aDventures in Doula-ing

Traveling with Tots


I’m a mom. wife, ex-doula, ex-teacher, ex-yoga-teacher, and current Health and Wellness Advocate. The truth is I still love all my “ex” jobs, but made some choices to be home with our two kids. My daughter is almost 2.5 years old. My son is 5.5 months, and we’ve lived overseas since before they were both born. My husband and I were born in America, but lived in Swaziland for 5 years. We have always loved travel, so traveling with kids was just a given. Since children were born, we did a lot of road trips to see other parts of Southern Africa, or flew transatlantically to visit family, take vacations, etc.

Flying with kids is no joke, but it’s also not as difficult as some may assume. Yes, every kid is different, but there are some general hacks that may travel with young ones easier.

Because I’ve flown to and from the USA several times with our kids, I have experience traveling with children aged 2.5 months, 3.5 months, 13 months, 15 months, and 5 months. My husband has solo traveled with our daughter at 27 months, so I’ve consulted him on some ideas.

By far, the easiest age to travel has been before 4 months of age! At this age, Baby sleeps most of the time, is flexible with nights and days, is usually only drinking milk, and sleeping locations are more flexible. When flying internationally, you can also get a bassinet for baby, so big win there. BIG win.

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Headed out for our 40+ some hours of travel. Asa was 4.5 months old.

Flying with Baby/Toddler Tips Internationally 

Cost: Children under 2 years fly free domestically, but very discounted internationally. Their fare is usually 10% of an adult ticket on the day the ticket is purchased. If you’re booking a ticket before the infant is born, you’ll need to phone back with birthday, child’s name, and gender once baby is born. The child’s ticket price will be 10% of an adult fare on the day it’s purchased (not 10% of your fare). If you want the child to have his/her own seat, you will pay about 80% of an adult fare. 

Seating: 

Infants Under 6 months: When traveling with a child under 6 months, you can request the bassinet seat. Bassinet seats attach behind the bulk head (think by the bathrooms, or after first class) to the wall. Bulk head seating has extra leg room, so it’s considered Economy Plus seating and usually costs extra, but with a child, it’s free! Have baby, will travel in luxury! Because of bassinets, I actually think traveling with an infant is easier than on my own! Who doesn’t want extra room to stretch out?

Rules (may vary between airlines, but in general): Infants must be under 10 KG (22 lbs), be unable to sit on their own (the more strict airlines like Lufthansa will not allow a child who sits to be in the bassinet).

How to Book: Book a ticket for all adults, other children, and any Lap Infants. You’ll need the Lap Infant’s name, gender, and birthdate at booking. When booking online, there’s no way to request a bassinet seat. As soon as you book, call the Airline’s Reservations number. You can request a bassinet.

Some airlines allow you request the bassinet seat months and weeks in advance (United, South African Airways are ones). However, some airlines (Lufthansa for one) only allow seat assignments for any Economy passengers 24 hours before check-in. That means no one gets an assigned seat in Economy until just before the flight. It’s harder to secure bassinets in this way, so I always book with airlines when I can secure a bassinet beforehand.

You’ll call the airline, request the bassinet, they’ll assign one if it’s available. Your seat assignment should reflect the bulk head position.

When flying a multi-leg journey, you’ll need to secure bassinet seating for each leg of your trip. If you’re flying with different carriers, you’ll have to contact the carrier of each leg to book the bassinet.

Listen! This may sound like a little hassle, but that extra room with be amazing! You’ll especially want this if your child sleeps independently. Holding even a 10 lb baby in your arms for 10 hours is exhausting. 

Even when my daughter was too big for the bassinet, I still requested it, and we got seated by the bulk head. During a mostly-full flight, we swapped our bulk head seating, for a row at the rear of the plane where we had 4 seats together. My husband and I book-ended my daughter & she was allowed to sleep on the 2 middle seats. Game changer for us since airlines don’t allow anyone to sit or sleep on the floor. (boo!)

Sleep: If at all possible, consider your take-off times and landing times. If you can, book a flight that leaves around or slightly before your child’s bedtime. You’ll board early, can feed them, put on pajamas, then hopefully as they take off, they’ll be lulled to precious sleep. If your child does not sleep well in other places, booking a day-time travel may be your best bet.

For jet lag:  All of the rules that apply for adults work for babies and kids, too. Eat meals at the “new time zone’s” time, but eat snacks when hungry. While adults may resist napping, I’ve found that letting my kids sleep whenever is better. However, I may wake them from a jet-lag nap around the same time they’d wake from a normal nap (no more than 2.5 hrs of napping).

Talk with your doctor, but we’ve used melatonin drops for our kids at different ages. Melatonin helps their bodies relax into sleep, but won’t necessarily keep them asleep. We gave this to our kids (with PA approval) both on the airplane, and each night at bedtime for several days. Also, some homeopathics may approve Relax-a-Tone for you to give preceding travel.

When the sun is out, let them get sunshine and exercise! Hold them up to a window. Go for a walk. Play outside if the weather permits.

Get Organized: I’m quite the organizing freak who likes to maximize efficiency, so I’ll brag and say I’ve got traveling with a baby on lock-down! I’ve traveled with a 2.5, 3.5 and 5 month old solo on transatlantic flights longer than 30 hours, so I know how to survive.

First. Luggage. You’ll want a baby carrier (I used an Ergo), diaper bag, and carry-on rolling suitcase. Strollers are cumbersome in airports and when traveling alone, it’s tricky having a stroller with other luggage.

In the diaper bag, I pack: diapers for about 8 hrs, wipes, a few toys, an outfit change, snacks & water for me, any carryon items for me (ditch the book, you probably won’t have time!), a blanket/warm layer for the chilly plane, pacifiers, etc.

A neck pillow acts as a great arm rest when you’re holding baby or putting him to sleep/feeding. Those seat arms are uncomfortable!

In the rolling suitcase, I very strategically packed:

  • diapers enough for beyond the 30 hour flights. You never know when a stomach bug will be caught, or your stash might go faster than you think!
  • several wet bags or plastic bags (for blow outs, wet clothes, etc).
  • an outfit change for YOU (we’ve all been peed on before, right?)
  • more snacks (you may be up a lot more than you’d like and need a snack)
  • any food for baby – bottles, nursing covers,
  • If you’re traveling with a child who eats, pack way more than you think. Squeezy-packs are great; freeze-dried meals (found at outdoors and backpacker stores or websites) if kids have dietary restrictions (flight attendants will give you boiling water); dried fruit; nuts, and their own re-usable cups.
  • extra of everything your child uses during a 24-hr period.

Whenever I need to get into my rolling suitcase overhead, I restock the whole diaper bag. So dirty clothes go into plastic bags and into the luggage. New diapers, a change go clothes, snacks, and anything else Ill need in the next 4+ hours goes into the diaper bag.

Once You’ve Arrived: Generally, if you have only traveled a few time zones, you may keep your child on the same schedule, especially if your travel is less than a week.

I prefer flights that have us arrive close to the evening. That way baby and parents are tired, and your child will likely pass out!

Expect some rough nights the first few days. I’ve found that fighting a un-tired baby back to sleep is fruitless and frustrating, so don’t do it! Instead, keep the lights low, but let baby play. When she is ready for bed, quickly whisk her back off to sleep. If baby usually wakes up at 5 am, but jet-lagged sleeps till 8, by all means – LET HIM! If you have an agenda when you arrive to your destination, try to keep it light the first few days. You’ll likely be tired.

After 4 days, gently push Baby back onto his normal schedule. You may wake him from naps after his normal duration has passed, but don’t stress yourself too much.

Traveling with kids, especially babies can have its challenges, but remember why you are traveling in the first place – because you love it, you love doing it with your family, and it’s worth it. Travel at a pace that honors all of your family members. Take time to slow down and take naps with your kids. We’ve found that by keeping SOME of our routines, our kids can handle the break of other parts of our daily rhythm. For example, my toddler daughter does best when we eat meals at the same time, have regular snacks, and can maintain bedtime. If she misses a few naps while traveling, she survives, but we can’t forsake all of the routine without having ourselves lots of meltdowns.

And a note on meltdowns – if you notice your baby or child is having more “meltdowns” aka tantrums or behavioral outbreaks, LISTEN. Your child is trying to tell you that they’re tired, stressed, or just cranky from traveling. So LISTEN. Slow down your pace. Re-root yourselves in the aspects of life your child thrives in (naps, playing, nursing sessions, etc). The Eiffel Tower can wait because aint nobody enjoying it with a screaming toddler!

I’m happy to hear some of your tips when flying with your littles! You can contact me with further questions.

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Lufthansa gets me. Stroopwaffles and a bassinet!

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One way to keep track of your toddler.

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Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, Family Life, just for fun, Swaziland Updates, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doula Project Progress & Needs


We’ve done a little switch-a-roo as to who is the largest stakeholder in this project. Originally it was the hospital, as they and I were the only players, but through yet another God-provided turn, we have all agreed the Siphilile: Child and Maternal Health NGO would instead complete the proposal, receive the funds yall are donating in order to pay the salary of 12 mentor mothers. Their fantastic project coordinator (who happens to be a midwife!) will supervise the 12 new doulas. This organization is committed to excellence and does some amazing work! Check them out at: http://www.siphilile.org/mentor-mothers.html
 

The mentor mothers support families in their communities


 Anyone who talks with me can hear the awe in my voice at how we were connected to Siphilile. There is NO WAY I could have dreamed up any better people to work with. It is the perfect fit I didn’t even have eyes to see. Dare we whisper the Lord could be involved here? In a hushed voice, I praise Him! 
The next 6 weeks will be busy. Proposals completed, funding needs to be released, training plans finalized, materials printed, funding secured, doulas recruited, and everything else it takes to train 12 mentor mothers, 1 project coordinator and 2 midwives. We are so close to having quality doula care provided in RFM’s maternity ward. The joy of the mothers’ attended by our new doulas will be something you hear ringing from the hilltops of Swaziland. Their joy will trickle down. . . 

into their families . . . 

into a passion to mother their children well.  . .

 into a knowledge on how to breastfeed. . . 

into a place of sharing and teaching other pregnant women. . . 

into every nook and cranny of society. That we proclaim will be true! 

I envision that the group of people to sponsor this project will be women and families in the USA who know the intense relief and service a doula provides! 

We have only $4,860 left to raise to fuel this awesomeness for ONE YEAR. 

The average cost of a doula (in the USA) is $500. 

What if you donated in direct correlation to that average cost? Instead of hiring your OWN doula for YOUR birth, you’d be hiring a doula for the births of approximately 200 women! Two hundred! You’d be paying the monthly part time stipend of one Swazi doula.

What an incredible gift. What a joy. What a way to pay it forward, friends. 

When the Spirit Moves or the Mood Strikes, please donate by:

1. sending a tax deductible check to: Manna Global Ministries; PO Box 9240; Riviera Beach, FL 33419

– write the check to: Manna – Swaziland; please include a sticky note that says, “Doula Project”

2. clicking the link “Donate” on the sidebar of this page. (Please note Paypal charges a 3% processing fee and is not tax deductible)

Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, Kingdom Coming Related, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

12 Doulas, 1 Year, How Many Lives Changed?


  
A doula is a childbirth assistant who provides informational, physical and emotional support before, during, and shortly after labor. These women are a growing trend and necessity in the United States and the western world. But what about Swaziland? 

Before my OB friend, Dr. Bob introduced the idea of doula to RFM, the medical staff had never heard of or worked with a doula. After some months of me doula-ing in the ward, the idea was catching. 

Why Does Swaziland Need Doulas?

Honestly y’all, you might be appalled if you walked into the Labor Ward. It’s an open area, with 3 short (pushing) beds about 2.5 feet away from each other. No screens. No walls dividing. So if you delivered here, you would have 2 other strangers laboring and pushing (naked) beside you. By the time you enter the labor Ward, you’d be expected to know about contractions, bloody shows, how to push and anything else that goes along with it. But you live in a country with limited literature describing these aspects of birth in your native tongue. The clinics you visit for prenatal education are overcrowded and understaffed, so the nurses don’t have time to answer your questions, nor is it really acceptable for you to HAVE questions to ask. You need to know things, but your girlfriends and best case scenario an experienced mom will probably tell you “it hurts” and “the baby comes out here,” with some gesturing. You’ll watch your belly grow and wonder if you’ll be one of other women whose baby is delivered in a khumbi (minibus), or at 11 months, or without medical assistance because the ambulance wasn’t available. 

In my time as a doula, I found one of the most influential components to my work was knowledge. With knowledge and no doula, clients would report: 

Thank you so much. The birth was great. I wasn’t afraid. I remembered what you told me, so when the contractions came regulary, I went to the hospital. Everything was good! It happened just like you said it would!

And tiny bundles would be presented to me with requests for information about breastfeeding. 

If there was limited knowledge, but a doula present during labor, at best she’d have a companion who could translate what the nurses said in layman’s terms, give her water, tell her what “you’re 6 cms” means along with other invaluable information and encouragements. With knowledge, i watched scared girls transform into focused warrior-moms. With knowledge comes empowerment. The birthing room is no different. 

Why THIS Program Will Change Things 

I’m so excited that Siphilile and I met! Our vision for this project would flop without the right women as doulas. We need women with compassion, education, resolve, and understanding of birth. Ideally we need women who know how to teach and counsel someone, build trust and already do this in some capacity in their lives. 

Siphilile’s mentor mothers are each given a section of town to cover, 1 month of training, and a backpack with a scale in it. Each day they visit families, screen for Tb, assess malnourished children; educate about health and hugiene, safe sex and pregnancy nutrition. In short, the mentor mothers are doulas on steroids who just never make it into the labor Ward. . . Until now! 

I could not have dreamed of a more perfect organization or group of women to vanguard this project!

What’s Left? 

We have raised 35% of our yearly budget. Keep in mind this will employee 12women part time for a year! We only need $5,520 more! 😳 

✔️ Have you or did you have access to helpful childbirth education classes? Please consider giving that same opportunity to Swaziland’s  women. (Doulas heavily educate mothers on nutrition, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and carrying for a newborn.)

✔️ do you wish you’d had access to helpful childbirth education classes?? Consider helping these women. 

✔️Was your doula invaluable at your delivery? Could you share that chance with countless women who cannot provide that themselves?

✔️ Wish you’d heard of a doula when you had kids? Now you have! Consider donating so, others have that chance! 

You can donate by:
1. sending a tax deductible check to: Manna Global Ministries; PO Box 9240; Riviera Beach, FL 33419

– write the check to: Manna – Swaziland; please include a sticky note that says, “Doula Project”

2. clicking the link “Donate” on the sidebar of this page. Please note Paypal charges a 3% processing fee and is not tax deductible

I look forward to connecting with many of you while we’re in the States in 10 days!😄🎉 

Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, Kingdom Coming Related, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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