I am solar-powered. If I don’t get enough sunlight each day I last about as long as an iPhone – dead by dinnertime. But like so many things, spending time in the sun is bloody hard to do with a newborn.
It’s February and I have swum in the sea just twice, which for me is a frustratingly small number. We live across the street from the beach but we still haven’t managed to be on the beach with babe for more than 20 minutes at a time. Going out isn’t easy anymore but we’re doing more every week, trying new things and it’s starting to feel like summer. Here’s what I’ve learned so far. Please share your own tips.
1.) Give up on having the same summers you had pre-baby. Some things you probably won’t do with a newborn include: Spontaneous road trips; Spending an entire day on the beach; Getting day-drunk; Getting sunburnt; Fitting into your wetsuit.
2.) Buy a giant sunhat so you can feed in the sun while protecting your babe.
3.) Buy a giant sun umbrella.
4.) Wear white. It forgives milk stains.
5.) Learn the art of the homemade baby teepee. *see pic below
6.) Your baby might cry in public. Get over it.
7.) Always have a very cold, very good beer on standby. It helps with #6.
8.) Muslin cloths! Good for shading, wrapping, covering and mopping up gross things.
9.) Wearing your baby is the best and easiest way to get around. Exceptions include: When it’s very hot – you’ll sweat, she’ll sweat, you’ll worry about her overheating. Walking as a way of tanning – if you really want to get some sun on your post-babe belly, push a stroller in a bikini… I dare ya.
10.) Strollers are actually great as a shaded, dog and sand-free sleeping spot. It’s taken me 7 weeks to realise this.
11.) When wearing your baby, wrap a muslin cloth across their legs to protect them from the sun. You can drape it over their head too if needed.
12.) Enjoy your own backyard. Set up a hammock, host apero, have a BBQ. Sometimes leaving the house is just too hard but if you always keep a bottle of rosé in the fridge and some friends nearby, summer can take place chez toi.
Sunbathing with baby:
- Set up a tiny babe tent or baby teepee near you if your baby is asleep, or is the type of baby who can be put down and happily hang out for a bit (if you have this kind of baby, congrats. And I hate you). My baby doesn’t want me to have a tan (or drink hot coffee, eat hot meals, or have an adult conversation) so instead of ‘sleeping when baby sleeps,’ I lie in my backyard when baby sleeps. Screw naps, showers and housework… Mama needs her vitamin D.
- Older babies are entertained by toys or mobiles in the tent (apparently).
Going to the beach with baby:
- Take a GIANT sun umbrella.
- Take a seat or one of those loungy fold out beach things because breastfeeding with floppy ligaments and no back support sux.
- Breastfeed lying down.
- Use blankets, a portable bassinet, tent, a stroller, or even a cardboard box for wind protection. According to my wee darling, babies HATE the wind. *This is especially important in my hometown of Christchurch. Pro tip: go in the AM, before the easterly arrives.
- If you want to swim, take a babysitter. Rogue dogs can run to your sleeping baby faster than you can. In some countries I’d be more afraid of strangers than dogs but NZ beaches are mostly empty most of the time.
- Sand WILL get EVERYWHERE. And that’s ok.
- Outdoors is the perfect place for nappy-free time. If you’re doing EC just dig a hole in the sand or take sealable containers. Otherwise take a separate picnic blanket/towel for baby to lie on… or 3.
Picnicking with baby:
- Go somewhere you remember being annoyed by children in the past. This is an indication that there will be natural shade and public toilets (a necessity for postpartum mums). Yes that’s you now, you’re the annoying one with a crying kid.
- Don’t cart around a million bags and baskets. Your baby is another thing to carry now so leave the games/stereos/portable bbqs/crosswords at home until you have a walking baby. If you want to picnic regularly, minimalise your kit. Spare nappies can live alongside a bottle of wine, a salad and some good bread in a basket or bag.
- If you’re going somewhere with trees, take your baby hammock. Or make one. I’m in love with my Nature’s Sway hammock and if I take it to a picnic and hang it from a tree, babe and I can be peaceful and happy for hours.
Going to the markets with baby:
- The key here is to wear that babe. Strollers are a hazard to every shin in the market. Plus if you’re like me (impatient), they slow you down too much. I’m favouring my Yoli and Otis sling right now. It’s made up of two pouch slings that you wear over each shoulder and baby sits in the crisscross. It’s made from plant-dyed organic cotton and super fast to put on so there’s no faffing around as you take baby in and out of the car. With babe in a carrier you can zip around the markets like a ninja, plus no one can sneeze their gross human diseases all over your pristine newborn.
- If you’re planning to buy a lot, take a mule/husband to carry bags or do like the French and get a wheel market basket. These are so damn practical and geeky, it’s only a matter of time before they become uber trendy. If one of you wants to make a beautiful, modern line of market baskets on wheels, let me know. Right now I’m stuck with the plastic folding one that came velcroed into the boot of my Citroen. Man I love the French sometimes.
Outdoor festivals/concerts with baby:
- 3 words – baby ear muffs.
- If you can, scrounge a backstage pass for access to quiet, comfortable areas. If not, take plenty of comfy things and set up a chill out spot.
And of course, try to actually enjoy yourself. With the added processes and gear, summer activities can feel like total fuckin’ missions rather than lovely little adventures. Once you’re somewhere pretty and you’re set up on a blanket in the half-sun, half shade with your beer in hand, breathe. Suck in the moment. If the baby cries, walk around. If she’s hungry, get yer tits out. It will be fine. And most importantly, remember to instagram that shit to prove to yourself and others that you do, in fact, still leave the house. And do it quickly after arriving… in case you have to leave after 5 minutes.
*Brand references are not paid for in any way, I just genuinely like those products. I also love the Nature Baby range and I’m currently lusting after the Sunday Supply Co beach umbrellas. But hey, pretty open to getting free stuff if anyone wants to send some my way!