The day has come! You’re venturing out alone to get precious food, or other items, with your baby. If you’re privileged enough, this has been a long time coming, but for others, this might be pretty early on. Either way, you might be nervous about it, so here are some things I learned along the way so that you don’t have to.
Plan it around your baby’s schedule
Gone are the days when you could just get up and go somewhere. Now you have to consider what this baby is going to be like while you’re out. I went to Vons (a chain grocery store here in So. Cal) alone when L was 8 weeks old. To prepare for this maiden voyage, I planned the trip to happen between his feedings. He usually woke up for the day and ready to eat around 8am. So, I hopped in the shower right after he ate (nothing like a good bottle to put him back to sleep). Then ate something quickly myself, packed his bag, got him dressed, and by then it was time to feed and change him again. This order was 100% intentional. The idea is to feed your kid on the way out the door, that way you can hope for those few hours before the next feeding….or at least have enough time to get to the store. Also, showering first was purposeful because if he had woken up, I might have still been able to eat, but it may have been a little harder to shower (though not impossible). This was how we planned almost every outing with him for a while…fed him right before we walked out of the door. If you don’t have this luxury, just be sure of when your baby last ate and had a diaper change, so you can be prepared for what might come while you’re out.
Make a list
You probably won’t have time to, nor will you likely want to, walk up and down every aisle and crisscross all around the store. I wasn’t quite ready for marathon walking 8 weeks after a cesarean, so I had to make sure to walk a clear-cut path of least resistance. Also, since you’re likely not sleeping well, your mind is not what it used to be and the last thing you need to do is forget something and have to go back to the other side of the store to get it. Or, worse, get ready to use something three days later only to realize you never bought it. So, I try to pick a store of which I have at least some layout familiarity and make my list based on that. Aisle 1: bananas, lettuce, tomatoes… If you don’t care about walking all over- I don’t know, maybe it’s your chance to get out of the house-then you may want to make your list based on importance instead. Let’s say your kid pukes and/or poops everywhere halfway through your trip, and you decide to fuck it all and leave (perfectly acceptable), then you will at least have gotten the important stuff. So basically, make a list based either on the layout of the store (to walk less) or on importance (in case you don’t get to everything). Even with your list though, don’t be too hard on yourself if you forget something. I do it all the time. I will literally forget the one thing I went to the store to get. Of course, I forgot stuff pre-baby….so there’s that.
If you can, pick a store with a little cafe/sitting area
I don’t know about you all, but one of the biggest concern I had was that my kid would be an asshole and decide “screw your plan, I’m going to eat off-schedule,” and I’d be trying to figure out how to feed him in the middle of the store. Then I realized that the store I was going to had a little Starbucks with a few little tables and I was put at ease. I knew that if he got crazy, I could just have a seat, feed him, and people-watch. Maybe even have a little snack myself. They have this type of deal, seating areas that is, in Whole Foods, Sprouts, Targets, Vons, and bunch of other major stores. However, not all stores have these inside. I’ve been known to commandeer outside seating areas next to where I’m actually doing business or hang out in the car for a while. But, if that’s not an option either, don’t feel bad about just feeding your kid in the middle of the store: Babies gotta eat.
We were pretty lucky because he tended to fall asleep in the carrier anyway, but once, I pushed my luck at a Costco. I got cocky, of course, and it wasn’t even my first stop. I went in for a wagon, then had the nerve to take my time just walking around looking at things. Did they have this? Did that have that? I was all grinding coffee and shit. Anyway, he ended up being like uhhh no ma’am. So, I just went and had a seat in their little food court and fed him. And myself.
Park near the shopping cart corral
If you’re driving to the store, you may be thinking that you should park as close to the door as possible. It might be easier if walking is still somewhat difficult for you, but I promise it will be more helpful if you park next to the cart corral (the place to which you return your cart). Firstly, you may find that you need a little more room when getting the baby out of the car. If you’re next to the cart corral, you can park as close as you want to that bad boy and have all the room you want on the other side to get your baby out. Also, you can grab one of the carts out of there and put your diaper bag in it (and if your kid is big enough, the kid can go in there too). But that’s not all!!! There’s more!! When you get back to the car, you can unpack the groceries, put the baby in the car, and still put the cart where it belongs, because it’s right next to you.
Plan to carry your baby on you
There have been times when I have gone on a Target run and pushed the baby in the stroller….mostly to keep my shopping in check. However, I could never do any real shopping this way. It gets kind of suspicious when you’re stashing things all around the stroller. 🙂 So, I usually put L in the carrier and wore him around the store whenever I went shopping. It kept him calm to be up against me, and he usually fell asleep from the movement anyway. Understandably, not everyone is comfortable wearing, nor is able to wear, their baby, and honestly some of those carriers only go so wide, so it’s definitely possible to push a stroller and pull a shopping cart. They also have these “stroller clip” things, or you can just get yourself some carabiner hooks, that you can put on your stroller and put your items in your reusable bags as you shop. Though, that’s admittedly a risky thing to do if you’re “Non-White While Shopping.”
This sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out. You may think, I’ll just put all of the things in my purse or in the diaper bag, but there are some things you are going to want to be able to reach easier than that. If your baby uses a pacifier, you may want that in your pocket, if it’s not clipped to them. You may want your keys in a pocket, your cell phone, or your method of payment. This is particularly important if you’re wearing your baby in a carrier; it’s not easy to go digging around in things with a tiny body strapped to the front of you (especially if you want to keep said tiny body asleep). It’s much easier to just reach into your pocket. It will also be easier if your baby has lost their shit and you need to hurry up and get out of there.
Order is important
This kind of came up when I was talking about parking next to the cart corral. There is a LOT of talk about routine when it comes to babies and children. It’ll probably come up in another post one day, but routine freaks me out; I’m legit terrified of it. That said, there are times when I welcome it with open arms. One of these times is when I’m getting the baby out of the car. The first thing you want to do is grab that shopping cart I mentioned before and put the diaper bag in it so you’re not lugging it around the store. Then, get the carrier out, on you, and ready for the baby. (Note: you should definitely practice putting your baby in and taking your baby out of your carrier beforehand. One time, I tried a new removal technique that went all kind of wrong. Baby was fine, but it looked ridiculous and of course L had to ramp things up by deciding he didn’t like this new technique either. There was a lot going on. People may have been staring. Don’t be like me.) Anyway, the baby will be fine in the car while you do all of this, I promise. Feeling like you need to get the baby out right away is only going to cause problems. Even if Baby is crying, stick to the order and hopefully they’ll be fine as soon as you pop them in the carrier. If you’re not planning to put the baby in a carrier or use a shopping cart, be sure to set the stroller up (get it next to the door you’re pulling the baby out of), get the baby out of, and then put the bag on. Trust me, you don’t want that bag on while you’re trying to wrangle a baby out of the car. This is going to sound extra, but unless you want to put the baby bag on the ground, which I’ve had to do a few times, you might want to not have it on the side on which you’re pulling the baby out.
When you get back, if you parked next to the cart corral, you will have options. You can keep the baby strapped to you, unpack the things, put the cart back, and then put the baby in the car seat. OR, you can put the baby in the car seat first, because you’re not going anywhere to return the cart. The latter of those two being a lot easier.
You of course have don’t have to do any of this. These are just suggestions that might make things easier for you.
Be ready to be social
This was something that took me a while to get used to; people talk to you when you have a baby. They ask you all kind of questions, they give you advice (one random guy in the grocery thought he was teaching me something about language development), they talk to the baby, hell, they’ll even try to touch the baby if you’re not quick enough to get out of their paths. Even with him in the carrier and only seeing the back of his head, with a hat on, people would say “awwww….how cute!” I’ve never been upset about it (except the touching: STOP TOUCHING PEOPLE’S BABIES). As a matter of fact, during my leave, I was actually happy to have a random conversation with a stranger, but, as someone who can get into an introverted zone and lost in her own thoughts, I did have to adjust to strangers talking to me. Now, I just expect someone to talk to us and try my best not to…in the words of my wife…be weird.
Be calm and enjoy it
Something is eventually going to happen on an outing; it’s kismet. One time, when he was about 9 weeks, I was in Target and I had to pee so freakin’ bad but I had him strapped to me. So, I did what I had to do: I went into the family bathroom and made it happen, holding the rail to squat with a baby attached to me. He had the nerve to make some little grunting noises like he was somehow being bothered because of the leaning position he was in, so I was like “dude, just relax, I’m literally doing all of the work here.”
We’ve had to change poopy diapers in the trunk, in the stroller, on the floor… Not to mention the dog vomit fiasco. The point is to not take it too seriously and just go with the flow. Make adjustments when needed, but most importantly have fun! The store is a great place for Baby to see all kind of new and exciting things, and people. It’s also a fun place for you to see their reactions to new stimuli. AND they can’t beg you to buy them any of the stuff they get excited about yet. Live. It. Up!!!