Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Baby on board

We are bringing Kah Yen to Ipoh, Malaysia this Thursday night to spend a long weekend with my husband’s family. Husband will be back on Sunday night for work while I will continue stay with Kah Yen for one more week.

I am not a big fan of bringing babies to travel, frankly. This is the 4th time we are bringing Kah Yen to travel overseas. For the first three times, while I enjoyed the most part of the stay, the changes and adjustments also stressed me out. I heard some parents bring their babies to backpack through Europe, while I admire their courage; I certainly won’t recommend it or try it myself.

So what are the things that bothered me so much while traveling with baby? Well, pumping milk, solid food and sleep. These are the things we mothers put a lot of effort, sometimes through blood and sweat, to have the best routine established for both mum and baby at home. They were like wild lions that we have spent countless hours to tame in the cage, but once we are on the road, they secretly rub their paws hoping to come back to full power again.

An extra piece of luggage (Photo source: Newyorkstay.com)

Baby on board 1st time, at 2-month old

The first time we traveled with Kah Yen was back to my husband’s hometown – Ipoh, Malaysia for Chinese New Year. She was just 2 months old. Going back was not so much a hassle because we took flight and the journey was barely 4 hours including the time at both airports. I direct fed her at the airport before taking off, and she slept through the whole journey, without any fuss during taking off and landing. Pumping milk during our stay there was quite troublesome because Kah Yen slept in the same room with us. (Although I have not gone back to work, I pump most the time instead of direct feeding her) With so many people in the house there was no spare room for me to pump milk so I had to pump in the same room. This was not so ideal for early morning and midnight because she was sleeping and the sound of the motor and my movement surely have disturber her.

Sleep wise luckily her grandmother has kept a very old baby cot so she did not need to share bed with us. With the mosquito net put on it does look like a very cozy corner for her. However, maintaining her bedtime routine was not so easy because during Chinese New Year period there were a lot of guests. I tried to be firm as much as I can but sometimes dinner was late or guests arrived late so her bedtime would be affected.

Baby on board 2nd time, at 12-month old
The second time we brought her for a 2D1N trip to Bintan, Indonesia. We booked for one night only because we really don't know how it will turn out to be. The journey was a short 2 hours including ferry and land transport. It was rather smooth. This time again we brought all the pumping equipments and feeding bottles. I was able to pump per my usual schedule but I had to pump in the toilet when Kah Yen was sleeping. Yes I literally sat on the toilet bowl and pump. Luckily there was fridge in the resort room so storing milk and bottles were not an issue. I put used bottles in the fridge so I can re-use without having to sterilize it.
The main challenge this round was solid food. As it is not possible to cook anything during our trip, we bought bottles of HEINZ baby jar food and her baby cereal for backup. We never gave her jar food before; her food is always freshly prepared and served warm. So not surprisingly she did not take the jar food very well, even I disgust at the taste to be frank. It is nothing compared to freshly prepared home food. In the end, I forced her to eat about half jar for each meal, and then topped up with her baby cereal. I am glad that we only booked for 2D1N because I certainly did not want her to eat plain cereal all the time.

The most thankful part of the trip is that our room is at the first floor with an open balcony right in front of the beach! It could not have been better in the night. Kah Yen's bedtime is around 8pm (Yes we make sure she follows her bedtime routine even on holiday, especially more so because she did not take good naps in the day due to traveling), imaging if we just have a normal hotel room, that means after she sleeps, we can’t on the light, we can't watch TV, we can't talk, we can't both go out, we have to either sleep early or have one person go out. That totally defeats the purpose of staying in a beach resort right? Our balcony has two chairs and one coffee table, so we sat there and chatted till mid night, we even bought supper to enjoy, and later we shifted our chairs to sit on the beach and enjoyed the beach night to the fullest. Oh yes the resort also provided us with a baby cot so we did not have to worry at all that she may fall off the bed.

Baby on board 3rd time, at 14-month old

The third time is the most challenging of all because we brought her back to my hometown in China. And it took us more than 24 hours to reach home. Yes it included a 6-hour flight to Beijing, 3-hour waiting time at transit, 2-hour domestic flight to Wuhan, one night hotel stay, and 4-hour bus ride to my hometown! And it is winter. The weather was below 5 degree and it just snowed 2 days back. I forgot to bring backup batteries for my pump. We did not think it would be that bad because we certainly can buy battery or find a nursing room at Beijing International Airport. To my disbelief, we walked the airport up and down three times and could not find any shop selling C size battery. We did find a nursing room but there is no outlet to plug in my pump. In the end it’s time to board the plane so I gave up pumping. After reaching Wuhan and checking in hotel, it was almost mid-night. The hotel room did not have a 3-pin power point and they did not have any multi-plug to lend to us. Most shops were closed by then since it was Chinese New Year and midnight. The husband went out to walk for a good 30 minutes but can't find any shop selling battery. I would never forget that night, after a whole day of engorgement, I sat on the toilet bowl, wept and wept, holding my breast pump, totally didn't know what else I could do. My husband sat beside me, holding my hands and lost in words. In the end with his help I managed to express out the milk manually, with tears running down at the same time Later I went to bed with inconsolable weeping. I have never felt so despair and tired for a long time.

The next day we dropped the backpack and the motor fell on the floor and broke. And after failing to fix it back at home, I had to give up pumping completely. Yes I sounded matte-of-factly right now but I would never forget the days of despair and helplessness that eventually led to the ending of 14-month pumping. I have to write a separate post just for that.

Solid food is not a big issue because my mum was able to help cook porridge everyday. The varieties of vegetables were limited though because of winter season, so she had minced pork with carrot and cabbage for most of the days.

While we were on the road she had very little sleep, she fell sick by the time we reached the hotel so the night was a nightmare for all of us. The next day I remembered sitting at Macdonald for nearly 2 hours while waiting for our afternoon bus just so that she could finally have an uninterrupted nap.

I am on the road again. (Picture source: Momlot.com)

This time round there is no more milk pumping so I guess it will make the trip a whole lot easier. However, the new challenge is we have decided to take an 8-hour bus ride home. Going there we will take the 10pm bus, maintaining a good night sleep for her will definitely not be easy. Coming back we will take the morning bus, so we won’t worry about the sleep but again what solid food to give her on the road? Back at Ipoh there is no more baby cot suitable for her size, so she will have to co-sleep with us, and with so many people in the house am I still able to put her down at 8pm?

Thinking back, I could have given up pumping the first time we traveled, it is so much easier to bring just warm water and milk powder. I could have fed her on demand. I could have given her any food we can find along the way or simply stuffed her with snacks. I could have dragged her bedtime and put her down after she was totally exhausted, it is much easier for me. But will I do that? No, I won’t. I won’t have done it any differently.

So this time, I will still do all I can to keep the lions in the cage.


  1. Yet another similarity between our babies, I also stopped breastfeeding Sophia somewhere between 14-15 months! The 2 girls should really get together someday, they may make good friends!

    1. Stopping pumping milk is really not as easy as I thought. I have struggled and cried so much. I am sure only we moms can relate to each other on this.....

      Haha yes they both are cute, lovable and adorable big little girl!Surely great if they ever meet :-)