With Christmas and the New Year sales fast approaching, there's no avoiding the shops. But if you have to take your little ones with you, here's the lowdown on how to make your shopping trip easier and more enjoyable for all.
The going out bag
No matter whether you're going out with a newborn or a toddler, a going out bag packed with all the essentials is vital. It doesn't have to be a specially designed baby bag (some of these are way too feminine, and aren't very good for dads to carry around). Any backpack or large sized bag will do. The essentials to pack include:
- Nappies (pack more than you think you'll need, just in case) or spare underpants or pull ups if toddler is just starting to toilet train.
- Baby wipes or lotion and cotton balls.
- Plastic bags to dispose of smelly nappies and to keep any dirty/stained clothes in.
- Changing mat (better if it's waterproof) you can buy disposable ones now too.
- Formula if bottle feeding keep sachets in your bag or purchase a powder dispenser.
- Spare bunny rug or muslin wrap great for putting over the pram once baby is asleep to block out the lights as well as keeping them warm. Mums might also find them handy to cover themselves when breastfeeding.
- Change of outfit or two and a jacket/cardigan.
- Toys, games or books.
It's a great idea to have all these essentials packed in your going out bag most of the time so you can leave the house a lot quicker. Remember to restock the bag after every outing so it's ready for next time and any emergency that may come up.
Last minute essentials to pack:
- Fresh, boiled water in sterilised bottles if bottle feeding.
- Any medicines or inhaler.
- Snacks, drinks.
Just a word on bottle feeding. The best option when going out is to take the right measurement of cooled boiled water in a sterilised bottle and add formula from a sachet (some formula can be bought in individual sachet-size servings) or formula dispenser (available from chemists, baby stores and supermarkets for around $5) when you go to feed. This prevents bacteria from forming. Once bottles are made up they should be drunk within an hour. The alternative is to make sure you have a batch of fresh, cold formula (with a sterilised lid on) placed in an insulated bottle carrier.
Most shopping centres these days have parenting facilities where parents can change their child and feed them in a quiet area. Some even have curtained off or private, lockable cubicles for breastfeeding as well as microwaves and bottle-warming facilities. Often there's a family toilet too, which will fit a pram.
Just a word of warning though, parenting facilities can vary widely from centre to centre. Some are always clean and tidy. Others seem to never be clean with nappy bins over flowing, etc. Ask other parents in your area about where they shop and you'll get an honest opinion about facilities.
Going out with a newborn can be a daunting experience so never feel you have to go too far in the early weeks. Don't go to a large shopping centre the first time round especially during peak times such as Christmas. Do gradual, small outings to build up your confidence. It's inevitable that something may go wrong and no doubt will reduce a new mother to tears with all those hormones running through your body. You don't want to be standing in a shopping centre carpark trying to put up a pram with a screaming, hungry baby in the car. After a few times out however, you'll be able to do it almost blindfolded!
Some shopping centre carparks have special parking bays for parents with prams. These are often located close to lifts and shop access points. Check with individual centre managements for more details.
Best time to shop
Often there will be quieter times for you to shop with your little one. It will be easier to get around with a pram and to park too. This may vary from suburb to suburb but generally early mornings are easier. Try to avoid the after-school hours (around 3-4pm) when shopping centres are packed with school-aged children and their parents.
You have to consider when the best time to shop for your little one is too. It's a hard juggle especially when they're very little as you don't want them to be too hungry or too tired shopping centre noises and lights can play havoc with them trying to sleep. In time, you'll get to know what suits them best.
When it comes to taking toddlers into the supermarket, keep them restrained in a pram or shopping trolley otherwise all hell will break loose if you let them out and you'll be forever chasing them up and down the aisles. Get them involved in the whole task and ask them to spot different things for you such as "Where's the bananas?" Little girls will love holding a purse or mini shopping basket with items in them.
If you're just going into the supermarket for a few things and have a baby in a capsule, why not leave them in the capsule and simply place it in the trolley. It's often a lot easier than getting around with a pram and shopping basket or placing them in one of those trolleys with a capsule attached. The other alternative is to use a baby carrier which leaves your hands free.
If you're going to be grocery shopping with little ones a lot and are worried about them sitting in a dirty, uncomfortable trolley, you could think about purchasing a Clean Shopper or Trolley Mate which covers the entire front portion of the shopping trolley seating area. Both were invented by mums out of safety and hygiene concerns.