Traveling Baby Part 3: Traveling Without Baby

The last part of my Traveling Baby Series is traveling without your baby. That’s right, I dared to leave my baby for a few days! It was nerve racking at first and I worried about losing my breastmilk supply, but it all worked out pretty well in the end.

I wanted to do something nice for our first anniversary in September, celebrate the amazing and challenging first year we spent as husband and wife. It’s enviable that once you have a baby, romance becomes a scare thing between couples. I figured if we wanted to stay married, we needed to celebrate. Then my parents offered to fly down so we could go somewhere for the weekend. I love my baby very much, but my first instinct was, “YES, I COULD GET SOME SLEEP!!!” Only someone who has raised a child can understand what I am talking about. Jack wakes up at least twice a night still and gets up bright and early each morning. I am so tired all the time that I hardly even notice any more. I know this is normal and won’t last forever, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love a chance to get some baby-free sleep!

We settled on Reno and booked a room at Harrah’s for 3 nights. Close enough to drive but far enough away to feel like a vacation still. Plus we love driving through Gold Country (see my Babymoon post). We could gamble, drink, relax, and sleep! We were both really looking forward to it.

How could I leave this cuteness?!?!?

Now I know what you are thinking, “How could you leave your 5-month old? Especially an exclusively breastfed one who likes to co-sleep? And with your parents that he doesn’t see often!” First of all, let me say I did worry A LOT about going. A LOT. I kept thinking he would start screaming and not eat until I returned. So we made the deal that at any time, for any reason, we could call it off. Even if we were already in Reno, just jump in the car and haul it back home. Second, my parents came a few days early so Jack had time to adjust. I also made a detailed outline of Jack’s daily routine to help them keep him happy. Lastly, I completely trust my parents. I think this is key to leaving your child with anyone. If you have any reservations—even a teeny tiny voice that says “Ehh…”—then don’t leave your child with them. Plain and simple. That right there will make it less stressful for everyone.

I think it’s safe to say he loves his grandma…

Oh, and the breastfeeding thing. Remember that freezer stash I determined to build up before I went back to work then ended up not needing? Well, my parents now had plenty of milk to feed Jack while I was away. And no, my parents did not co-sleep with him. But they were prepared for him to wake every couple hours for a bottle at night. My brother and I never slept through the night as babies, they knew what to expect.

Nothing says romance like drying pump parts in your hotel room…

I also planned on pumping every 2-3 hours to keep my supply up. However, I decided I didn’t really need to replenish my freezer stash and I didn’t want to deal with a bringing a big cooler to bring it all home. So I decided to donate it a local mom in Nevada through Human Milk 4 Human Babies. It’s a wonderful donation network that allows moms with extra milk to directly donate to moms (and other caregivers) who need it. It’s so easy too, just find your state Facebook page and post an ad. A mom or whoever will reply, then you set-up a place to meet and give them the milk directly. I posted a month before and set-up to with a mom who was struggling with a low supply on our way home.

So, we planned it all out and were ready when the time came. My parents arrived late 3 days before. That night we just went about everything as usual, just with them here. The next day they watched him while I went to work in the afternoon and helped put him to bed. The next day they watched him the whole day while I went in for a normal  8-hour day shift.  Jack was happy and comfortable with them, so we went ahead with the trip. We left for Reno the next morning and Jack didn’t even care! He was sitting on the porch with grandpa looking at the flowers. I was sad as we drove away but knew it would be alright.

This is how much fun pumping in the car is….

The drive was lovely—until we hit the smoke. A massive wildfire was burning near South lake Tahoe and had shut down HWY 50. We had planned on taking HWY 80 all along, but it was smokey as hell in North Lake too. Like at one point it felt like we were driving through fire and brimstone. And it kept getting dark out the closer we got to the lake! But once we turned away from the lake and headed towards Reno, it cleared some and we saw daylight again. It was still smokey in Reno but I didn’t care. We didn’t plan on being outside there too much and all I really wanted was some sleep!

Once we got our room, we took a long nap. It was glorious. I love co-sleeping with my baby, but it was soooo nice to cuddle up with my man and pass out for once. That night we walked to Noble Pie Parlor and got pizza and beer. I found this place on Yelp. It was good, but weird. Like a college house party that this one guy you talked to in class a few times invited you to, but it turned out awesome, but you feel awkward still because you know no one there. Made us feel like kids again, worth checking out if you can handle that sort of atmosphere. We got back late and passed right out again. I woke up 7 hours later to rock-hard, aching boobs. I pumped 9 ounces each side that morning. But it didn’t effect my supply at all, just painful.

The next day we went to Virginia City. We may be nerds who love history and geology, but this place was TOTALLY awesome. You need to check out everything, but I really suggest the Washoe Club. We took the ghost tour and had a drink too. Really fun and not too expensive. We wish we had more time there There was still so much more to see. I foresee a family vacation there when Jack is older. I pumped on the way there in the car, about 3 hours later, and again on the way home. I brought a soft mini cooler and an ice pack to keep the milk cold. It was kinda annoying to have to go back to the car and waste precious time there, but it wasn’t that big of a hassle overall.

I drank it all, I was drunk and I have no regrets!

The rest of the trip we just relaxed in Reno (and slept a lot). When we were just hanging out in and around the hotel, I just used my double electric pump back in the room. It wasn’t a hassle and I just popped the milk right in the mini fridge. I did pump twice when I was drunk, and that milk was dumped right away.We went out for a nice sushi dinner the night of our anniversary. We planned on getting very drunk and going crazy afterwards, but I forgot the flanges to my pump so went back to the room. After I pumped, somehow we ended up falling asleep watching TV instead…oops.

The milk to donate on my lap while we drove to Carson City.

The next morning we got breakfast (Hash House A Go Go is AMAZING, giant plates with tons of flavor) and headed off the Carson City to meet up with the mom I was donating milk to. Before we left the hotel, I placed all the  milk storage bags in a large zip-lock back, then placed that bag in a bag of ice. We met her in a store parking lot right off the highway, gave her the milk (72 ounces) and she gave me replacement storage bags. Not every mom will offer storage bags, HM4HB is a free service, so don’t expect this every time. The mom was very grateful and I was more than happy to help her little one thrive.

That’s not clouds, it’s smoke.
We had drive through that shortly after I took this.

Highway 50 was still closed from the fire so we took a long back way south through the Sierra. I ended up pumping two more times in the car. That milk became Jack’s bottles for when I was at work the next day. We got home around 5 PM and I expected a big reaction from Jack….but I got pretty much nothing. They were waiting on the porch for us and he just calmly looked at me like, “Oh, hi. Where you gone?” I didn’t care though, I snatched him up and covered him in kisses. I was happy we went, but more than happy to come home.

We bought Jack a coyote puppet in Carson City,
he was sort of amused by it when we got home.

It all worked out well and we had a lot of fun. I have a few tips on how to handle traveling without a baby under a year old, especially for the first time.

Traveling Without Baby Tips

  • Leave your child with someone you completely trust. And I mean completely. Someone you know very well and has extensive experience caring for children. And, I know this may sound harsh, but sometime older grandparent or family members may have health problems that could inhibit proper childcare. Don’t feel bad if you have to turn down someone you love because you are worried about them falling or forgetting to do something. Just be nice about it, but your child’s health is more important. My parents are in good health so I wasn’t concerned.
  • Make sure you leave with them clear instructions. Don’t just chuck the baby at them and run. This will stress them out and cause them to not do a good job. And it will stress your baby out to vary so far from their normal routine without you. Babies can perceive and expect some consistency, even right from birth. This is why I left my mom the outline. So she knew about when he naps, eats, and plays. At the time he had also just started Baby-led Weaning and she needed to know what foods he could have as well. Give instructions for everything possible to avoid a major issue.
  • Make a list of important contacts and numbers Pediatrician, Urgent Care, Hospital, a relative or friend nearby, and where they can reach you. I left a list with full names, addresses and phone number in case of an emergency. I know that you could just say “Nearest Urgent Care” to Siri nowadays, but a quick list make it easier on everyone. I also left my parents with Jack’s insurance cards, vaccination record, and identification—plus I took copies with me.
  • Give your baby time to adjust. If the person isn’t normally around baby much, odds are they might flip out to suddenly be left with a stranger. If possible, have the person come a few days over and stay with you so the baby becomes familiar with them. Like I mentioned earlier, Jack didn’t seem to care I was even gone in the end because he was comfortable with my parents.
  • Leave enough supplies, where to get more supplies, and what to get.  It’s can be stressful to watch someone’s child, give them a break and leave them with everything they need so they aren’t running around town. I left plenty of breastmilk. And I left a can of formula in the event something happened to freezer stash. I also left plenty of diapers, wipes, shampoo, lotion, & etc. I also told her all the brands we use and where should could go get more. For example, Pampers are the only diapers that fit  Little Mr. Fatty’s thighs well enough to prevent blow-outs. I would hate for my mom to buy Luvs and her end up washing poop off everything. Likewise, Jack has never had formula before, the brand I have is designed for breastfed babies. If she bought another brand, he might get sick and not eat it. And that formula is only sold at Babies ‘R’ Us around here so I wouldn’t want her to waste time and money going to a store that doesn’t carry it. Or her buying a brand that he won’t eat.
  • Have regular check-ins. My mom sent me updates and photos every couple hours to reassure me everything was okay. It calmed my nerves and it made me happy to know he was still happy. How can a mom expect to have fun if she doesn’t know her baby is happy!
  • If you are breastfeeding, figure out how pumping before you go. I tried to pump as close to Jack’s normal nursing schedule as possible, in order to milk my established supply stable. If this is not possible, make sure you pump at least every 2-3 hours during the day. And if you miss a few sessions, nothing will happen. Especially if you skip it because you are getting some much needed sleep! I suggest bringing an electric and manual pump since you never know what might happen during traveling. And bring more storage bags than you think you need just in case. Also, consider what you want to do with the milk afterwards. I suggest donating if you don’t need the extra. But if you do, make sure you keep it cold. Bring a cooler and buy enough ice to get it home.You can even pack on dry ice to keep it frozen if you like. If you are flying, you can carry breastmilk on a plane (even in a giant cooler). Look up the current laws first and make sure you declare it to the TSA agent at security.
  • It’s okay to worry. You are leaving your tiny little love behind, it’s okay to worry and be upset! You can even cry as you drive away. You are this little person’s whole world and you spend every waking minute caring for them, you are supposed to miss them like crazy! But take assurance knowing you little one will be loved and cared for, and enjoy your small break from the stresses of parenthood (and get some sleep!)
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