the slopes. A brand new quad eliminated any lines for us and their snowmaking and grooming made for excellent conditions on the trails that were open.

Skiing with my dad at Suicide Six, like I did as kid!

By no means is this a large mountain, but its trails are beautifully cut through the forest (I even saw animal tracks as I skiied down). The classic lodge makes you feel like you are back in time and reminded me that this is one of the oldest ski areas in the country.

 

Billings Farm & Museum

Aurora did join us for a tour of Woodstock’s signature Billings Farm & Museum. It was so nice that the Woodstock Inn provides all guests with free entry to this unique local historical site and working dairy farm.

We did a self guided tour of the stables, the goat shed, chicken coop and cow barn. DO NOT MISS THE BABY COW NURSERY. It might be one of the cutest, up close experiences I’ve ever had baby animals. The baby cows were unbelievably friendly and social–they kept licking Aurora and nibbling on my clothes. She (and I) was shrieking with delight!

We were fortunate to make the talk about cows with a farmer in the dairy barn. Aurora’s eyes widened as she viewed her first full grown cow. The farmer on site gave us a lot of amazing information about these cows, how Billings Farm cares for them, their breeding, and their personalities! Aurora and I even got to brush one! 

It was with a heavy heart that we checked out and had to bid farewell to Woodstock. However, just like it has been throughout my life, the Woodstock Inn & Resort was the perfect backdrop to so many special memories with my parents, my husband and especially, our daughter.

I still cannot speak more highly of this resort’s appreciation for its out-of-towners as well as its locals. 

There’s something about the energy of this hotel that just brings about the most joyful times, no matter what time of year.

On our next visit, Aurora will be walking (!) and I am sure that we will have a whole different story to tell! Hopefully, more baby cows and maple syrup will be included. 

 

 

Pienza Tuscany family trip

Baby Travel Essentials: How To Travel to Italy with a 5 Month Old

Taking a 5 month old on a 13 hour direct flight trip, across many time zones, for 10 days should not be taken lightly. But I’ve dedicated my life to travel so I wasn’t going to let that intimidate me (re: I was intimidated but pushed through). Why did we decide to put ourselves through that?

Pienza Tuscany family trip

  • My husband had time off, which he rarely does.
  • I had the opportunity to stay at an amazing Tuscan hotel (look up La Bandita Townhouse if you like luxurious, historic hotels in charming villages)
  • Italy is a special place for me as my grandfather was born in a small town near Naples (where the Ferro comes from) so pasta and red wine are in my veins!
  • My husband’s first time was last winter on our babymoon and he fell in love with the country too
  • We figured, the earlier that we start traveling with the better, the easier it’ll become for our baby, and us!

Italy family trip

After having the good and the challenging (ahem, 26 hours of flying with a 5 month old), I can say that it was one of the BEST trips we’ve ever had. It was completely different than the go-go-go style of my old life, but I embraced this new type of travel and had so much fun sharing Italy with my little one. Here’s how we did it.

 

Serious Preparation

I read tons of blogs, polled friends and basically, had Amazon boxes at my door every day. There’s a lot that you can do to make your travel easier and I was prepared to find all the hacks. 

Be an Organized Packer

This a big part of the preparation. Every piece of clothing (yes, even tiny socks) was rolled and placed in a labeled Ziploc bag. This made it much easier to dress her each day and keep the suitcase organized throughout the trip. Used clothing went back in the same bag unless it was very dirty, in which it went into a bag labeled “Dirty.” All of this organization helped us to change her quickly and not lose things while in transit. 

 

BRING

  • Large Suitcase for Checking
    • Get a large checked bag where you will put all your heavy items, your own clothes and things that you or the baby won’t need in transit. For me this was where we packed the clip on high chair, breast pump, monitor, nightlight, extra bottles, toys etc.

  • All Bedtime Essentials
    • Gather all the things that help your bedtime routine & bring them! I packed a our nightlight, monitor, her own sheets, extra lovees and pacifiers so I could make her sleeping situation as close as possible to home.
  • A good Baby Carrier
    • Our Tula Baby Carrier was my favorite because it was so supportive and worked well for dad or mom. It was a lifesaver on our walks around cobbled towns where a stroller would have been impossible.
  • A Clip on High Chair
    • This depends on the baby. Aurora was too small for most high chairs at restaurants so having our own helped. However, if you baby can sit up well on their own and fits in most restaurant high chairs, don’t bring one. If you do bring one, this Inglesina one is what I recommend.
  • Stain Remover, Soap & Detergent
    • I brought small bottles of each stain remover and soap from my favorite all natural line, Puracy. This was great so I could wash bottles in the sink without worrying about what soap would be available there. I also brought the Dreft Laundry detergent sink packets which came in handy when clothes were very soiled. 
  • An Extra Lovee or 2
    • We brought 3 and only came home with 2. Lovees get lost and they are very hard to replace when abroad.
  • 2 Outfits + 1 Pajamas/day 
    • Generally, I feel like aim for 2 outfits per day + 1 pair of PJs and you will have plenty. Not all will be too dirty to rewear and you can mix and match to make new “outfits.” Be sure to bring a few things that work for the opposite weather, as you’ll never know. It was way colder than predicted so I was very reliant on the warm jacket I brought and heavy socks!
  • A Well Organized Diaper Bag
    • Forget my own bag, this is the bag that I used all day, every day. My favorite diaper bag EVER is by Pacapod because not only are they functional, with cute (ie. MAP PRINT!) pods to house your bottles and diapers but these bags also are so stylish. I was not embarrassed to be carrying the Fortuna bag around Italy. No one could tell it was concealing lots of toys, blankets, extra socks, teethers and diapers.

 

DO NOT BRING

  • Travel Crib
    • They are heavy and another thing to carry that you don’t have hands for–your hands need to be on the baby! Call your hotel and ask for a crib or if you are staying a hotel, look into services where you can rent baby gear.
  • Diapers
    • I LOVE our eco friendly, super thin yet absorbent Bambo diapers. But diapers take up a lot of room. I brought a bunch in her diaper bag a few extra in my large suitcase for the first day or two until I could get to a grocery store. In our town, the options were limited (and no, these were not dye-free or all natural) but it was a temporary solution and worked well. Plus, we saved a ton of space. Hey, your baby is “going local!”
  • Too Many CUTE Outfits
    • I was excited for her outfits and for photo opps, so I overdid it on cute clothing and Aurora never wore the same thing twice. In retrospect, she could have worn a few of those super cute outfits again. I would suggest packing only a few of those “special outfits” and stick with more of the comfortable basics. Tutus are not comfortable in a baby carrier.
  • Too Many Toys
    • I limited it to 2 books and one Ziploc of small, lightweight toys. I even think this was too many! We ended up buying her a few things and of course, she was most interested in every day things as we were out and about (like water bottles, spoons, plants etc).

 

Consolidate Your Big Gear

Did you know that you can find a car seat and stroller in one? You can and it is called the DOONA! We didn’t know about it until I talked to the veteran baby travel mama, Natalie DiScala. (This blog post from GQTripping also confirms the love of the Doona).

We purchased Natalie’s Doona car seat/stroller as her son had outgrown it and it was a game-changer for us. This nifty little stroller folds up compactly into a car seat and was key for getting us in and out of the car quickly. We saved space in our trunk and didn’t have to deal with a stroller and carrying a car seat at the same at the airport. Aurora never loved being in the car but I felt that she didn’t HATE this car seat as much as others.

Also, I still use this a lot now for quick trips when I don’t have our car seat, and just used it on a recent trip home for the holidays. Aurora was very comfortable in it and even slept in it a few times. Anything to cut down on the big gear makes traveling easier. You can find it here on my travel tips list on Amazon

Pienza, Tuscany

 

Use a Baby Carrier

I mentioned this already, but the quickest and easiest way to move around a new destination is with the baby strapped on! My girl loves it especially now that she can face out and see the world. This kept her engaged and happy as we toured through towns. My husband ended up wearing her more because he liked it.

We’ve used 4 different carriers and this Tula is my pick for Aurora’s weight (16lb) and for wearing a baby for a long time. It is more supportive than the others and the baby feels very securely fastened. I also like that it has a little pocket for your phone or wallet in the front. She seemed very comfortable in it!

 

Stay in One Spot

Before baby, my trips were FAST PACED. I’d spend a night or two in spot and then move on to the next place. I’ve even done two week long work long trips where I’ve moved hotels EVERY night. Not ideal, but totally doable… without a baby.

Now with Baby A, we decided to find ONE home base. Be careful when choosing this location as you will be spending a lot of time there! It will be your jumping off  for day excursions (and it’d be nice if you can walk out your door to things. I loved that we could walk to happy hour with the baby, or I could jet out to shop while she napped and my husband stayed in.

Keeping your new “home” in one spot, will really help your baby to adjust to the new environment, schedule and time zone. She will get used to the new rhythm and her new space. Plus, you’ll save yourself the headache of packing everything up, transporting your family and then unpacking again if you limit it to one spot.  

Once you are settled, you can enjoy more!

We chose Pienza, a small but not too small village in Tuscany, that was smack in the middle of the picturesque Val D’Orcia. This region is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its stunning rolling hills, farmhouse and cypress trees. It is exactly what you picture when you hear “Tuscany.”

Pienza also happened to be about 15-20 minutes from many medieval villages and famous towns like Montepulciano and Montalcino, which was the perfect length for day trips.

Note: Some babies like the car and won’t mind longer car trips. For us, Aurora hates the car so we really could only handle 30 minutes max in a car as it was often a loud, stressful ride…

 

Consider Your Accommodations

We got lucky that our incredible boutique hotel, La Bandita Townhouse, almost felt like our own swanky Italian apartment. We had a magnificently modern suite, with a separate room for Aurora. This meant that nap & bedtime, we could close the door and read, relax or even one of us could go shopping (guess who that was… :).

It also had a lovely lounge and honor bar, just outside our door and our monitor reached here! This meant we could both sit in the lounge, listen to records, have a glass of wine and plan our next day, all while baby Aurora snoozed peacefully just steps away.

Another huge benefit of this hotel was the location. We were literally on the best street in town, so we could walk out the door for coffee, a snack or just a stroll, without ever having to get the car. This made us feel much more free and allowed us to use our windows of awake time with Aurora wisely.

Not all hotels will be this baby friendly. Having a separate room is crucial, so looking into rental houses or apartments, would be very wise. Also, having a kitchen would have been great. We managed just fine with a mini fridge and espresso maker, but a kitchen is certainly important when your baby is moving onto solids too.

Put Your Baby on the Right Schedule for the Destination

We decided to make Aurora’s schedule 9am to 9pm to accommodate the Italian lifestyle and allow us to go out to dinner. As were crossing time zones, her time was all messed up anyway so it was almost easier to do this than force the usual 7 to 7.

Do One Big Excursion Per Day

During the day, maximized her awake and napping time. In the morning, we always did breakfast at our hotel then a quick walk outside. After, we had a little floor time in our room so Aurora could stretch her legs, then it was nap time. During the first nap, one of us would go out and explore town while the other plotted where we’d be off to when she woke.

 

After she woke up, we’d take a bottle for the road and drive to a new town for lunch and exploring. Lunch was our big meal out as she was rested and happy. We’d walk around the town, maybe make another stop at a farm, vineyard or village on the way home and then get her back to the hotel so she could get a solid afternoon nap.

Very few times she fell asleep in the car, and in those instances, we’d continue to drive around the beautiful valley. We never strayed too far from home though just in case we had to get back right away.

After her second nap, we’d go out for a happy hour drink or a sunset stroll. Then, play time back at the hotel and a cat nap. She’d wake usually around 630pm so we’d get her ready for an early dinner in town. We always just walked to a nearby spot, which was a huge benefit of our town and hotel. The Italians did think that we were crazy wanting to eat dinner at 7pm or 730pm and often we were the first people in the restaurant–but at least we got to eat out!

 

Just Roll With It

There were many times were the schedule did not go so smoothly. She’d miss a nap or wake up early, or just fuss her whole time awake. That happened and though it was stressful at the time, we still reminded each other how awesome it was that we were even there. Sure, she was fussing but we were in Italy, eating amazing food, seeing beautiful things and we were together, so felt like it was all worth it. I’d rather be with a fussy baby in Italy than a fussy baby at home, right?!

One night in particular while we were out at the one dinner we had to drive 10 minutes too in Bagno Vignoni, Aurora was especially cranky. She wouldn’t be contented, no matter what we did–walked her around, held her, bounced her etc. It was very stressful as this was a very nice restaurant and it also was…very quiet. Not a great combo for a cranky baby.

The older Italian couple at the table nearby turned to us and said, “We’ve all been there. Don’t even worry. She is perfect.”  They even offer to hold her, which we took them up on. She was giggle and we exhaled. In those heightened moments, it was the perfect reminder that babies will be babies and most people get that and aren’t bothered as much as we were.

 

Trust us, it is worth it!

Each day was an adventure but each day was so special and memorable. I know Aurora might not remember the piglets she petted or her first taste of mozzarella or Tuscan bread, but I do think it impacted her ability to be versatile and open-minded to the new. She smiled at strangers, looked intently at everything from her baby carrier view and settled into her new sleeping situation and timezone faster than we could imagined.

 

The biggest hurdle was of course, the flight, but I need a whole other post to talk about that…coming soon!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What are your tips for traveling with a young baby? Please drop your comments below!

 

Xoxo

Kelley

 

Traveling to Sonoma, California with a 4 Month Old Baby

In California, I think the best place to experience the fall season is in Sonoma County. I was craving a little bit of that crisp air, auburn hues and autumnal feeling so I decided that Sonoma would be the perfect getaway with my mother and my 4 month old daughter.

Baby at SFO

Sleepy baby at SFO

TRANSPORTATION: Flight + Rental Car

Just a quick one hour flight from Los Angeles, we landed in SFO and had a two hour drive ahead of us to Sonoma. All things considered, this wasn’t too bad of a commute! I made the mistake of booking an off-site rental car company, but besides that hiccup, we were cruising north, crossing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and admiring the countryside in no time.

Tip: Call your rental car company and ask for a child safety seat to be added. Ours was only $42 and well worth it since we didn’t have to carry a heavy car seat.

baby with wine!

TOWN: Healdsburg

We chose Healdsburg as our homebase. I had visited only once before for the day but was immediately smitten by the quaint town green, the charming mom & pop shops, along with the fine restaurants and posh hotels. This town has the right mix of class, charm and dose of energy to keep it interesting. It also happens to be smack in the middle of some of the most picturesque areas of wine country.

Tip: Make sure you are in walking distance of a main town so you can pop in and out of the hotel for food, shopping and groceries. It’s great not to have to drive!

Harmon Guest House

HOTEL: Harmon Guest House

The hotel is always very important to me but this time, it was EVEN more important as I knew with a young baby, we’d be spending a lot more time in the room. I also wanted a hotel that was very close walking distance to the town center so it’d be easy for the three of us to get out quickly or go to a nearby restaurant.

Hanging in Healdsburg

I was very happy to discover the brand new Harmon Guest House. The sister property to the well known, high brow Hotel Healdsburg, the Harmon Guest House was just a block away and boasted large suites and a rooftop restaurant. I was definitely interested in a suite as with a 4 month old, bedtime is around 7pm but that doesn’t mean that my mom and I wanted to go to bed then either. Having a separate room allowed us to put her down for bed, then order diner and have a glass of wine together.

Tip: Book a suite or a room type that has two separate rooms. You don’t want to be forced to have lights out at 7pm and you don’t want to put your baby in a bathroom for bedtime!

We opted for their Founder’s Suite. It came with a private outdoor terrace, which was surrounded by bamboo and greenery which helped to make it feel more private, even though it faced the glass hallway and other rooms.

The suite was quite spacious with the living area that had a coffeemaker and sink, refrigerator and countertop area. There was a small desk and a rather small couch and coffee table. Given that there was a lot of empty space, I felt the furniture was a little small in comparison to the room. There was also a bathroom (no shower) out here.

The bedroom as large and had a very, almost too soft, feather bed. There was a tub that worked well for bath time with Aurora, though I had to get in too! The outer sink and vanity area was lovely and the shower/toilet shared a very large separate space. It could have almost been another bedroom, it was so large!

A gift for Aurora from the hotel 🙂

Little details like daily coffee and pastries, sparkling water on tap in the hallway and the rooftop just above, definitely made this stay very comfortable. I have to say, the staff, from the valet to the front desk, went above and beyond to help us in all ways–and felt genuine and sincere in doing so.

TIMEFRAME: Midweek!

We traveled mid week to minimize the crowds even though we were in the high season. The Crush as it is known, draws lots of tourists from the Bay Area and beyond and for good reason. The scenery, the golden light and the activity on all the vineyards made this prime time to visit.

Tip: Travel to Sonoma during the week makes the rates much better and it is far easier to get around. Weekends get hectic!

ITINERARY: 1 Destination per Day

We picked up one big adventure per day and aimed to do that after her first nap. With one good nap down, we at least knew that we were in better shape for the rest of the day, even if her second nap wasn’t as great. Sleeping in the car is hit or miss for our girl, but for others, they can use a car ride for the first nap and get them to their destination sooner.

Cuties

I had a list of vineyards to check out and we stopped at many of them. However, we didn’t stay at all of them. Some were not kid friendly, not as scenic as we thought or were just too quiet. It is hard to gauge that until you see it for yourself! The ones we did stay at though were fantastic. After our wine tasting, we would either have a picnic there or stop somewhere for a bite, before heading back home for an afternoon nap. My mom enjoyed some shopping in Healdsburg while I put the baby down for a snooze.

DINNER: Takeout to the room

Unless you have someone like a nanny or babysitter, you will need to be in the room when baby goes to bed. For us that meant we would start bedtime at 6 or 6:30 and she’d be asleep by 7-7:30pm. So our evening outings were limited! We were able to sneak in a 5pm happy hour here and there, but mostly, we either grabbed food to go at 5pm or one of us snuck out after the baby went to bed to pick up food. As long as you have good food options nearby and a separate room to enjoy them in, it’s actually kind of cozy!

Tip: Choose a hotel that is close to restaurants with takeout options–ideally walking distance!

Hotel Healdsburg

 

Below I have rounded up the most scenic and BABY FRIENDLY stops from our trip to Sonoma:

Arista Winery

You turn off the main road into this stunning property, and wind your way up a hill past rows of grapevines glistening in the sun. At the top, there is a small tasting room that is very elegantly decorated. Though reservations are needed, and we didn’t have one, the obliging winemaker allowed us to sit outside, which was our preference, and conducted a personal wine tasting for us before the reservations came. This was ideal as we could sit and entertain Aurora and not have to worry about her disrupting others.

We liked that the wine tasting was an abridged version so we got the “cliffnotes” on all the wines. Also, we were outside and enjoying the Japanese inspired landscaping while two of us were on sipping delicious wine and one had a her own lovely bottle.

 

Dutcher Crossing Winery

Aurora had fallen asleep in the car and not wanting to wake her, I actually went in, explained the predicament and they allowed me to shuttle a wine tasting outside so my mom and I could enjoy together, even though we were in a parking lot.

Eventually the curious little bugger woke up and we all went into the tasting room. It was bright and airy, but the real selling point here is the well landscaped vineyard. You can tell they take great pains to keep every detail in line. It was truly breathtaking. The wines happened to be big, bold and wonderful as well. We had a great winemaker, Collyn, guiding us through the tasting in an unprententious and fun way. I ended up joining the wine club and now when I sip those special bottles, I am reminded of such a wonderful afternoon with my best girls.

 

Dry Creek General Store

This is THE place to get lunch in the area but guess what, it is actually delicious. We checked out the funky shop that is a mix of old time general store and fancy provisions, while we waited for two excellent sandwiches. My barbecue chicken was the perfect to go meal for lunch at a winery. It’s also well located right in the middle of a lot of great vineyards and just 15 minutes from Healdsburg.

 

Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves

At the very end of a lovely road is Bella Vineyards, famous for its tastings in the wine cave. The cave goes into the side of a mountain and is very interesting inside, but I loved the outside even more. The farmhouse, the views and the laidback atmosphere made this a place you wanted to linger.

MacRostie Vineyard

Perched on a hilltop with unobstructed, sweeping views, this one called to us every time we passed it. We finally stopped and while we loved the greeting with a taste of chardonnay and the intimate setting, we didn’t stay as it was too quiet and a bit serious for a baby. We were going to loud, up and down, singing songs and playing with toys and we felt the other guests there would be bothered by that…

 

Other favorite spots in Healdsburg…

 

Hotel Healdsburg

We came here for happy hour and enjoyed it at their modern, ivy clad outside decks. It was just a few steps from the Harmon Guest House so it was perfect for a quick drink before bath time!

 

Campo Fina

You’d never guess that this a bustling bar, bocce court and outdoor seating if you stepped in the front door. But clearly, word got out as when we got there around 5:30pm, the back area was packed. We grabbed a drink and ordered takeout to be enjoyed later at the room. It was really a delicious meal and fun atmosphere.

 

Pizzando

We had take out from here two times in our four nights and we were glad we did. The pizzas and pastas were incredible–I especially loved that bolognese. Their arugula salad had a tasty lemon dressing too. Perfect for an easy meal in the room.

 

The Shed

It might be overhyped but we did stop by to grab some bread, cheese and a cupckae for a little late lunch on our suite’s terrace. The bread was fantastic but that cheese.. I still think about it.

 

Oakville Grocery

We grabbed salads here and took them to go, to be enjoyed at a vineyard! They had a lot of great wine and some nice local products as well.

 

The Toy Chest

I had to include this back-in-time toy store as a must stop for anyone traveling with kids. They had a great mix of modern toys and old-time classics. I love family run toy shops and it was nice to see one in action!

 

Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar

The pumpkin ice cream was out of this world, and all the other flavors at this artisanal ice cream shopped looked amazing as well. The apple pie wasn’t our favorite but definite come her for some ice cream!


Overall, we felt Sonoma County was very baby friendly since it was relaxed, very welcoming, and had a nice, slow pace. Many of the streets we drove on were so breathtaking, we had to pull over just to admire the beauty in all directions. I am so happy that we did this trip and though we couldn’t see and do everything at the fast pace we wanted too, it was nice to slow down and appreciate the simple beauty all together.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tips for Flying Across Country with a 2 Month Old Baby

We popped Aurora on a flight when she was just 9 weeks old. It was a bit daunting at first but we really wanted her to meet all her grandparents, so we decided to brave the West to East Coast flight over Labor Day Weekend.

Choose your Destination Wisely

Since grandparents’ beach house was the destination, we were lucky in that there was a lot of baby items already there. A pack n play, stroller and car seat were already there, so we didn’t have to bring any of that. However, we still needed to bring a lot for the plane journey. Read below are some of our must-haves.

Avoid Traveling on Holidays

Though we had to take advantage of the day off for LDW, we made sure to fly out on the Thursday of Labor Day Weekend, versus the Friday or Saturday. Going one day earlier made it a little easier as there was less traffic going to the airport and the airport itself was less busy. However, we didn’t have any luck with extra seats on the flight as it was jam packed.

 

Book a Window and Aisle Seat

My husband and I have been doing this for years now–never booking a middle and always booking a window and aisle, in the hopes that no one sits between us. If someone does, you can kindly ask if they’d prefer a window or aisle, so you can sit next to your travel partner. I doubt any person would prefer the middle. Or you can just choose to have a little separation from your travel partner and each of you can enjoy the modicum of more comfort with your respective aisle/window seats.

Let me just moderate your expectations: this rarely works. Especially now with flights being over-booked and standby, just about every available seat will be taken. However, once in a while it HAS worked and then we have a whole row to ourselves! It is the broke man’s first class! (I would even dare say better in some ways). This has not worked so far on our flights with Aurora, but it is worth a shot. An extra seat with a baby is ideal!

Bulkhead Rows

Our return was in a bulkhead on Alaska Airlines. If you can book that, do it. It is even worth the extra upcharge. I cannot tell you how much nicer it was to have that extra space. We were able to pass Aurora back and forth easier, even stand up to bounce her and we could step over the aisle passenger without disturbing them. The bulkhead also meant we got off quicker and were closer to a bathroom. It was too bad that we had to store our carryon for takeoff and landing, but it is a price that we were willing to pay.

 

Must Haves for Plane Travel with a 2-3 month old:

Dockatot

Though it is light, the Dockatot is a larger piece of luggage. However, we found it to be so worth it. We layed it across our legs and Aurora was able to nap in it, her only nap on the flight. She was still being swaddled at that time so something like a Dockatot gave her room, was familiar to her and allowed my husband and I to have our hands free. No, we couldn’t get up, but at least she was sleeping!

Hush Hat

I feel like the overhead announcements are just getting louder and more piercing, but maybe that is because now we are more sensitive to them with a baby. I tested out the Hush Hat, since it looked more comfortable than baby noise cancelling headphones. With built in sound absorbing padding, this cute hat worked very well and Aurora had no problem with it! It doesn’t eliminate sounds but definitely helps mute them.

Finding Dory for baby. Wine for mom and dad.

TV (as a tool only)

Some people might disagree, but I only use a screen when I desperately need it. On a plane with an upset baby counts as one of those times. She was crying and overtired and the only thing that calmed her down, and thus calmed us down, was watching some Finding Dory. Sometimes, a screen can be very useful for everyone–including our fellow passengers.

Baby Bjorn Carrier

No matter what carrier you prefer, it is so nice to be able to be hands free and wear the baby in the airport. I’ve done both stroller and carrier now, and it is far easier in my opinion to wear the baby. Our daughter is extremely interested in the world around her so when I wear her, she is delighted to look around and smile at everyone.

I personally have liked the Baby Bjorn when she was smaller, around 2 months, because it was easy to put on and felt comfortable. Now that she is a bit older, I have added in different carriers that are more secure for a forward facing baby (see my post on traveling with a 4 month old).

 

Toys

Obviously toys are key for the long plane ride. Definitely get a pacifier clip and clip any toys there if you can. The smaller, lightweight toys that don’t make too much noise are best. As you are on the go, they will be dropped so make sure to have several back ups, clip any that you can and also bring the toy sanitizing wipes.

Munchkin Arm & Hammer Pacifier Wipes

These are food grade safe, so you can use them to clean off the toys, teethers and pacifier that inevitably drop while traveling.

 

Portable Diaper Kit

I use the Skiphop set as it is easy to keep everything together and get in and out of those awful plane bathrooms quickly.

 

Nursing Cover

I used this one as it has an opening at the top so I can see her (and she likes to see my face), while nursing. This was key when we were nursing during take off and landing.

 

Footed Pajamas

Planes get cold and I like to make sure that she is fully covered (no missing socks!) so the full, one piece footed pajamas are my go too. I like the Magnetic Me for travel as they are lightweight but warm and the magnetic closures make them very easy for diaper changes.

 

Overall, no amount of “stuff” will make air travel easy, but it surely can help limit some of the stress. At the end of the day, the baby really just needs you, food, diapers and hugs. You can do it! The more you travel with them now, the easier it will get too.

xoxo

Kelley

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What else do you bring on the plane for little ones? Tell me below!

Survival Guide for SLEEP in First 3 Months: The Products That Help

Taking care of a baby is the hardest thing I have ever done. I thought the delivery was the hard part, and trust me, that was no walk in the park. But actually taking care of a baby, all day and all night, every single day is so much more than I could have ever imagined. You are worried that you aren’t doing everything right. You are worried that the baby needs something more. You are worried in general because the baby is so new to the world. You read conflicting advice on the internet. You hear completely different advice from friends and family. Basically, it’s a full on, all consuming, life altering task that there is no avoiding or delaying. And you and maybe your significant other, are going at it blind.

What you are going to worry most about during those first three months is sleep and eating. For us, eating was a bit easier but sleep was our big challenge.

Sleeping baby wubbanub

I did a lot of research during my 10 months of pregnancy (yes, it was just about 10 months!) and I have to say that some of the ways that I prepared truly saved me in those early weeks.I had absolutely no time to do research when she was born, so I’m very glad that I planned ahead!  I’ve included links on where to find all of these on my Amazon page.

Here is what absolutely helped our family, including Aurora, get some good rest. 

 

  1. DockATot

Who knew that this cute little baby bed/lounger with fun printed patterns would be an absolute life saver. Aurora didn’t know day from night, as most babies don’t right away, so she was sleeping and waking at all odd hours. The DockATot gave me a safe place to let her rest, let her play or just to put her down when I had to run to the bathroom. It is lightweight and very easy to move from the bedroom or the couch (where we slept a lot!). The covers come in a variety of patterns and can be removed and washed. I suggest buying an extra cover and the toy arch for when your baby gets a little older and needs more stimulation!

 

  1. Under the Nile Swaddles (0-2 months)

We tried every swaddle out there–Halo, Miracle Blanket, Woombie–and for us, the only thing that worked was a good, old fashioned swaddle. But not just any swaddle: we needed one with a bit of stretch so we could get a very tight wrap. Aurora could bust out of everything so the Under the Nile swaddles were a lifesaver as we could wrap them so tightly and keep them snug, her little legs and arms rarely escaped. All that changed by month 3, when nothing could keep those limbs in but by that time it was when she should stop being swaddled anyway.

 

  1. Halo Sleep Sack (1-3 months)

Finally, we realized we couldn’t keep her feet bound so we started using the Halo Sleep sack. This was great to keep one or both arms secured but allow her feet to move. She did manage to get out of it most nights, but at least it helped her fall asleep. I preferred the muslin variety as it was much less hot than the cotton or velour ones, but that is only because we live in Southern California and she was born in the summer!

 

  1. Rock-N-Play

rock n play Aurora didn’t take to this right away, but we kept trying and all of sudden, it was magic. The inclined position helped her with any reflux and it was cozy on all sides so she slept very well on it. I found that the rocking motion was not always necessary but sometimes did prolong sleep. I didn’t like music though so I always muted that. She did quickly grow out of it and it is not something that I’d recommend for long, but in the interim when you just need your baby to nap or sleep a few hours at a time, it was so worth the inexpensive price.

 

  1. Hatch Rest Nightlight & Sound Machine

This small, nondescript night light has a lot going on. There is a lovely variety of colors (you can even make your own color) as well as sounds like white noise and waves and  even songs. But the biggest win of the Hatch is that it syncs to your phone. This means that in the middle of the night when you need to turn it on or change the volume, you aren’t blindly fiddling with it in the dark. You can open the app and adjust easily. This was great for turning it on and off from different rooms too!

 

  1. Smilo Pacifiers

Smilo pacifiersWe started with the Wubbanub Animal pacifiers since they were not only cute, the animal actually helped keep the pacifier in her mouth as it gave some balance when placed on her chest. We graduated to Smilo Pacifiers which were also easy to keep in her mouth and developed by orthodontists to promote a healthy palate development. We’ve so far continued with the Smilos.

 

  1. Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor

Infant monitor optixWe decided not to get a monitor that linked to our phone as we know that phones run out of battery or have bad service. The Infant Optics has been great as it has a very clear image quality, especially in complete darkness. It also has a moveable head so you can move it from the display monitor and even zoom in. It also says the temperature of the room which we liked. The only negative is the display battery does die frequently so have that charger handy and it keep it plugged in often.

  1. Boppy

Like the DockATot, the Boppy is a place to let your baby relax, rest or even sleep (if you are watching). It is slightly inclined and has an indent to allow the baby to big snug and cozy. It was helpful when she was awake as she was a little more upright than lying flat and could see more. She grew out this after 2 months as she wanted to be more upright but it was very helpful for those first few months and very portable too. Get a cover so you can wash it when the inevitable blow out occurs!

I will be including an updated “Sleeping Survival Guide at 4 Months: How to Handle Sleep Regression!” soon! If you have any recommendations of your own, please share!

 

xoxo

Kelley

What I Wish I Knew Before Going to the Hospital

 

  1. Your Birth Plan Will Totally Change

Okay, maybe some of you will have this easy delivery and all your wishes on your birth plan will come true. However, from my own experience, and what I’ve heard from almost all other women, doulas, doctors and nurses; your birth plan goes out the window no matter how hard you to try to plan it.
I had a very detailed one page birth plan that basically said I wanted the most natural birth possible with the least interventions. I didn’t want an epidural, no pitocin, I didn’t want to use forceps or suction, I only wanted intermittent fetal monitoring and I definitely didn’t want a C-Section.

Well, as I was induced at 42+ weeks, I ended up having to get pitocin, fetal monitoring and eventually, an epidural. After 2 days of labor and 36 hours of pushing, I don’t regret it! In the end, I got a healthy baby out of it and I’m glad I knew the options, even if I wasn’t able to have my ideal birth. 

  1. Some Nurses will Suck

I had a few that just plain sucked. They were probably very knowledgeable and experienced, but I just didn’t like their bedside manner. They’ve seen ALL this before and some aren’t as sympathetic as they should be, at least for terrified first timers like myself.

You know what? You can request another nurse!

I didn’t like one nurse because she kept telling me all the worst case scenarios, unsolicited, and she also was very rough while putting in my IV. I didn’t send her away at first but when we had her AGAIN on her next shift, I told my husband that we needed someone else ASAP.

 

  1. It can take WAY longer than you think

I had heard these lovely birth stories from my mom, mother-in-law and close friends that they went into the hospital and had their baby a few hours later! I  surely did not. I went in on a Saturday and didn’t hold my baby until 1am on Tuesday. I also didn’t leave the hospital until Thursday. Not exactly the week away I’d hoped for but still, we got a healthy baby out of it!

 

  1. EVERYONE will see (all of) you Naked

There was no curtain. My room basically had a revolving door of nurses and doctors, and nothing was… um… hidden. This was not what I had pictured. I thought it’d be more discrete and only my nurse and my doctor would be permitted. Nope. I think the entire hospital must have seen my private bits. It was embarrassing at first but as things progressed, I stopped caring!

  1. Epidurals can help you avoid C-Sections

I really didn’t want a C-Section because I had heard rough stories about the recovery from close friends. I also knew that my husband had to go back to work soon and if I couldn’t take care of myself and the baby, we’d be in trouble.

I also didn’t like the idea of an epidural. I HATE needles. I also had broken my lower back when I was a teen. I also didn’t want any drugs getting into my baby. Well, after 24 hours of contractions and excruciating pain, I had to get one if I were to have enough strength to deliver the baby without help.

I requested an epidural at 11pm and was asleep by midnight.

Yes, it was super painful during the administration (and I couldn’t even look at that needle) but as a result, I was able to then sleep for 6 hours.

After two days of not sleeping a wink, this allowed me the energy to handle the following 24 hours.

 

  1. Epidurals Don’t Numb Anything when Pushing

What!? Seriously? Contractions are terrible and they do help there, but the REAL pain comes from pushing. And guess what, epidurals don’t do anything for that. Maybe it is good I didn’t know that. Sorry for spoiling it!

 

  1. Room ambiance doesn’t matter much

I wanted to create this super calm, positive space with inspiring music, soothing scents and chill vibes. And we did! My doula and husband helped to make my room so zen and cool. I really appreciated it in the hours leading up to labor, and since we had an induction, we had many of those. But guess what, on hour 12 of pushing did I even hear what music was playing or could I even think about scents? Nope. Didn’t matter.

 

  1. You Can’t Eat!

I had heard this that’s true. And I brought in an epic snack bag with healthy granola bars, gummi bears, pureed fruits, smoothies etc. However, once I got that IV, they didn’t want me to eat. And not eating for a few days made me very ‘hangry’ and very weak. I had my husband and doula sneak me some crackers and gummi bears but next time, I am not listening to the staff and I’m going to eat. I think it would have been a lot better if I did!

  1. Your Body will do Crazy Things

When those contractions start to get intense, you will lose all connection to anything else. I know all I could do was focus on getting through each contraction. I could barely speak, think or even process anything else around me. I had to just focus on the task at hand.

I also started shaking uncontrollably. This lasted for hours.

It was unfortunate as it was tiring in between contractions but it could not be helped. I think it terrified my husband.

 

  1. Meeting your Baby makes it all Better

After the hell that I went through for 3 days, I honestly started to think that I wasn’t ever going to get my baby out. We faced a lot of challenges, from a fever, shaking, and to her getting a bit stuck.

But when she did enter into this world and was handed to me, it all faded into the background.

The room was chaotic, the doctor was stitching me up, the nurses were yelling things–but it all disappeared. I didn’t even see or hear it. All I saw was her. She was healthy, beautiful and finally here. All the trauma and pain that I had been experiencing was gone and I felt like I had all the energy in the world. I finally had my baby.