How to road trip with a newborn this holiday season.

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My son’s first Christmas was the worse Christmas I ever had. He was less than eight weeks old, nursing every hour and a half and I was far away from my family. I also was a novice breastfeeder and he had a terrible latch; the two of us together was nothing short of a disaster. I remember that first Christmas sitting in my bedroom, nursing my baby and sobbing because the holidays had hardly felt like the holidays. There was no Christmas cheer in my life and I was raising this baby who I hardly knew how to take care of. My family switches between Christmas and Thanksgiving as far as shared holidays go and in 2008 we were going to be at my parents’ house, six hours away, for New Years. If you are traveling this holiday season like I was with a newborn or infant, I have a few tips you may want to heed.

How to road trip with a newborn this holiday season.

How to road trip with a newborn this holiday season.
Photography by LovB Photography

Be flexible; don’t get too wrapped up in expectations.

Babies can tell when we’re stressed; they aren’t completely oblivious to everything like we may think they are. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in nine years of parenting and having had three kids it’s that nothing goes as planned. Ever. The best thing you can do is throw any expectations you have for how things are going to be out the window. Sure, make a plan, but be willing and able to abandon that plan when needed.

When should we leave?

If you’re driving to your destination and you’ve got a ways to go I suggest trying to plan your leave time during either a nap or the evening when baby’s asleep. The only downside to this is that when you arrive at your final destination baby may want to be more awake than asleep but hopefully you’ve had a quiet drive. The last thing you want it to spend several hours trapped in a car with an unhappy newborn. That’s the worst; I’ve been there and done that.

Be okay with stopping if you’re road tripping.

When you’re traveling, especially if it’s the dead of winter and you live in a place like Minnesota (I’m talking about myself here) the last thing you want to do is stop to feed baby. Just take the pressure off by residing to the fact that you will be stopping to feed the baby. You should be stopping to feed and change baby, you really can’t shove a bottle in your baby’s face and keep driving. Try to look at the route and plan for stopping about every three hours at the most. If your drive is only three hours long then plan on one stop and if it’s six hours (like the drive is to my parents’ house) then plan for two stops. Most public places are pretty good about having a comfortable spot for moms to feed their baby but if you find yourself in a position where you have to nurse in public, be confident. It is your right as a mother to feed your child, cover up or don’t, do what’s comfortable for you.

How to road trip with a newborn this holiday season.
Photo by Chris Peeters from Pexels 

Packing the right gear.

Part of traveling with a baby is being able to anticipate what your newborn is going to need. If you haven’t done this before it can be really challenging. Here are the things that you’ll need to travel with a newborn:

  • Pack-n-Play – Most hotels have something that you can borrow in the form of a crib but I always felt better bringing what I had from home that could travel.
  • Baby Monitor – If you’re going to be visiting family and staying in their home you’ll want a baby monitor
  • Baby Carrier (We’ll get that in just a little bit.)
  • Pacifiers if your newborn uses one.
  • Inflatable Baby Bathtub
  • Clothes – lots of changes of clothes, especially if you won’t have easy access to laundry.
  • Diapers – If you’re using disposable diapers, I suggest bringing a box. If you’re using cloth diapers, check out our post on how to pack with cloth diapers.

Wear that Baby!

If you aren’t into babywearing or you haven’t tried now is the time to embrace it. We’ve written a lot about babywearing on First Time Mom because it’s a great way to not only bond with your baby but also helps your baby feel safe and secure. I personally loved babywearing whenever we were traveling because it just made things easier. Baby felt comfortable and secure and because of that I was relaxed. If you don’t have a ton of room in your luggage then I suggest trying a ring sling. Ring slings are best used with newborns anyway so you might as well just go this route if you’re traveling. This is a great blog post about ring slings from Tula Baby.

How to road trip with a newborn this holiday season.
Photo courtesy of Mat York

Anytime you travel with you child, whether they’re a newbie little squish or an experienced teenager, you have to be willing to be flexible above all else. Once you can relax a little we think you’ll find that the experience will be better than you expected. Happy and safe travels!

How to road trip with a newborn this holiday season. Helpful tips to help you keep your cool so you can enjoy your holidays with your new bundle of joy!

Help me remember that I am still the woman you fell in love with.

Mom trying to read to child
Mom trying to read to child
photography by LoVB Photography

Featured on Huffington Post Parents and Good News.

You may not realize this, but I finish most days feeling like an emotional punching bag for our tween, a complete life-ruiner to our five-year-old because I made him clean up his Lego mess and a literal punching bag to our dear toddler who is going through that “I hit when I’m frustrated” phase of toddlerhood. Sure, I can take it, I’m a mom and it goes with the territory…at least that’s what I tell myself after I’ve had the bedroom door slammed in my face because I said no screens until homework is finished. I’m pretty sure I was miserable to my mother when I was a 13-year-old so I guess it’s only payback, right?

Can I tell you what I need from you, though? I mean you’re my safe place, the person who supports, loves, and gets me; that’s why we decided to create these little human beings, after all, we love each other. It’s really simple, really, it won’t take any time from you and it will honestly be the highlight of my day:

Help me remember that I am still the woman you fell in love with.

You see I need your help, I desperately need your help. I’ve been at this “mom” thing for so long that I have kind of forgotten who I am without it. I can’t remember what life was like before I held our first child in my arms, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t personally responsible for another human being’s wellbeing. I need for you to help me remember that I am indeed the woman you fell in love with all those years ago. How can you do this?  You can help me remember that I am still that woman you fell in love with by doing these things when you come home from work:

  • Say “hi” to me from across the room and the children are all jumping and running to greet you at the door.
  • Look me in the eyes and ask me how my day was; I promise you’ll be able to tell what happened as soon as you ask.
daughter looking up at her mother
photography by LoVB
  • When you see toys all over the floor, the dishes piled up in the sink or the naked child wildly running around, just understand that I am actually doing my job, but dinner needs to get onto the table and that means chaos is created because they know that they do not have my undivided attention.
  • Please take the kids to another room even if it’s for five minutes; I just want to be able to hear myself think.
  • Tell me that I’m doing a good job; no one else says it and if they do it’s usually because there’s a special occasion that calls for it. There is no progress report for motherhood and I’m just winging it, day in and day out.
  • Listen to the sometimes “silly” drama that happens in my day, whether it’s our daughter throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle at Target or something that was said to me by another mom, just listen. I don’t need you to fix it and I don’t want to hear that you think it’s silly and not worth the emotional energy. You can tell me later how you really feel, once things have calmed down and I’ve had my moment to be real with you, but initially, please just let me tell you.
  • Understand that this time of parenthood, when the kids are so young and dependent on me, is sometimes isolating, especially if we have a baby. I’m tied down to a nap schedule, feeding schedule and everything else in between. There are some weeks when I literally do not leave the house for days.
  • I need you to hug me and show me some affection, not because you want something in return but because you want me to feel loved. I’m giving myself, physically (especially if I’m breastfeeding) and emotionally to our children hourly, every single day, when is it my turn though?

  • Sometimes I just want you to pat me on the head and tell me I’m pretty. Yes, pretty, even though I’m wearing the same yoga pants and Hawkeye t-shirt that I wore yesterday and the day before and the day before that, just tell me I’m pretty!
  • I do intend on getting to the mountains or laundry, piles of dishes and grocery shopping. Please know that there’s nothing I would like more than to have the house spotless for you, however, I am tired and I just spent the last five hours trying to convince our preschooler that I am really serious when I say she cannot have a real birthday party for her stuffed animal elephant. Yes, real, as in bake a cake, wrap presents, you name it, she wanted to do it.

We’re both tired and I know that you’ve been stuck at work for the last eight hours but believe me, there are some days when I would give anything to be stuck in an office and not holding down the fort at home with our young children. I also would give anything to not have to go back to Corporate America so the fact that you work so hard for our family means the world to me; I don’t say it enough but thank you for how you provide for us.

 

mom drinking coffee looking out the window.
photography by LoVB

I know I need to be more for you and I want to be that woman you fell in love with, she’s still there inside me, but some days I’ve been kicked down so many times it’s hard to get back up and remember that I am more than a butt wiper, housekeeper, cook, and teacher. I need your help remembering that I still am that woman you were so madly in love with, you decided to promise your entire life to me. Can you do that?

What is Flat Head Syndrome?

what is flat head syndrome and how can you fix it

What exactly is flat head syndrome? Flat head syndrome or positional plagiocephaly happens when a flat spot begins to develop on the back or the side of a baby’s head. A common cause of flat head syndrome is lying an infant in the same position every time they go to sleep.

What is flat head syndrome? Can it fix itself?

What is Flat Head Syndrome?

Flat head syndrome is when an infant develops a flat spot on the back or side of his or her head. An infant’s bones are not fully fused together making them very pliable or easy to mold. The good news is that if your infant does develop flat head syndrome treatment is easy to come by and correct.

What causes Flat Head Syndrome?

Some cases of positional plagiocephaly begin in the womb. “Many babies can develop a flat head as a direct result of their positioning in the womb before they are even born, known as positional moulding. Babies can also develop the tendency to develop a flat head during birth, with passage through the birth canal causing temporary bruising in the neck or shoulder muscles,” Technology in Motion.
In 1992 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement that recommended babies sleep on their backs or sides to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In 1996 the AAP issued another statement that a baby’s back was the only safe place to sleep. Babies sleep a lot which begins the flat spot and then using other devices where they lay down on their backs only furthers the flat head problem. Premature babies are more likely to have flat head syndrome because their skulls are even more pliable than a full term baby.
Baby laying on back can cause flat head syndrome
Photo by Kevin Keith on Unsplash

Can a flat head fix itself?

It depends on the severity of the plagiocephaly. In milder cases, you can help correct flat head syndrome with simple changes like switching the arm that you hold your baby and trying to keep him or her upright, avoiding putting pressure on the flat spot of their head.

Our story with Positional Plagiocephaly

I noticed in the beginning of August 2011 that my daughter, Kendall’s, head was looking a little weird. It was flat on the left side. That was alarming but then I also started to notice that she was always looking off to the left. The same week that I noticed these things I happened to be going on a little weekend mini retreat with some of the leadership team from my MOPS group. I mentioned it to a few of them – we’re all moms and two of them have four kids so I figured that they’d know something. They agreed with me about her looking to the left all the time. I happened to have her two month appointment scheduled that Monday so I decided to not panic and just wait to talk with her pediatrician.

Baby with Torticollis

The appointment came and Kendall’s pediatrician noticed her looking to the left immediately (after I mentioned it to her first). She explained to me that we’d put her on her tummy and look at the symmetry of her little head. If the symmetry was bad she would refer us to physical therapy. So we put her on her tummy and sure enough the left side of her head was becoming so flat that her left ear was being pushed to the front and she was getting a bulge on the left side of her forehead.
Our physical therapy appointment went well. The physical therapist diagnosed Kendall with torticollis meaning her left side neck muscle was weak and her right side neck muscle was tight. She also explained to me that because Kendall was always looking to the left in her little world the left was what was normal and center. That really put things into perspective for me. Our goals for Kendall were to stretch out and loosen up her neck as well as teach her that the center from her nose to her belly button is how the world should look. She gave us homework of stretches to do three to four times a day as well as some exercises to get her re-orientated in the right mid-line direction.
Baby looks to the left or right all of the time, what is wrong? Read more to find out what it could be.
Because of her torticollis she was developing plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome). We began working on getting her head back to a nice round shape by doing lots of tummy time (thankfully she’s not extremely fussy when it comes to tummy time) and putting her on her right side (when we’re with her).  We’ve also just purchased a special pillow called a Baby Moon Pillow to help with allowing us to have her on her back but not put pressure on the left side.
We had until she was five months old to correct both her torticollis and the flat head syndrome. If it didn’t work she would have needed a helmet which is not the end of the world by any means. I was amazed when I look through her newborn photos how early this started and it didn’t really dawn on me until we went to the doctor that it wasn’t normal. They say that torticollis starts in the womb and can be perpetuated if kids spend time in the special care nursery or NICU. Kendall was one of those kids as she spent five days in the special care nursery.

Today, Kendall has a completely normal shaped head. The work we did with the physical therapist while it was inconvenient, it definitely paid off. 

Outgrowing flat head syndrome
Know that if your baby does have flat head syndrome it’s usually not life-threatening. It also doesn’t reflect on you as a parent. There’s absolutely nothing you could do to prevent or cause it to happen.

Screen-Free Activities to Keep Busy on a Road Trip

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with screens when you’re traveling with kids. Traveling is less painful now than it was when I was a kid (and suddenly I sound like a 70-year-old) with all the portable devices we can easily access for entertainment. Even with screens, a long trip can be really boring so you’ve got to think outside of the box when it comes to little kids and not every child loves to color or can even read. What’s a parent to do so they don’t absolutely have a miserable experience traveling with a young child? This article is for you, Mom, just as much as it is for the kids. When they’re occupied and happy, you can relax a little and focus on the drive.

Screen-Free activities to keep busy on a road trip

Screen-Free Activities to Keep Everyone Busy on a Road Trip

This one time I appeared on The Jason Show and shared five activities you can do in the car that will keep your kids busy enough so that you can save the screen time for the end of the trip. My parents live in Galena, IL, and as a result, we make about two or three trips to visit them each year. It’s a 293-mile drive and if you Google Map it, according to Google, is 5 hours and 14 minutes one way. Now, when we make this trip we have our three children and beagle with us and I would say that the average trip one way for us, with stops for potty breaks, changing diapers, getting out to stretch our legs and at least one lunch or dinner stop, takes six to seven hours. It can be a really long drive and it’s all dependent on how the kids are doing. I have absolutely no problem with tablets, DVDs, and screens while traveling; I just know that when things get desperate you need to have some more tools in your wheelhouse for the very end of the trip.

Screen-Free Activities for the Young Child

  • Pipe Cleaners – My friend, Kari, from church, gave me this little nugget of wisdom: Pipe Cleaners. I am amazed by how entertaining these are for my kids. I’m serious they will play with them for a solid hour; creating glasses, flowers, hearts, you name it.

Use pipe cleaners to entertain kids in the car

  • Purchase small activities and toys from the Dollar Store and gift wrap them. – It’s all about keeping the kids entertained, right? I like to go to the Dollar Store and grab one or two small toys or activities for the kids to play with in the car. Then I wrap them up and when the kids are getting ornery, voila! I whip out one of the gifts, they unwrap them and are easily entertained for an hour or so.
  • Tape, Scissors, & Stickers – I don’t know about you but my oldest child is constantly stealing tape when we’re home. I don’t know what on earth he’s doing with it but he’s obsessed with tape so why not give him what he wants. I pack gift wrap tape, duct tape, stickers, kids scissors and used magazines. Then the older kids can play and create using all the tape their little heart desires.
  • My Discovery House  There are knobs and push, slide, open, close, turn! This toy is small enough that it’s perfect for little hands to hold. Plus, it’s not noisy.

  • Podcasts & Audiobooks – I absolutely love podcasts; I listen to them all of the time and it’s kind of my way of tuning the mundane day to day tasks out. I also love children’s podcasts for their excellent story-telling capability and because my kids actually listen. A few of my favorites for kids are (in no particular order): Sesame Street Podcast and Storynory,
  • Travel Bingo – I created these bingo cards for you to download and print for yourselves. I designed the game for elementary age kids but a younger child could probably figure out how to play and I know a tween or teen could definitely play. The rules are very simple: when you see something that matches a picture on the card put your place marker on the picture. If you have a laminator, you can laminate the card and use dry erase markers directly on the card. Then wipe clean. Click here to download.

Road Trip BINGO free printable. Final

Screen-Free Activities for Elementary Age Children

  • Tape, Scissors, & Stickers
  • Audiobooks from the library.
  • Pay for a service like Audible where you have access to lots of audiobooks. Right now there’s a deal where you can sign up for Audible free for 30-days and you’ll get two free audiobooks. If you plan it correctly with your road trip it’s guaranteed savings. To learn more about Audible or to try it out, click here.
  • Games – Would You Rather, Guessing Games, The Alphabet License Plate Game (you complete the alphabet using the first letter of a license plate), Trivia, Flip to Win Hangman from Melissa & Doug,  the possibilities are endless.
  • Give them a map – Yes, a map. I am amazed by how little my fourth grader knows about reading a map and how it works. Plus, maps are cheap and you can get many of them for free at welcome centers.
  • LEGOS – Get a new small bag of LEGOS, bring a jelly roll pan and let the kids put the set together.
  • Road Trip Karoke – My husband and I do this frequently when we take the six hour drive to my parents and it’s always a riot! Make a playlist of your favorite songs and then you just sing away!
  • Books – If your child doesn’t get road sick easily, learning how to read in a moving vehicle is a great thing. It’s entertaining and can lead to a nap!
  • Rubik’s Cube and other Rubik’s puzzles.

Watch the segment below from The Jason Show and let me know what you do on long road trips with your kiddos!

 

Pin it for later!

 

Screen-Free Activities to Keep Busy on a Road Trip. Screen-free activities you can do with the family during a road trip! FREE Road Trip BINGO printable and other activities! #travel #travelwithkids #vacation #roadtrip #printables

 

5 SCREEN-FREE Activities to keep littles busy during a road trip including FREE Road Trip BINGO printable. Pin now and be prepared for later.

 

To the Exclusively Pumping Mama: A Standing Ovation

To the Exclusively Pumping Mom

I have to write this out, say it out loud and applaud a few special moms living day in and day out the way we all do. Only, they do it differently than I ever did. How? Why am I feeling like giving every single one of these mothers a standing ovation? Two words: Exclusive Pumping.

That’s right. For some reason, lately I’ve come to know of more and more women around me who made the choice, when the going got tough to exclusively pump. I looked into exclusively pumping when my oldest, Brennan, was only a few weeks old. He just couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding and I was a brand new mother. I had no clue what I was doing and thought that my baby would magically latch on with ease. I was not prepared for the difficulty of a disorganized eater; one who could not coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing. So I looked into exclusively pumping. I tried to do it actually. That last for about half a day.

Exclusively pumping mom
Photo by LOvB Photography

The reason why this has been on my heart lately is because when I’ve been talking with my mommy friends who exclusively pumped I sense this twinge of guilt coming from their mouths. It’s like they feel like they aren’t good enough moms because they are using or had to use a breast pump to feed their baby breast milk. That couldn’t be farther from the truth and I would like to say that I think you’re more of a mom because you have done what you had to do for your baby. You didn’t give up. The going got tough and you know what? You said, “Fine. Bring it on. I’ll add on a pumping schedule on top of a feeding schedule. I’ll bring on those bottles and pump accessory parts that have to be cleaned round the clock. I do it for my child.”

Hold your head up high, woman. Don’t think for a second that this isn’t good enough because the original plan wasn’t working. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Do you hear me saying this?

Exclusively pumping is not a failure in the scorecard of motherhood.

Exclusively pumping is not a failure in the scorecard of motherhood.

P.S. There really isn’t a motherhood scorecard; I made that up. And those of you mamas who use formula are not failures either. [At this point, Bert, stands up from her chair and looks at you in the eye to say, “You aren’t a failure for using formula and I really think you’re an awesome mom because you are keeping that child healthy and loving that baby. This post is for the exclusively pumping mamas though, okay?]

At the end of the day, we’re all trying to do what’s best for our children. Whether it’s physical challenges that makes conventional breastfeeding not possible or emotional challenges that make it difficult, you are still doing what is best for your child. I applaud you, Mama, for taking on extra work. For not only giving your sweet baby that bottle of breast milk but for also pumping that breast milk, cleaning the parts, storing the milk and then starting it all over again in two hours. If I could see you now, I would be standing up from my chair, huge cheesy grin on my face applauding you and saying, “Bravo! Bravo!” Then I would give you a big ‘ol hug, and I must confess, I’m not a hugger. You deserve it though. Cheers to you, lady, cheers to you!

Pumping breastmilk
Photo by LOvB Photography

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