'Tis the season to rush and hurry and shop, shop, shop! If you are the parent of a young child, chances are very good that you will be taking Baby shopping with you at least part of the time. Now, shopping with a little one can be grand fun. Your baby will see and hear things that are exciting and new and interesting, and that is generally a good thing. Shopping with baby is pleasant when baby is happy, isn't it?
But the trip can quickly turn into a nightmare if baby's mood sours. Suddenly you move from pushing a grinning, beaming, cute and cuddly child in your stroller to hauling a squalling infant and getting dirty looks from the other shoppers. I don't know about you, but I often felt like I was being silently accused of child abuse when my baby's mood turned foul on a shopping trip and she bawled ceaselessly out in public. I usually beat a hasty retreat if at all possible, and just gave up for the day. However, there were times when that just wasn't possible. I had to finish what I had come to do, whether the baby was crying or not.
So all in all, it's a much less stressful experience to shop when we can keep the baby happy. There are some practical steps that we can take to make such a pleasant excursion more likely. Now, nothing can guarantee perfection, and all of the tips in the world won't keep your baby happy on each and every outing. But if you follow these hints, you'll increase your chances of a quiet trip considerably.
First of all, the secret is in the planning. Plan your trip for the time of day when your baby is most alert and interested in the world around. If baby has his best moments in the morning, then that's the time to shop. If she is ready to play and have fun in the evening, take her out then. Avoid trying to shop over naptimes and past bedtime. You are quite likely to precipitate a noisy response from your little one, because there is very little room between happy and playful baby and overtired, cranky baby. Respect the meal times and the snack times, as well. Remember that your little darling is just that: little. Babies really do need to take on food and water far more frequently than even older children. Their systems just can't handle enough to let them go for hours and hours without food. The younger your child is, the more carefully you will need to adhere to the usual sleep and food schedule.
Make sure that you've packed all that you will need to see to baby's comfort while you are shopping, too. Strollers are nice if you're moving around a big store. You may want to consider a special baby safety belt for shopping cards: we had one that was about eight inches wide and helped the inexperienced sitter to stay upright in the cart and so be able to see and participate much more easily. Take an adequate supply of diapers, wipes, snacks, bottles, and even a change of clothing. It really is true that as soon as you go unprepared, that's when these sorts of accidents will happen.
Take some toys, too. All but the youngest infants can be distracted from any fleeting discomfort by a bright or interesting toy. Older children might like books, rattles, or other favorites. Toys can be fun especially in the car seat as you go from store to store.
Make a habit of not giving in to your baby's every whim. Once they learn to communicate their desire for something, whether they can talk or not, babies will let you know in no uncertain terms that they want THAT. If you set the precedent early on that whining, yelling, grabbing, and other methods do nothing to convince you to give in, then they will stop using those methods. Instead, you can set up a situation where your child can earn a treat in exchange for exemplary behavior.
Keep your trip short and sweet as possible. Yes, I know it can be more convenient to head out for a marathon shopping session and get it all over with, but that may not be in your child's best interests. You will also want to watch how many strangers get how close to your baby. Many very young children find this to be highly stressful and will protest when their anxiety level gets too high. Yes, it's grand fun to have complete strangers ooing and ahing over your precious bundle, but your baby may not agree.
Follow your common sense and these simple ideas, and I'm sure that you and baby will have many successful shopping trips in the years to come. And hang in there! It won't be long before your cranky toddler turns into a teenager who loves to shop!