With sleepless nights, diaper changes, and a whole new way of life, the last thing many people think about during maternity leave is travel. However, in my opinion, it should be a great opportunity to travel, and one that you start planning before baby comes.
Traveling with kids is never easier than that first few months with your kid, before they start moving. The first 3-6 months, as long as baby is fed, dry and warm, they are really quite portable and in my personal opinion are incredible adaptive to their surroundings. If you are nursing, it can be even easier; as long as mama stays hydrated, food is always on tap. People are often overwhelmed with their first child and think even the super market can be a major trip. But believe it or not, this time is easier than you think, and is a great time to plan a getaway. A sleeping baby in a carrier will allow you to go out to eat, see that museum, and stay out late, much more so than that same baby in 6 months who will wants to crawl around, touch, sleep at set times, and put everything in its mouth.
With both maternity leaves I did extensive traveling. With my son, we spent 3 weeks on the East Coast, mostly in New Jersey, but also did a long weekend in Toronto, and an overnight in Poughkeepsie and Connecticut.
With my daughter, as followers of my blog know, I did an epic month long trip to India, with travel in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Rajasthan, and Pune.
Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve found that have helped in my travels:
- Start thinking about it as soon as you think about your maternity leave. For me, it was important to take at least 4 months, which I realize is a luxury in the US. But I did this so I could travel for an extended period when the baby was 3 months old. If you want to travel you need to think about if your maternity leave will accommodate what you want to accomplish, and set that expectation with your employer.
- Book as late in your maternity leave as you can. You need 4-8 weeks to heal. What your body goes through is not an easy feat. While its tempting to book a trip at four weeks to fit it all in, you don’t know how you will feel or how your delivery will go. With my son, it took four weeks to feel somewhat normal. With my daughter I felt worst right after delivery but was hiking again at 2 weeks post delivery. My friend with c-sections all had varying results. Especially if this is your first, try to wait until the 8 week mark to travel if you can.
- Nurse if possible. Aside from the 101 nutritional benefits of mother’s milk, nursing means you are always carrying your baby’s food supply with you. Especially if you are traveling to a place where water is an issue, nursing is preferable to formula. However you must remember to keep well hydrated, more so than you normally would at home. (Note I know there are women who can’t nurse for various reasons. You can still travel, formula is sold most everywhere. If going to a place where water quality is a concern, consider bringing ready made formula and consult with your pediatrician. Speaking of which…)
- Have an open and honest conversation with your pediatrician. By letting my pediatrician know we were going to India early on, she was able to restructure my daughter’s vaccination schedule so she had all the vaccinations they normally give out over 6 months by her 3 month checkup. I would not even have known that was a possibility if I didn’t mention my trip. Your pediatrician will tell you how to best prepare for the health of your child.
- Mentally prepare for a different type of trip. While its true that this is the easier time to travel, this will still not be the trip you took as a non-parent. The pace will be slower, now needing to allow time for feedings and diaper changes. You will be bringing much more gear. You will be more tired due to lack of sleep. Be sure to mentally prepare for this and plan a slower itinerary than you would have done in the past.
- Read blogs for travel tips. I could list off all my tips for security, best flight times, entertaining baby, etc. But the truth is this is suppose to be one short post and there are tons of blogs out there that have great tips. I highly suggest Travels with Baby, The Mother of All Trips, and Suitcases and Sippy Cups if you wish to look for these specific types of tips.
I truly believe travel is rewarding at any age and stage. You are setting yourself and your child up for a lifetime of flexibility and cultural appreciation. By using your maternity leave, you are taking advantage of your time off to not only bond but also add to satisfy your intellectual curiosity. Enjoy these months, before you know it you will be holding a walkers hand down the airplane aisle and lamenting for these earlier, easier days.