Imagine what you did before baby bump or before actual baby is here when going to the beach. You probably decided to go that morning on your day off, quickly threw on your bathing suit (that fit you perfectly, by the way) and some shorts and flip flops. Then tossed some sunscreen, sunglasses, water bottle, snacks and a book or magazine into your beach bag and headed out the door for an entire day of sunning by the ocean. Sound about right?
Well then comes baby, and as with everything else, it changes the experience entirely.
Pregnancy and the Beach
Two summers ago when I was pregnant it started to change how I went to the beach. First, I had to really make sure I put lots of sunscreen on and reapplied, as all the baby books told me that my skin would burn easier when pregnant. Probably something to do with the hormones.
Then I had to make sure I packed not one but two bottles of water, because staying hydrated while pregnant is important. I also needed snacks, several of them, and not just chips or crackers, but I needed healthy things like fruits and veggie sticks, as well as some protein to keep me filled up, thus a cooler was needed this time around.
I also needed to scour the stores for a maternity bathing suit that would fit my "just barely visible but too big for last summer's bathing suit baby bump." That took about two weeks to find.
Then because I was having morning sickness I could not go in the morning. So I had to wait until the afternoon, but not right at noon where I'd probably burn more than usual. By the afternoon when I could go, I was so tired that I needed to only spend about an hour there. And the magazine of choice? No more Cosmo or Glamour for this gal. Nope, something along the lines of Pregnancy or Baby or Parent went along for the ride.
Yes, an entirely different experience.
Infant and the Beach
Last summer I had a five-month-old with me when I went to the beach. This, too, was quite a change from how I'd used to skip off to the ocean.
Because I was pumping his milk I needed to plan around the pumping schedule of every 2 to 3 hours. So I would pump just minutes before leaving for the beach and plan to be there in between his feedings, then leave in time for me to pump again before he was ready to eat again. It was a lot of planning and preparation, as well as packing all the pump parts and a cooler of ice for the milk. Since we needed a cooler of ice, this meant several times the milk was too cold for Owen to drink (even after I put it in between my hands and legs to try to warm it up) so sometimes he became fussy until it warmed up a bit. In the end, it worked out great in that it taught him to become less fussy with the temperature of his milk.
I had to pack our bags the night before, making sure I had enough water (because I was pumping and had to keep drinking in order to keep my milk supply up), snacks (again because I was pumping and needed the calories to keep things moving along), toys for him, the stroller because I could not just put him down since he could not crawl or even sit up yet, towels, etc. I had to buy an umbrella for us to sit beneath because until about six months old babies aren't supposed to wear sunblock (something I learned as I started to go out to the beach with mommy friends).
No magazines or books in my bag this time around. There was no time to sit and enjoy one of those with an infant who needed to be rocked to sleep if it was nap time, played with when it was awake time and fed his bottle when it was eating time.
Still, this period of going to the beach was far easier than what I'm experiencing this summer with a toddler. If only I could have known. I recall last summer Owen and his cousin, Ronin, sleeping soundly and me sitting back on my hands, staring at the ocean, wondering how lucky I could get.
Toddler and the Beach
I've been to the beach twice this summer already with my new toddler son. It was both the best and worst times I've had with him, more leaning toward the best times, which is why I'll agree to take him again this summer instead of give up the whole idea.
Because my son is a boy and a toddler at that, he's incredibly active and curious and excited about EVERYTHING. Well, in case you didn't know, the beach HAS everything! Seagulls, other people, balls, shovels, toys, rocks, tidal pools, waves, the big pool of ocean, food, other people's food, umbrellas that are cool to try to knock down, etc. Oh and of course the main ingredient for toddler fun - SAND!
My son ate so much sand the second time at the beach that he pooped it out for days - literally sand in his diapers - and developed the worst diaper rash I'd ever seen from him! It was terrible. I'd felt like a bad mom. I had been so good about not caring, not being over protective, letting him explore the sand, even if it meant he drank from the sippy cup that had just fell over into the sand or picked up his Goldfish crackers from the sand and ate them, that he developed the worst butt rash ever! Ah well, live and learn right?
So a few things I learned about taking a toddler to the beach:
*Sunscreen - Put it on BEFORE you leave the house. Doing it at the beach is too crazy. Put it on yourself at home, too. Then remember to reapply the sunscreen, to both of you. I got so burned the first time I took him to the beach this summer because I literally forgot to put it on myself since I was so busy chasing after him and those seagulls!
Also, I learned that the spray sunscreen is good for reapplying at the beach due to too much sand on their legs and arms once they've been there a while. Also, they make sunscreen that looks like a glue stick so you can quickly and easily rub it on the baby's face. Trying to rub actual sunscreen on a toddler's face is harder than doing it blindfolded. This little glue stick idea is amazing (just another tip I learned from a mom on the beach!).
*Pack several types of hats for the baby. I packed one that kept blowing off Owen's head every time the wind blew (which it does often at the beach). Luckily my sister-in-law had an extra baseball hat (she has two kids, she learned this a few summers ago I guess!). Baseball hats are a great idea for toddlers. When Owen was little last summer we had those sun hats with straps below his chin. You will also want more than one hat at the beach because babies like to throw them in the water and then not put it back on.
*Toys, toys and more toys! Also a big shovel helps to dig a pool of water for the kids to play in.
*Diapers - change them often! I think it would have helped Owen's diaper rash if I'd changed him a little more. This is difficult to do though when he's having so much fun.
*Camera - I know it's a pain to take it and you are worried it'll drop in the sand and water, BUT it's so worth it! I got the best videos of my son at the beach this summer. His laugh was contagious as he jumped in the waves. You will want to remember these times.
All in all... the beach is SO fun with children. Yet it's hard work and exhausting, such is everything with parenting right? It's totally worth the smiles and the look of awe in their eyes when they see things at the beach for the first time. But don't fool yourself into taking along a magazine once you have a baby... no time for that stuff anymore!