10 Tips For Air Travel With Baby (And Free Packing Checklist!)

January 24, 2017

Air travel can be stressful enough as a party of one—and adding a baby to the mix takes it up a notch (or 10). I know this because my husband and I recently flew with our almost-five-month-old son. Fortunately, though, not only did we live to tell about it, but we lived to tell about it without any tears (from baby or me). Air high-five!

Below are 10 tips we followed or learned during our trip that helped us fly there and back sans crying. You can also download a free checklist for packing for baby by clicking the blue button at the end of this post.

This post contains some affiliate links.

One. Give Yourself Plenty of Time. This is obvious, but it’s worth reiterating. Gone are the days of casually strolling into the airport with a carry-on bag and grabbing an adult beverage before you hit your gate. Okay, maybe you’ll still grab an adult beverage, but know that the whole process—from packing your and baby’s suitcase to boarding your flight—takes more time with a little one in tow, so give yourself a buffer.

How much of a buffer? I started packing the day before we left and wished I would have started a couple days sooner. Tiny humans require so much stuff and most of it is mission critical. To ensure I left nothing behind, I made a checklist of baby items to pack, which you can download for free at the end of this post.

You’ll also need a buffer the day of your flight. We left for the airport about an hour earlier than we otherwise would have if we were not traveling with baby. This ended up being plenty early, but it was nice to be able to feed the baby, change his diaper, and grab a latte (priorities) before we boarded without being in a mad dash.

Two. Remove Your Baby Wipes From Your Bag When You Go Through Security. Turns out, baby wipes look suspicious on the x-ray screen, and the TSA agent might dismantle your entire diaper bag while you stand there for 10 minutes holding a 20-pound baby and trying to put your shoes back on. Trust me, it can happen—it did happen to us on our outbound flight. Solution? On our return flight, we removed the wipes from the bag and put them in a bin so TSA could easily see what they were. Problem solved and no diaper bags dismantled.

Three. Buy A Car Seat Travel Bag. A car seat travel bag serves two purposes: (1) it minimizes the number of dings your car seat is sure to endure when you check it; and (2) it makes it easier to carry your car seat to and through the airport. We purchased this BRICA travel bag (currently on sale!), which can be wheeled like a suitcase or carried like a backpack (the value of hands-free travel items when traveling with baby cannot be overstated). This particular bag is made for a toddler car seat, but we used it for our son’s infant car seat and base, and it worked perfectly. We also bubble-wrapped the car seat and base before putting them in the bag for extra protection. Sorry for my trust issues, airline suitcase handlers, but I’ve seen the YouTube videos.

Four. Check Your Car Seat At The Gate. If you’re not taking your car seat on board the airplane with you for your baby to sit in (we didn’t), you can either: (1) check it as you would a suitcase and pick it up at baggage claim at your final destination; or (2) check it at your departing gate and pick it up at your arriving gate upon landing. The downside of option two is you have to carry your car seat through the airport, including on your layover if you have one, but it so beats the downside of option one: arriving at your final destination finding that your car seat did not also arrive. Probably the only thing more stressful than flying with your baby is checking your baby’s car seat with your other luggage and waiting with bated breath that it comes down the baggage carousel—otherwise, you and your baby aren’t going anywhere à la Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal.

Five. Pack A Baby Carrier And/Or Travel Stroller. We packed both the Ergobaby and a travel stroller and alternated between them. When our son wasn’t in the stroller, we used it to haul the diaper bag and coats. The Ergobaby was especially handy during the boarding process, since it freed up our hands to put our other bags away and get settled in our seats. If I was traveling alone, I would absolutely take the travel stroller so I could set my son down during critical moments, like when I need to use the restroom. We borrowed a friend’s travel stroller for our most recent trip, though I have my eye on the UPPAbaby G-LUXE for future trips. Like the car seat, you can check the travel stroller at your gate and pick it up right after you deplane.

Six. Dress Baby In Layers. Even in early January, the inside of the airplane was like a bad Katy Perry song: so hot and then cold (yep, just went there). Dressing your baby in layers allows you to adjust to the moody thermostat. We dressed our son in a long-sleeved onesie, tracksuit pants and jacket, and thick socks, and carried his beanie in the diaper bag, along with several blankets. At one point, he was completely bundled up; at another, he was stripped down to just his onesie. Layers are your baby’s friend.

Seven. Take Blankets. Lots of Blankets. We took three muslin swaddle blankets and one warm baby blanket on the plane with us, and we used every single one of them for various reasons: (1) to bundle up baby (see above); (2) to make a bed for my son to comfortably nurse and fall asleep (every flying parent’s dream); and (3) to catch and absorb my son’s projectile vomit during our final descent (see below). An additional point on (2)—if your baby likes to nurse and fall asleep on Boppy, I would consider taking Boppy on the plane. I thought about it beforehand and opted not to, since it was one more item to carry, but I would seriously consider it next time. Anything that will encourage your baby to get comfortable and nap is worth a little extra hassle.

Eight. Allow Baby To Suckle On Take-Off And Landing. Whether it be on you, a bottle, or a pacifier, allowing baby to suckle during take-off and landing supposedly helps his ears pop. Since my son does not like the bottle or pacifier, we let him nurse, which seemed to work great (no tears!), except that, in my overzealous efforts to ensure he was comfortable (and to encourage him to stay calm and sleep), I overfed him on our return flight. And (as he does when he overeats), he projectile vomited four times on our descent. Fortunately, we had four blankets and a change of clothes handy to soak it all up and get him (and me) dry before we landed.

Nine. Carry On Enough Baby Supplies To Last About 24 Hours. Air travel is unpredictable. A scheduled five-hour trip can easily turn into an overnight-in-some-random-city trip faster than you can say “inclement weather.” We came within two minutes of missing our connecting flight due to delays and, because it was the last flight out, narrowly escaped being schlepped off to a hotel. Airlines do not always give you back your checked luggage when you are stuck overnight, even when you are stuck due to their own mechanical issues. To avoid being stranded and short on baby necessities, pack enough supplies (think diapers, wipes, clothes, formula) in your carry-on luggage to last about a day. Better safe (and weighed down) than sorry.

Ten. Remember—If Your Baby Acts Like The Kanye West Of Babies, You’ll Likely Never See Any Of These People Again Anyway. Smile politely, maybe apologize, but keep on doing what’s best for your baby. The plane will land, and everyone will move on, eventually.

To download your free checklist to refer to when packing for baby, click below!


Packing For Air Travel With Baby Checklist

4 Non-Baby Things To Think About Before Baby Arrives

January 11, 2017

The nursery is decorated. Your hospital bag is packed. You’re all ready for baby.

Or are you?

Nobody wants to talk about debt or death on the brink of an occasion as joyous as birth, but better now than to delay it further. Below are four non-baby things every parent should think about before baby arrives. Baby already here (or full grown)? It’s never too late to ensure your family is protected. Start now.

{But first, a disclaimer: I happen to be an attorney, but I am not your attorney, nor am I an estate planning attorney, a financial advisor, or a life insurance agent. The following information is provided merely as friendly advice from one parent to another. As with anything you read on the internet, you should consult an expert before taking action. Also, this post contains some affiliate links, but all opinions are my own.}

One. Finances. You don’t need me to tell you babies are expensive and a huge responsibility. CBS News just reported that the estimated cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 is now $233,610. Do you create—and stick to—a monthly budget? Do you have a plan for how you’ll afford a kid, yet alone a plan to save for retirement and pay off any debt? Perhaps provide your child with a college education?

If you would have asked my husband and I these questions about four months before our son was born, we would have answered a resounding no. For too long, we had been overspending, under-saving, and (as Dave Ramsey says) treating my law school student loans like they were some kind of pet. But we flipped the switch overnight and were able to make significant changes before baby arrived—most notable of which is we paid off my student loans the same week our son was born. Starting parenthood with our financial house in order provided a kind of peace of mind probably only a human now responsible for another human can understand.

Financial makeover programs are a dime a dozen. We chose to follow Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, as described in his book, and we now wholeheartedly endorse it. This post is not sponsored by Ramsey—we just feel strongly about his program because he made it simple, doable, and (dare I say) fun. In seven steps, Ramsey will teach you how to attack your debt and approach your savings. He’ll also teach you how to budget. We use his free EveryDollar app each month to track our expenses and savings.

Not the reading type? You can learn about the seven steps through Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (a nine-week video series available in-person, online, or through the home study kit) or tune-in daily to his three-hour radio show (also available on his website, iHeart Radio, and as a podcast). His radio show is gold.

Two. Life Insurance. Will your child(ren) be protected financially if something happens to you and/or your partner? Perhaps you’re already rolling in the dough and this isn’t a concern—but if you’re not, then consider getting life insurance. My husband and I each carry term life insurance, and though we pray we live long enough to see our policies expire and our children flourish, we take some comfort in knowing our son (and any future children) will be provided for financially if something happens to either of us.

A reputable life insurance broker can advise you on whether you need life insurance and, if so, how much and for how long. Life insurance isn’t limited to parents who work outside the home—stay-at-home parents also should consider coverage based on the replacement value of in-home services they provide (i.e., childcare).

Three. Will. Not only does having a will let you dictate who gets your assets upon your death, but it also lets you dictate who will take care of your minor children. The laws governing wills are state-specific, so be sure to prepare a will that complies with the laws of your respective state. My husband and I purchased our will template from US Legal Forms, which sells state-specific will templates and templates for other important documents. You should also consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure you’re fully protected.

Four. “Legacy Box.” “Legacy Box” is a term of art coined by Ramsey, which he discusses in his book The Legacy Journey. Ramsey recommends storing your important documents in a single location (and telling your family about that location), so they have easy access to the documents if something happens to you. Important documents include your will, life insurance policy information, bank and other financial account records, car titles, passwords, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and so on. Ramsey further recommends keeping a copy of your documents in a separate safety deposit box, in case something happens to the originals.

Questions or comments about the above? Did I leave something off the list? Let me know—I appreciate your feedback and would love to hear from you!

prepare for baby budget life insurance will legacy box dave ramsey

10 Baby Items Worth the Splurge

January 1, 2017

There are certain things you need for a baby: boobs/bottles, blankets, something warm to wear. A crib would be nice too, but then again your baby might end up like mine and prefer sleeping anywhere but there.

And there are certain things you don’t need: some you wouldn’t buy again (looking at you, peepee teepee) and some you most definitely would.

Here’s my list of 10 things you don’t necessarily need (at least not these specific brands) but are worth the splurge (IMO). No buyer’s remorse here. All items are linked below, some of which are affiliate links.

One. UPPAbaby VISTA stroller. If I had an hour of sleep now for every hour we spent pushing strollers around Buy Buy Baby during my pregnancy . . . Half-kidding, but in all seriousness, this is the one baby item we researched the most because the number of options is high and the price range is wide. In the end, we decided the UPPAbaby VISTA justified the $839 price tag (or $879, depending on color), and after four months of almost daily use, we have never once regretted our decision (I could write an entire post about this stroller).

Major sellers for us included: (a) it feels sturdy and well-made (we noticed a big enough difference when pushing it versus less-costly strollers); (b) you can turn it into a double stroller by purchasing the adapters for $20; (c) it comes with a regular stroller seat and a bassinet and also works seamlessly with the UPPAbaby MESA car seat discussed below; and (d) it’s pretty (appearance mattered to us for something we were going to shell out several hundred dollars for and use almost every day for the next few years).

Additional perks I have come to appreciate after near-daily use: (a) it is easy to fold-up and put in/take out of the car (I’ve had people stop me in the parking lot to comment on this); (b) the storage basket is larger than most (possibly all) others I’ve seen—I don’t need a cart when I grocery shop; everything fits in the stroller basket; (c) you can push it easily with one hand; and (d) I can move my baby in his car seat from the car to the stroller (and vise versa) without having to mess with car seat adapters, which leads us to #2 on the list.

Two. UPPAbaby MESA car seat. The UPPAbaby MESA car seat was almost a no-brainer once we decided on the VISTA stroller, but we did additional research to make sure it was safe—and it checked out with excellent safety ratings and reviews. This, combined with its usability with the stroller and its design and overall look, made it an easy decision (even at the $299 price point). Would I buy this if I was using a different stroller? I don’t know, but if you’re looking for a good stroller/car seat combo, I think this one is hard to beat.

Three. A super soft and precious take-home outfit. If taking your baby home from the hospital for the first time isn’t cause for a special outfit, then I don’t know what is. I came across this three-piece newborn outfit from Barefoot Dreams before I was pregnant and returned to buy it soon after we learned the gender of our first-born. It currently comes in light blue, light pink, and cream, and is made of the softest material (like clouds or something, assuming clouds are soft). It’s the nicest outfit Jack owns, as it should be to justify the $60+ price tag. To make the most of it, we also used it in his newborn photos. It is now on display in his nursery, and I can hardly believe he ever fit in it. We’ll (at least I’ll) cherish it forever.

Four. Fisher Price Newborn Auto Rock ‘n’ Play Sleeper (the one that rocks on its own—this is key!). For the first several weeks of his life, this was the only place Jack would sleep besides my chest for longer than 30 minutes, which made this worth its weight in gold at times. Several moms have said the same. Fisher Price makes one that rocks automatically (the one linked above) and one you have to rock by hand (linked here, if you’re curious)—for obvious reasons, buy the automatic one. Even though it costs a bit more, it’s worth it, and it’s still reasonably priced compared to some other swings and sleepers.

Five. DockATot. In full disclosure, the DockATot didn’t earn it’s worth in our household till just before the three-month mark, but since then it too has become a much-treasured item. The magic is in the design: it supposedly recreates the snugness of the womb and is made out of breathable material, so mom and dad can rest peacefully knowing baby is safe. I’ve read many reviews of babies who, having never slept longer than three hours before, slept five hours the first night in the DockATot. I was hoping for that out-the-gate (I bought it when Jack was two weeks old and I was desperate for sleep), but it took a few weeks for Jack to settle in. Now, he regularly sleeps in it at night for six or more hours at a time, and he also naps in it wherever we put it down—our bed, his crib, the big chair in the living room. Jack can’t roll over yet, so we still feel safe using it in his crib and in the big chair, but we’ll stop doing so once he gets close to rolling. We’ve also traveled with it, which is great because it provides a portable, familiar sleeping surface for baby even when your surroundings change.

DockATot makes two sizes: the Deluxe (for 0 to 8 months) and the Grand (for 9 to 36 months). As of now, Jack is a large four-month-old (95th+ percentile for weight and height) and he still has room to grow in the Deluxe. We may upgrade to the Grand when we hit that point depending on Jack’s sleep needs (i.e., preferences).

Six. 4moms Infant Tub. I went back and forth on baby tubs longer than I care to admit. The frugal side of me kept adding this $16 plastic tub to our baby registry, while the oh-that’s-flashy side of me kept removing and replacing it with the $50 4moms infant tub. Ultimately, we went with the 4moms tub, and I’m so glad we did. The key closing point was the water thermometer built into the tub. The screen lights up blue if the water is too cold, green if the water is just right, and red if the water is too hot—plus, it beeps if the water is too hot, doubly ensuring baby is safe. I used to think I could gauge water temperature pretty good on my own. Turns out, I’m wrong, and without the 4moms, I would be routinely bathing my baby in water too warm for his new skin. It also has a clean water reservoir and allows you to drain dirty water while allowing fresh water to flow in. This comes in handy because turns out babies (or at least mine) like to take care of business in the tub. #multitasking

Seven. aden + anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets. Read any mom blog or visit any baby store and you’ll quickly learn that these blankets are all the rage, particularly when it comes to swaddling baby. A four-pack on Amazon will run you around $50, depending on the print, but trust me—if you’ve never swaddled a baby before, these will make your life so much easier (for a while, Jack had to be swaddled to sleep soundly or his startle reflex would wake him). Plus, they’re soft, durable, breathable, and cute. I bought two packs before Jack was born and ordered a third pack the first week postpartum. We have them in every room, car, bag, and so on. We no longer swaddle Jack, but we still use them like we would any regular blanket. They also make for great car seat and stroller blankets and nursing covers, since they’re lightweight and aren’t too warm like a thick cotton cover.

Eight. Honest Company Diaper Bundle. Yet another item I Googled for seemingly hours on end during my second trimester: does baby need to wear organic diapers? Are they worth the extra cost? Short answers: no, I personally don’t think Jack needs to wear organic diapers, and they probably aren’t worth the extra cost (they’re just diapers, after all), but Jessica Alba and her cute prints hooked me nonetheless. It’s an added bonus that they show up to our house each month without me having to lift a finger, except to change our print selection, which I enjoy. Click here to join me on the darkside and receive $10 off your first diaper bundle.

Nine. Letterfolk Board (or another cute way to capture milestone photos). Chances are, if you’re on Instagram, you’ve seen a Letterfolk board. At a minimum of $50 a pop, they aren’t cheap, but gosh, they are so cute and clever. We take Jack’s monthly photos with his board (see below) and we write out how many months old he is, his weight, and sometimes his height when I’m actually able to kind-of sort-of accurately measure it. We’ve also used it to denote his first Halloween, Election Day, Thanksgiving, and so on. The possibilities are endless. Letterfolk not catching your fancy? There are lots of other cute ways to capture your baby’s milestones, and I certainly recommend doing so because they pass by oh-so-quickly!

Letterfolk Board Baby Milestone

Ten. Kiehl’s Baby Gentle Hair & Body Wash. $17 for baby shampoo? Er, yes. Trust me. It smells delicious and goes on (and comes off) smoothly, leaving no residue behind. Also, Kiehl’s recently redesigned the formula to make it even safer for baby. Win.

Kiehl's Baby Wash Shampoo

Experienced moms (and dads) out there: What are your favorite baby items worth splurging on? Let me know what I’ve left off the list!


10 Baby Items Worth The Splurge

Unsolicited Advice For Moms Who Will Come After Me

December 22, 2016

Unsolicited Advice For Moms

Soaking him in.

To the moms who will come after me, some unsolicited advice: soak it in.

Soak in the first trimester when all you want to do is sleep and people let you. Soak in announcing your pregnancy to family and friends or holding it close a bit longer: the greatest secret you’ll ever know.

Soak in the second trimester and your newfound energy. Soak in the hours browsing the aisles of baby stores creating your registry. Soak in the tiny newborn clothes and the hours you’ll spend washing them, folding them, and tucking them into nursery drawers. Once the baby arrives, it will never be this organized or this quiet again.

Soak in the moment you learn it’s a boy or a girl, whether you find out halfway or upon delivery. If I can promise you one thing, it’s this: whatever you think you want, you’ll end up loving what you get more than you can currently fathom. A kind of love that will sneak up on you during middle-of-the-night feedings and invoke alligator tears and feelings you didn’t know you were capable of feeling, particularly the first week postpartum.

Soak in your growing belly. How one day you don’t look pregnant and the next it’s undeniable. Soak in the maternity jeans, the tent shirts, the belly bands. You’ll get back to your regular jeans someday, and if not, your baby is a greater reward and your body is pretty damn remarkable. Look what it just did. Have grace with it.

Soak in your labor and the moment you give birth. Take pictures, take videos: lots of pictures and lots of videos. You’ll soon cherish reveling in your pre-delivery youthfulness, the way your husband or partner looked at you. In being able to hear your baby cry for the first time and seeing him placed on your chest. In being able to go back and soak it all in over and over again when you realize it all goes by too fast.

Soak in those first few nights at home, going to bed and waking up (often) as a family of three (or more). Soak in the sounds of a voice so new yet familiar and the movements of tiny limbs once tucked inside you. Soak in the way the baby falls asleep on your chest after every feeding. One day much too soon, he’ll be too busy and too big to do either of these things. Soak them in.

Soak in the first bath at home, the scent of the baby shampoo, the baby lotion, the baby detergent, the baby. Soak in the moment he first smiles at you—really smiles at you— and the moment he starts to track you with his eyes. This is just the beginning of the two of you searching for each other across the smallest and largest of rooms. At family gatherings, school programs, graduation, his wedding. Everything in between.

I’m only four months into this postpartum adventure, but it’s enough time to know time goes by —and they grow up—too fast. Soak it all in.

Unsolicited Advice For Moms

JORD Wood Watch Holiday Product Spotlight (And Gift Card Giveaway!)

December 15, 2016

{See the end of this post for information on how to instantly claim a $25 e-gift code from JORD and how to enter to win one (or more) of five $50 JORD gift cards!}

If you know my husband, you know he is picky selective when it comes to his wardrobe and accessories. Man has better style than I do, but that’s never been a secret. While I certainly admire his fashion sense, it can make holiday shopping for him a challenge beyond the standard socks, scotch, and boxer briefs.

Enter JORD Wood Watches.

I admit, when JORD approached me earlier this month about gifting my husband one of their men’s watches in exchange for an honest review, I was a bit hesitant because of said husband’s aforementioned selectivity (and existing watch collection). But then I did a bit of research (i.e., online browsing, my favorite kind of research) and liked what I saw—and so did he! #winning (I know that’s not a thing anymore, but just go with it.)

We chose the Frankie in dark sandalwood and emerald. And first things first, the watch has a pretty cool presentation. This is how it arrived in the mail (great if you’re having it sent to someone—no gift wrap needed):

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Second things second, once you open the package, you’ll see the watch is minimal, yet eye-catching; beautiful, yet masculine.

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And because I like to repeat myself (particularly since the baby was born): my husband is a well-dressed business professional (look at him typing) with a decent, existing watch collection, and he approves.

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Other perks:

One. It’s lightweight (unlike metal band watches) but still feels well-made (read: not cheap).

Two. The band is made out of dark sandalwood from East Africa (Mozambique, to be precise), which is sort of neat.

Three. JORD can engrave the back of the watch and/or the box for you (and, if you hurry, there is still time to do so before Christmas!).

Four. Easy upkeep. The wood band can be maintained with simple lemon or orange extract.

Five. Reasonably priced. This watch retails for $189. JORD has some watches for less, some for more. IMO, it’s a good deal, particularly compared to comparable watches.

The only downside is my husband and I don’t have the same size wrist, otherwise I’d be “borrowing” this. A lot. Just like I borrowed his shirts during pregnancy.

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Men’s watches can be shopped here. And since the majority of my readers are women, I’ve linked women’s watches herebecause ’tis the season to shop for yourself in between shopping for everybody else.

And now for giveaway information!

To instantly claim a $25 e-gift code sponsored by JORD, click here.

{The e-gift code link will close December 21 at 11:59 p.m. The $25 instant e-gift code will expire February 28, 2017.}

To separately enter to win one (or more) of five $50 gift cards to JORD, you can:

A. Comment on this post (be sure to leave your email address!), AND/OR

B. Subscribe to this blog, AND/OR

C. Follow me on Instagram (@mama_hood) and comment on any of my photos featuring the JORD Wood Watch featured here.

Earn one entry for each of the above, plus a bonus entry for every friend you tag on Instagram! Giveaway closes Sunday, December 18 at 11:59 p.m. Winners will be contacted Monday, December 19. Offers cannot be combined. JORD is not sponsoring the $50 giveaway.

Thank you, JORD Wood Watches, for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own (and, in this case, also my husband’s).

Wooden Wristwatch