How do we manage to stay with relatives with our 11-month-old daughter?
In July, when Jessie will be 11 months we have been to asked to stay with my husbands aunt and uncle. They have never had children so I am very apprehensive about how we will manage with a crawler in their house.
The house is quite large and is full of antiques, both furniture and china. Many of the floors are flag stoned with rugs over them, the stairs are steep and twisty. In all, it is not really a child-friendly environment.
What could I take with me to help me “child proof ” it a little and help Jessie settle in strange surroundings? We will take a travel cot and high chair as well as some toys. What else could make this stay a little bit of a holiday for us, even though we will have to be extra vigilant with Jessie?
Depending how well you know your husband’s relatives, you may be able to talk to them beforehand about taking Jessie and what her needs will be at the time. If they have never had children and are unaware of the dangers in their home they maybe grateful if you make a few tactful suggestions as to how you all will manage. Give them a general outline of her routine so they have some idea of how the days will be.
If you are concerned about dangers from the stairs, consider taking a foldaway travel barrier. This could be used across the doorway of the room where Jessie will sleep (or your room if you are sharing).
Many old houses do not have standard width stairs, so the gate could always be moved downstairs by day and used to prevent Jessie leaving the area you will be in, and getting onto the stairs.
Make yourself up a small pack of the most useful “childproofing” products. Include at least 4 socket covers, a set of corner protectors, two door slam stoppers, and a few short bungees (use these to keep cupboard doors shut) or cabinet slide locks. These should be enough to make the area that Jessie will be in, as safe as possible, although she will still need to be watched.
Pack a small first aid kit with plasters, antiseptic cream, Arnica cream, Calpol, teething gel and a thermometer. This should cover most medical emergencies.
As well as Jessie’s high chair, take along a splash mat to put underneath it and also a large child’s place mat so you can feed her without causing too much mess to clear up. Remember to pack her bowls, baby cutlery and beakers. If you are not travelling too far, why not take an insulated bag with some frozen meals for Jessie. This would cut down on your meal preparation time in a strange kitchen and also give her some familiarity at meal times. Perhaps a quick call to your host beforehand will ensure that there is some freezer space for you on arrival. You could also check if there is a microwave available.
Take her favourite cereal in case the ones available are not really suitable. Also have a few healthy snacks such as raisins, rice cakes and breadsticks with you.
As well as Jessie’s cot and bedding, take one or two familiar toys from her cot and favourite books with you. Going to bed in a strange house can be daunting at this age. Pack a night light even if she sleeps in the dark as it is useful to have it plugged in to check on her or deal with her in the night. Pack your baby monitor as you may not be able to hear her in a large house. If you have a small CD player why not take that with some soothing music as well as familiar nursery rhymes. This can all help her settle in.
It may be sensible to pack two sleeping bags if used, and a few changes of bedding and night clothes as well as day wear. This will prevent any problems should the laundry facilities not be able to cope with the demands of a baby!
When you first arrive at the house, try to look for any potential dangers and find the best place to set up Jessie’s play area. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking if some things such as trailing wires to table lamps can be moved if they are in her “area”. It will much easier than apologising for a lamp which has been pulled over and broken. Look for hanging window cords, unstable furniture, sharp corners, heaters and ornaments at reachable levels.
Sometimes it helps to get down on the floor and look at the area from Jessie’s viewpoint. Check there are no houseplants at her level, poisonous or not, as she may well get into the soil.
Decide on a rota with your husband so one of you is always “in charge” of Jessie. This leaves the other parent able to relax a little more or have a lie-in.
Taking a baby away to an unfamiliar house does take thought, but also can be an enriching experience for you all. Jessie will probably enjoy the attention given to her by her relatives, and is old enough to participate in some family meals and outings, which should help you feel you have had a holiday of sorts.