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18 Tips for Traveling with Baby

By Gen Cohen

Have a fun and stress-free vacation with baby by navigating on-the-go naps, time differences and cramped hotel rooms

By Colleen Lanin, Originally published on parenting.com

Does "vacationing" with your baby sound like an oxymoron? As someone who has ventured on road trips, beach getaways, cruises and more with my two kids, and who is writing a book about family travel—The Travel Mamas' Guide—I know that vacations now are not as easy as they were prebaby. And while there are tons of tips on how to get there, there's not much advice for how to manage once you arrive. A few simple tricks have saved some of my family's trips.

Strategic Unpacking

Just as important as what you pack—and you can check out get-ready checklists here—in my opinion, is how you unpack.

Do it immediately

As soon as you arrive (unless someone in the family is overly cranky or tired), set up your room to make it as close to home as possible. Put the baby in the playpen or hotel crib with a pile of toys and occupy an older kid with a coloring book. Or have your partner take the older sibling out to get the lay of the land while you unpack. Settling in will help you remain organized (and sane) throughout your stay.

Designate a baby-changing station

Bring a box of wipes, lay out a changing pad (I like to put a disposable changing pad on top of a hotel towel) and stack a bunch of diapers in one area. That way, you won't need to chase down the diaper bag when that first big poop occurs.

Create a play space...

Stash toys and books on a low shelf or in a drawer, or keep all the playthings in one corner. Creating a place for your baby to play will make the room feel homey and keep it from looking like a disaster area.

...and a kitchen

Even if your room doesn't have a kitchen or bar area, establish a spot where you'll keep bottles, dishes, baby food, snacks, formula and dish soap. Sometimes the bathroom is best if it has the only sink in the room.

Napping Smarts

Your baby needs her naps, but you don't want to spend your whole vacation watching her snooze. Follow these strategies for squeezing in that daytime sleep:

Start walking

When my daughter, Karissa, was a baby, she wouldn't nap in a strange crib while on vacation. So we planned our days around taking long walks with her napping in a stroller. Some momsadvise bringing the lightest, most compact umbrella stroller on vacation to save room, but I always pack a stroller that reclines completely to make stroller slumber easier.

Wear your baby

If your baby doesn't sleep well in a stroller, try a front carrier (like the BabyBjorn) or baby backpack. If you've never used one at home but think it might be convenient on vacation, try it out a few times before you leave. Not all babies will like it, and it might be too hard on your back.

Go for a scenic drive

Try taking leisurely drives to check out the area while your baby naps in the car seat. And on some trips, you can coordinate drive time between destinations with sleep time.

Take turns nap-sitting

If your tot isn't an in-transit sleeper, don't be afraid to schedule naps back in the room. While it's a different vacation rhythm than you're probably used to, an a.m. break and midday siesta can be relaxing for you, too. Just consider your baby's napping style when booking accommodations; if you'll need to return to the room often, a hotel near the beach may be a better bet than a spot farther away, even if it's a bit pricier. If you can, book a room with a balcony or patio so the parent "on duty" can enjoy the outdoors, too.

Easier Bedtimes

One of the most worrisome things about traveling with a baby is getting your tot to sleep in a new place. Here's how to up your odds of at least a few peaceful nights:

Do some trial runs

If you're bringing a portable travel bed, have your baby sleep in it for a few nights before you leave. That way, it will feel like a familiar, comfy spot to go night-night on vacation.

Give it a few days

While it can be tempting to throw in the blankie and drive home in the middle of a sleepless vacation night with an inconsolable baby, I implore you to power through. Eventually, babies will adjust to their new surroundings and schedule, and sleep. If you can survive a couple of nights, I am (almost) willing to promise happy vacation days ahead.

Book the right room(s)

If bedding down in the same room means no one will get any sleep, consider booking a suite or connecting rooms. A suite may offer the convenience of a kitchen area, but connecting rooms may afford more space at a cheaper price.

Stick to the routine

If your baby's bedtime ritual at home includes a bath, lullabies and a bottle, do the same on vacation to make up for the change in location.

Get adjusted

Instead of expecting your infant to shift her internal clock and adjust to a new time zone, shift your day: Stay up later or get up earlier than usual by a few hours.

Meals on Wheels

Sampling local cuisine and splurging on restaurant meals are vacation pleasures I refuse to give up. Dining with babies can be done.

Breakfast in Bed

Because our times to swim, hike, shop or visit an aquarium are limited by morning and afternoon naps, it makes sense for the entire family to eat something quick in the hotel room. So we pack plenty of ready-made breakfast foods like mini-bagels, cereal bars and fruit (bananas, apples).

BYOF

If your baby drinks formula, it helps to pack more than you think you'll need. To save space, empty powdered formula into zipper-lock plastic bags. Or order heavy staples like diapers and formula—even baby shampoo—from a site such as diapers.com or Babiestravellite.com that will ship to your destination (and since you won't have to carry the formula, consider splurging on the ready-to-feed type).

Nurse wherever you feel comfortable

You can breastfeed anywhere you are legally allowed to be.

Bend the rules

To enjoy dinners out, you may have to encourage what you would normally consider bad behavior. I don't let my kids watch TV while eating at home, but we always bring portable DVD players when we eat out. Putting on some Sesame Street for them allows us to actually taste the food we're shelling out big bucks for.

Eat early

Sure, a romantic dinner would normally be at 8 p.m., but by dining out at 5:30, you'll likely have an empty restaurant, room to park your stroller, and a short wait for your food. Alternatively, if your newborn loves to sleep in her car seat, make later reservations and then feed her a bottle or nurse her while you wait for your appetizers. Hopefully, she'll be out for the rest of the meal.

 

Now, go enjoy! Toss out all your old ideas about what a vacation should be and embrace the new craziness that is traveling with a baby. Laugh at the fact that you're at the local playground by 6 a.m. and in bed for the night at 8 p.m. Consider all the gear and baby-lugging as great vacation exercise. And then savor going back home to "regular" life that much more.

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10 Things Autism Parents Wish You Knew

By Gen Cohen

Read the heartfelt article below to get your autism facts straight and to learn 10 things every child with autism (and their parents) wishes you knew.

Originally shared on autism speaks

Kristi Campbell is a semi-lapsed career woman with about 18 years of marketing experience in a variety of national and global technology companies. While she does work part-time, her passion is writing and drawing stupid-looking pictures for her blog Finding Ninee, focused on finding humor and support for her special needs son. 

The word autism entered my heart as a whisper. It later entered my brain as a possibility. Later still, it entered my life. I think I knew, long before I knew.

I worried, bought a book on autism, devoured it, and then felt like that must not be what my son has. He was nothing like the boy in the book. Nothing.  ”Maybe,” I thought, “he just has a language delay.”

I waited for him to start speaking more. For him to start playing in the way that he was supposed to play. He did play though, unlike the boy in the book, so certainly, his issues were different. Less “severe?”

Never mind that he had an egg-sized bruise on his forehead for six weeks at the age of 18 months from banging his head on the floor. As quickly as that behavior started, it went away. I stopped worrying about it. I mean, it no longer existed. Sure, he ran laps around the house. But only when he was tired. Don’t all kids do that? Don’t they all twirl their hair, around and around and around, while drinking a bottle? 

I’ve mentioned before that parents and friends assured us that Tucker would catch up, and that his delays were likely due to me being at home with him as a baby.

They were wrong.

I was wrong.

I remember one day, when I looked at my son and with a fearful, time-stopping heart, I wondered whether he was deaf. He wasn’t responding to me that day. Then, I gave him a little at-home test, and he responded. I let myself believe that everything was fine. What did I know? I had no other child in the house to compare him to. He loves to snuggle, and, from what I’d read, autistic children do not. He looks at me in the eyes. Deeply. With meaning and intent. I’d already learned from Dr. Google that children with autism don’t make eye contact…

Here. Four years later. Does Tucker look like anything other than a little boy having fun in the snow?

Autism doesn't look like anything but the way it looks. It doesn't look like Rain Man. It doesn't always include hand-flapping, rocking, or issues with language. Sometimes, it does. But, sometimes, it doesn't.

Last night, I reached out to my IRL PAC tribe.

I asked them what they wish the world knew about autism and special needs and based on their feedback, I compiled this list of 10 things every child with autism (and their parents) wishes you knew:

10 Things Special Needs and Autism Parents Wish You Knew:  

  1. People don’t need to feel awkward when they’re around my son. Yeah, they may need to treat him a little differently, but I wish they wouldn’t be weirded out.
  2. Not all autism is the same.
  3. People seem to think that because my son isn’t like the one single other person they know on the spectrum, that he must not be autistic.
  4. These kids love. They need love. They are wonderful and bring enormous joy and laughter to those who love them.
  5. Knowing one child with autism doesn’t mean anything really – they’re all so different. Please don’t tell me my son doesn’t have it because he looks so different from the other kid you know on the spectrum.
  6. Kids with special needs are smart. Talented. Creative, and thoughtful. It may not be obvious all the time – their minds work differently.
  7. If my daughter is making strange noises, feel free to look. She’s just making them because she’s excited. Please don’t stand there and gape at us with your mouth hanging open.
  8. If you see my son in a grocery store, he may be head nuzzling, chewing on the corner of his shirt, or spinning. He’s anxious. I will not scold him, so please do not look at me as if I should. He can’t help how his body receives stimuli. He is trying to cope with the way his body is affected by his surroundings.
  9. From onlookers who think I am not addressing my child’s odd behaviors: I ask for a little empathy. Don’t judge. Try to understand that his environment strongly affects him.
  10. Please accept our kids the way that you assume we will accept yours.

I think I’m speaking for all of us when I say that what we really want you to know, what we’re screaming out loud, is that we, as mothers, are both terrified and brave.

Just like you.

That while our children may act differently from what you’re familiar with, they are our normals. That they’re full of emotion, fierce love, tender hearts, and hope.

Hope.

Our special needs kids are here, on purpose, and OutLoud.

Even when they’re silent.

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22 Outdoor Activities Perfect For Fall Weekends

By Gen Cohen

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Combat Your Child's Fall Allergies With These 7 Tips

By Gen Cohen

Combat Your Child's Fall Allergies With These 7 Tips

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4 essentials for a second baby

By Gen Cohen

4 essentials for a second baby

We’ve chatted SECOND BABY REGISTRY GUIDE already, but today I’m here to cover the four essentials you absolutely need when you’re expecting baby #2. Sure, everything on the registry guide will make your life easier, but I’m talking about the down and dirty four things you absolutely cannot live without if you value your sanity and your baby’s happiness. Ready?

 

 

1. A swing, bouncer, baby chair, etc.: If this is your second baby, chances are you’re already chasing around another child–washing hands, making snacks, general “parent-of-a-toddler” stuff. You’re going to want a swing or rocker to put your baby down in. Somewhere safe and off the ground (so said first child can’t accidentally step on the baby) and somewhere that will entertain or soothe her. With Oscar I had the 4MOMS MAMAROO and I found it to be far superior to any chair or swing I used with Harry. That little contraption bought me tens of minutes at a time when I needed to put Oscar down to tend to Harry stuff.

2. A good wrap or carrier: Going off that thread, you’re going to find there are times when your baby just wants to be held. Remember that from baby #1? I remember working through Harry’s late nap with him laying on my shoulder. But the second time around, things are a little different. A good wrap or carrier is worth it’s weight in gold (and then some because if it’s really good it won’t weigh much). My favorites are our SOLLY BABY WRAP and our WILDBIRD SLING.

3.A double stroller: You’ve got two kids now, so it’s might be time to upgrade your stroller. A good double stroller will make your trips to the store, your jogs, your zoo field trips, etc. easier. We actually have two different double strollers, but that may not be necessary based on the ages of your children and your lifestyle. I use a BOB SE REVOLUTION DOULIE for my runs and our walks around town and I keep ourUPPABABY VISTA in the car and take it anytime we travel. I love them both!

4. Diapers: If it seems obvious, that’s because it is. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need diapers! If your older child is already potty trained, you’ll want to get back into the habit of picking up a pack or two of diapers when you’re shopping–or you can bust out the old CLOTH DIAPERS. If you’re still changing older sibling’s diapers, you’re going to want to think about doubling up and what that means for you in terms of gear. Definitely more diapers, wipes, and maybe even a second changing station?

It’s kind of surprising both A) how much you have everything you already need for baby #2 and B) how little you actually need! What do you think–did we cover everything? Anything else you would add to the “essential” list?

 

 

...and of course, our ro•sham•bo baby sunglasses ;)

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8 Awesome Baby Shower Gifts

By Gen Cohen

8 Great Baby Shower Gifts for the Mom-to-be

By Gen Cohen

 

Everyone knows how stressful (but wonderful) our lives become once we bring a new tiny human into this world. All of a sudden our days are centered around eating and pooping, and we're not even the ones doing it. But alas, lucky for you you have a wonderful network of friends and family who helped ease you in to this transition by getting you the best baby shower gifts ever!

 

1. Laundry Basket DIY

You wouldn't believe how many loads of laundry the mom-to-be is about to run for the next 5 years. Why not get her started with an adorable basket like this full of baby clothes, detergent, blankets, diapers, etc. To make one exactly like the one shown above, check out what The Inspired Hive did here!

 

2. Washable and Squashable High Chair

How great is this portable high chair? It fits on most chairs for when you want to visit friends, family, or dare to take baby out to a restaurant. The best part is, you can just throw it in the washing machine after baby spills spaghetti all over it for the 3rd time. Buy it here.

 

3. Diaper Dekor

Diapers..as expected do not smell as adorable as the baby they are attached to. The mom-to-be will be so grateful to have a special diaper trash bin that is an attractive, odor-free disposal system receptacle. Buy it here.

 

4. A Classy, Functional Diaper Bag

You wouldn't believe how much stuff a tiny human needs. No purse is big enough to handle the depths of babies needs. Try a chic diaper bag like this one so mom can still look fashion forward and functional. Buy it here.

5.  Sleep Safe, Sleep Tight

The safest crib is one that’s completely bare—no pillows, blankets or stuffed toys—so a Halo SleepSack is the smart, cozy choice for those cool nights. This product is also backed by First Candle/SIDS Alliance, which awarded it the #1 Safe Sleep Product gold seal. ($24.99, target.com)

Courtesy of parenting.com

 

7. Gift cards!

It's almost too easy, right? It's amazing how quickly mom's can run through things like diapers and formula, or how they can realize they forget to register for something that they really needed. Sure, it may not come in a big frilly basket or be covered in pink or blue ribbon, but trust us, no one was ever disappointed to get a gift card.

8. Ro•sham•bo baby sunglasses!

This one is a given. What better way to say, "I love your baby," by protecting one of their most important features -- their eyes! If you're feeling extra generous, buy mom a pair so the two can match on their daily outings! Check out our baby options here!

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The 6 Biggest New-Mom Surprises of Baby's First Year

By Gen Cohen

The 6 Biggest New-Mom Surprises of Baby's First Year

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10 Activities to do Outside this Summer

By Gen Cohen

By Gen Cohen

 

We've already shared some of the best sunscreens to wear when taking your tot outside, and you already know to cover their eyes with our awesome shades, but what can you do outside other than hanging out by the pool (if you are lucky enough to have access to one)?

 

Here are 10 outside activities for kids that are a great way to spend the afternoon that the whole family can enjoy:

 

1. DIY garden rock caterpillar

 

 

Pick up some outdoor paint at your local craft store and find some rocks outside to make this adorable little caterpillar! If you're feeling extra crafty, cover the rocks with modge podge to keep the paint from peeling.

 

2. DIY Sand Slime 

 

Get a little messy with this sand slime activity. Instructions here!

 

3. Noodle Racetrack

 

Get a little competitive with this noodle racetrack DIY. Supplies should cost less than $5, if that! Detailed instructions can be found here.

 

4. DIY Backyard Bowling

Go bowling...for free! Just grab those soda bottles out of your recycling bin and use an old tennis ball (or any ball really) and you're already 1/2 way there! Bonus points for painted bottles. Get complete instructions here!

 

5. DIY Spray Chalk

Release your child's inner Van Gogh with this crafty activity. The best part? I'll bet you a nickel you've already got all the necessary supplies at home. Chalk recipe here!

 

6. DIY Mini Paper Kites

Do you live in a windy city like San Diego? Make these kites and head to the beach where you can show off your one of a kind goodies! Full directions here.

 

7. Make Your Very Own Bubble Snake

How cool is this? Make some with your kids this weekend with instructions here!

 

8. DIY Mason Jar Fairy Light

"All you need is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust!" Or mason jars and some glow sticks...whichever you can grab! For complete instructions, go here!

 

9. Giant Lawn Dominoes

What's better than regular sized dominoes? Giant dominoes of course! If you're like most of us and don't have a saw handy, just use cardboard. Instructions here!

 

10. Dig For Treasure 

And last, but certainly not least, get inspired by this pirate themed party activity here!

 

Thanks again for tuning in and checking out these fun outdoor activities for kids, and enjoy outdoor playtime this summer! Oh, and don't forget to protect your eyes by wearing your ro•sham•bo sunglasses.

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