The Gluten Bigot

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Series | Traveling with(out) a Baby - Work Travel and Transporting Breastmilk

My friends who have my blog on their RSS feed are probably now cringing. As are those who just love GF posts. I realize that discussing breastfeeding is akin to discussing your personal toileting behavior. But this post is really important to me.

When Bricklet was 6 months old, and I had been back to work for 3 months, I had my first business trip since my return from maternity leave. Not only was it my first trip away from my squish. It was my first trip as a mom who exclusively breastfed. I knew the trip was coming, so I had lots of time to research and plan. What frustrated me was there was almost no good information online about SAFELY transporting breastmilk home after the trip. As a frequent traveller, I needed that milk to come home.

From here on out is all about breastmilk before, during, and after the trip. Note I did this 3 times that quarter, twice on intercontinental flights. This includes transporting it home.

Preparing for travel
If you are a career loving momma who occassionally (or frequently) travels, preparation is key! If you feed breastmilk only, that means establishing your relationship with your pump. You'll do this when you go back to work anyways, but any time you feel you can add a pump to get a surplus do it. When Bricklet dropped his late evening feed at 12 weeks, I started pumping before bed. I kept this pump until he was 11.5 months old. At the beginning it yielded 4oz, it peaked at 7-8oz, and at the end was about 2oz. This pump gave me runway to freeze breastmilk daily, along with any other overage from my workday pumps. 

If you supplement with formula, decide if you want to build a freezer stash, or just go all formula while you travel.

How much breastmilk will you need?
This ranges by baby. According to every reputable resource I read, the answer is 25-30oz per day. Bricklet was 30oz per day. If you're a working mama you probably already pump and know the range while you're not there of what they get. I guessed mine based on level of 'fullness' and pumping output. The pediatrician also verified 30oz was a good amount for Bricklet. 

Once you pick your amount (go high if you're not sure), multiply by the number of days you are traveling. In my case I needed 270oz. When I left I had +400oz in the freezer.

Pumping while Traveling
If you are choosing to maintain breastfeeding, pumping is going to happen. A lot. You'll want to maintain feed frequency, maybe +1 to maintain supply. 

While at the airport, I always pumped prior to boarding. Luckily I had lounge access, so I used the shower stalls. Bathroom stalls are gross, but will do. If you're lucky the airport has a family room you can use.

In the air, I used the bathroom. I read some women pumped in their seats with a nursing cover. I did not feel comfortable doing this. Do tell a flight attendant that you will be in the washroom for ___ minutes to pump. Otherwise they knock every few minutes and a major queue will form (I learned that one the hard way). This is necessary on a long haul. For a domestic / short trip, try to time pumps around, and pump upon arrival to minimize stress.

What to do with the Milk?
My first few trips, bringing it home was non-negotiable. We needed that milk. Towards the end it became a choice. I brought the milk home twice, once on a long haul, once short. To determine what to save, I considered shelf life in a mini-fridge (5 days max), length of trip, and how much I would bring back. I typically binned whatever I got in the air so I didn't need to worry about santizing pump parts.

Each place I went when I was bringing it home, I arranged a fridge or selected the hotel based on availability.  I kept the milk I could (anything within 5 days old at time of my arrival). I chose not to freeze as it's easier to keep sufficiently cold vs. frozen.

Transporting milk on a long haul (or short flight)
I got a large cooler bag. Spend on this because quality matters. I bought a bunch of icepacks as well - this was not necessary (I will get there). The hotel I stayed at in the UK froze all my ice packs and brought them to my room when I requested them. In the US I had issues with hotels agreeing to do this. 

Packing this bag effectively is key to the milk staying good for the long haul. Each milk bag was touching at least one frozen ice pack, these were packed into freezer ziploc bags. The milk bags I brought extra quart and liter ziploc bags, and filled these at the ice machine. The ziploc bags of ice filled all remaining space. I packed the polar bag into my checked bag (cooler than the cabin - and wasn't allowed to carry it on). 

When I flew LHR-EWR, I opened the bag as soon as I got home (door to door was about 12 hours), the ice was still frozen. Literally there was barely any melt. All the milk was still cold, I spot check smelled a few which we fine. All went into the freezer. I also had success on a short haul, and employed this strategy on a flight SFO-SYD (with a lunch cooler bag). 

Hope this helps other mommas out there that need to travel without their little one, or are pumping while traveling with!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Series | Traveling with a Toddler - 12 to 18 months

This post is bringing me up to date! Bricklet is 16 months old now. Since turning one, he has been to Orlando, Spain and France, and Vancouver. We are going to do a few weekend trips this summer. 

My grievance with traveling with a toddler this age is that they don't totally understand what's going on and you can't explain it to them yet. At the same time, most toddlers this age are active walkers (or at least proficient crawlers), and temper tantrums are becoming a thing.

TOP TIP: If you are embarking on a long haul, consider buying your toddler his/her own seat. It's not required until they are two, but lap babies on long flights don't do well at this size or phase of development. You will all be more comfortable! Bonus for point collectors; get their frequent flier number so they can start getting points. Nothing is cooler than your one year old having status!

What to bring

  • At this point we've cracked and Bricklet now has his own tablet full of Fisher Price apps. (long story)
  • Meals and snacks and milk
  • Coloring books and crayons are great! Plus the usual books and toys.
  • Make the baby carry their own weight. We got a leash/backpack for Bricklet and I have got to say so far I'm a fan. We don't put much in it, but a few things that are good to have handy.
  • Since little one is probably drinking whole milk now, just bring bottles and buy milk once you're through security. It's overpriced but saves hassel.
At the airport
  • Use that backpack/leash and have that toddler walk! For our last flight, Bricklet went from security all the way to our gate at EWR terminal C (it's big!). 
  • Get fresh fruit, yogurt, milk, etc at the newstand.
  • Baby carrier is still good
  • Mind your belongings! Trying to keep up with Bricklet, who likes to dash off, scattered my brain and resulted in me misplacing my mobile phone in an airport in France. Not cool. Before leaving an area check to make sure you have: your passport, wallet, electronics, baby, mind, etc.
In the air
  • If you used to rely on breastfeeding and have weaned - think fast! 
  • Give milk or water during take off and landing.
  • Keep your toddler content with toys, movies, apps, whatever you need to do. 
  • Aisle walking. This is also a great opportunity to have them make nice with fellow passengers in case any yelling occurs, or to apologize if yelling has occurred.
  • Napping - if possible. Bricklet has never slept well while being held. This has been annoying only when flying. Now he has learned to sleep on us while flying (we've just been doing it so much lately!), but he cries a few minutes before falling asleep. On my last flight an awesome passenger sitting behind me distracted him by turning on and off his phone screen - enough to capitvate Bricklet's attention, but not enough to keep him awake. He fell asleep within two minutes. I profusely mouthed 'THANK YOU' to said passenger - I hope he knows how awesome it is for doing that instead of being an asshole who side eyed me.
  • Toddler tantrums happen. Parent as you do. Ignore those that are judging you - you'll never see them again. 
  • Ignore assholes. Bricklet had an ear infection AND pink eye the week prior to our flight to Spain. It was a red eye flight. He was done for the last 2 hours of the flight and just YELLED. The awful hag seated behind us who was being a cow about it was not helping the situation. The people being supportive, or at least polite, were helping it.
At your destination
  • You definitely want kid friendly activities now! Parks, aquariums, beaches. If you're visiting France I recommend carousels!
  • Toddler proof the room. Move things if needed, have furniture taken out. 
  • If your little friend has outgrown the pack and play / cribs, you may have to have a bed or a cot for them. You can also consider inflatable toddler beds (like this), or inflatable toddler rails for the bed.
Every trip seems harder, and I look back and say, 'wow, it was so easy when he was ___ months old.' Traveling with a baby, or toddler, has its challenges at any ages. I look forward to when Bricklet is old enough to play on his own for greater amounts of time, or to watch a movie (even a tv show!) so I can watch my own or read as I used to love on personal flights.

Have you traveled with your toddler? Do you still have success with having him or her as a lap held baby? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Series | Traveling with a Baby - 6-12 Months Old

Honestly, I think 6 to 9 months was one of the funnest ages yet to travel with Bricklet. He was aware and wanted to explore what was going on. Being at our destination was easier because he was down to two naps (for the most part).

At 7 months old we went on a three week trip. Our first stop was San Francisco (again) before going to Sydney for two weeks. My husband and I needed to go to both for work, and had the genius idea to line up the trips and all go together so neither of us had to be away from Warren, he turned eight months old while we were in Sydney. Then we went to Puerto Rico for holiday and he turned 9 months old there. We then had a lull in travel and he didn't fly until just after his first birthday.

What to bring
  • Everything from before still stands. 
  • Interactive toys and apps are going to occupy baby the longest on the flight
  • They should definitely have solids now, so make sure and have more than enough for the flight and delays.
At the airport
  • You probably have a walker or crawler now. Make sure they have a chance to move before the flight!
  • Baby carrier is still awesome
In flight
  • If you are on a longhaul, you can request a bassinet. Baby may be outgrowing it now - there is a height and weight restriction.
  • If you're flying with your significant other or a helper, take shifts. Having dedicated baby / rest time will keep your battery charged.
  • Napping may or may not happen on flight. Hopefully you were able to keep that in mind when you booked.
  • Walk the aisle, especially if baby is walking with assistance.
At the hotel
This is be the same as when baby was 3-6 months. At this age, find out if there are parks around to visit. The pool is also super fun at this age! If any furniture could be hazardous to a walker, you can move it or ask for it to be taken out.

At your destination
Mix activities you want to do with baby friendly activities. Napping on the go becomes more problematic at this age for most babies. Balance skipped or bad naps from napping on the go, with naps in the hotel room so that baby can be well rested (and happy when you are out and about). At this age, we added in a few things just for Bricklet, but for the most part the things we did interested him (light hiking, the zoo in Australia was just us much for us as it was for him, etc). 

If you are traveling to a different timezone, consider if you want to adjust, or how much you want to adjust. For example when we were in San Francisco, we ended up completely adjusting within 2 days, and again in Australia. But in PR there was an hour difference so we left his schedule almost as is.

What was your favorite trip you took with your baby?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Series | Traveling with a Baby - 3 to 6 Months Old

Welcome to part II of the traveling with a baby series! If you haven't seen it already, check out part one which is traveling with a newborn. When Bricklet was 4 months we did a car trip to Montreal, a trip to the NJ shore, and a flight to Vancouver at just shy of 6 months.

My first tip is, do not do a long car ride. We drove Montreal to New York and back and it was horrible. Bricklet was done with being in his car seat 3 hours into the trip both ways. It was convenient to haul so much of his crap with us, but we have sworn off making that drive until he can watch movies.

What to bring
  • Same as before, plus
  • More toys and books. Baby interacts more now, and this will help keep him or her occupied while traveling and at your destination
  • If you have introduced solids / purees, bring some for the trip. Note purees may be difficult to find in some countries.
At the airport
  • Baby food is also exempt from liquid restrictions.
  • Use that baby carrier still!
  • If little one is crawling, get to the airport a bit early so that you can give them some floor time to crawl around. Have extra wipes to sanitize hands.
In flight
  • It's a bit tricker with your 3-6 month old as they are really aware, curious, and possibly moving on their own.
  • Occupy with toys and books noted above.
  • I don't recommend putting baby down, since they will put everything in their mouth.
  • Be open to screentime. We were really opposed and really didn't let him have screentime until he was almost 12 months. Be inflight was the except, and our hat trick if needed.
At the hotel
Some baby proofing may be needed. Block electric sockets with luggage, you can even ask to have things taken out if they are not needed. If baby has solids, try to book a room with a mini-fridge - or at least verify they can provide one (sometimes at cost) for medical supplies (i.e. breastmilk).

Aside from the awful car trip, looking back traveling with under 6 month old Bricklet was actually easy. Yes, still much more stuff to travel with, but he still slept a lot and wasn't really crawling yet.

What's your trick to keeping baby occupied in flight? Any favorite apps?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Feeling Glam at Tao

Having a babysitter is awesome. My husband and I get out at least biweekly for baby-free time while he sleeps.

A few weeks ago we went to Tao in the Meatpacking District. Tao is not new, is still trendy enough that I had to book a table several weeks in advance, and is surprisingly larger. I was made a major fan. 

Aside from loving the pretentiousness of the place, the cocktails were a great start (have the Tiger Lilly). The design was really neat. I loved the how tables were stadium style as you ascended to the dining floor. We got a booth in one of those tables which was awesome for people watching. Decor was spot on. Music loud but you could still have a conversation. The bathrooms were mildly confusing.

What will bring me back was the food. I had the crispy chicken, which was incredible. For sides my husband and I shared barbecue duck fried rice, and wok-fried szechuan potatoes. Honestly, the GF / seafood free options were limited (could be expected), but they certainly had enough to keep me happy. You can't go wrong with duck fried rice afterall. 

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