By Jayne Thompson
Six countries, ten flights, a backpack and ... a newborn? Suddenly the Internet is full of stories about intrepid young women who refuse to let motherhood derail their travel plans. While the rest of us struggle with feeding and a soul-crushing shortage of sleep, these travel-mad moms are packing up baby and saying "yes" to adventure in Asia, Africa, and Australia. Shockingly, most make the audacious claim that, far from being a hassle, it's actually pretty easy to include baby in an itinerant lifestyle.
Skeptical that a trip with a newborn could be relaxing, we did some digging. It turns out that the momventurers were right. With a few strategic purchases and a lot of planning, it is possible to travel with a baby on board. Here's how to pack up your newborn and spend your maternity leave in globetrotting style.
Prepare, prepare, prepare (then pack)
Fair warning: if you fail to prepare none of the rest matters. Your trip will suck. So take a long look at the things you use on a daily basis. What essentials do you absolutely need (diapers, wipes, clothes, baby sleeping bag, bug repellant?) Next, put those essentials into one big pile. How much does it weigh? Could you carry it? Remember that you will be carrying baby as well. Can you buy these things at your destination?
Now challenge yourself to reduce the pile by half. Newborns don't need much more than a boob or a bottle, and it is no fun traveling tough terrain while carrying the kitchen sink. Go on, you know you can do it!
Food for thought
If you're breastfeeding then, great choice! The best time to travel is when baby is exclusively breastfed since they will get immunity from your milk. If you've opted to bottle feed, then you will need to consider water contamination. Shop around for the most streamlined travel bottle feeding system on the market and plan your itinerary around access to formula, clean water and sterilization options. It's worth taking an insulated flask so you can carry boiled water with you wherever you go.
A carrier for all occasions
Baby carrier is a lifesaver since prams/strollers are far too cumbersome for the road. For newborns, a front carrier or baby sling is ideal - just make sure that you can wear it while carrying your backpack and that it is sturdy enough to give you hands-free access in everything that you do. There are many option to choose from here at keepbabyclose.
Consider sleeping arrangements
If baby sleeps in their own cot, you'll need to purchase a pop up travel cot (with mosquito net if you are traveling to malaria-risk regions.) In the weeks leading up to your trip, put your baby in the travel cot so they can get used to their new sleeping arrangements. If you are going to be moving around a lot, get baby used to sleeping in the baby carrier for naps. Otherwise you're going to be severely restricted in what you can do during nap times - which can be as much as 20 hours per day.
Think about car seats
Every country has different car seat laws and it's essential to look into these before you go. You trip will be a disaster if you can't hop in a cab because you didn't have a carseat. While there are some pop-up travel seats on the market, many are not suitable for very young babies. Shop around before you go. The alternative is to travel exclusively by public transport. Most countries let you carry baby on your lap on a train, bus or subway.
Practice makes perfect
For a few weeks before your trip, it's a good idea to put baby in a carrier and take him on excursions. If possible, take your packed backpack as well and make sure that you can walk without chafing your back and hips, as well as negotiate feeding and nap times. This is a great opportunity to check whether you have overpacked and establish whether you have the temperament for on-the-road motherhood.
Book a hotel for the first nights of your trip
You can be as flexible as you like the rest of the time, but for the first few nights, it's essential to book an apartment or a hotel. You'll relax more in comfortable surroundings which in turn allow you to get over jet lag, find your bearings, and establish your new routine.
Take it slowly
Traveling with a baby is like living with a baby - everything needs to be done much more slowly. Make sure to factor in nap and relaxation time around all the tourist plans. Some days, neither you nor your baby will be up for adventure. Give yourself permission to go with these moods and don't feel pressured into doing something that will make you both grouchy.
Final piece of advice? If you're feeling adventurous, get it out of your system now whilst baby is less mobile. It may take a little planning, but it is so much easier compared to when they start walking. So go on, give it a try. You'll be glad you did!