Bringing a baby to the BlogHer conference
It's that time again -- the last days of Early Bird Pricing for BlogHer 2012. I'm hoping to attend as a volunteer, but I don't know yet. I know that a lot of my fellow bloggers and readers are trying to decide as well. If you are pregnant right now or have just had a baby, you might be wondering whether it's a good idea to bring your baby to the BlogHer conference in New York City in 2012. Last year I brought my 6 month old baby to BlogHer 2011 in San Diego. I traveled alone by plane from Dallas, Texas to San Diego, California with my baby and our luggage. I'm here to tell you about my experience and hopefully give you some things to consider if you are considering bringing your baby to BlogHer this year.
How was the flight and transfer to the hotel?
It was a little brutal, I'm not going to lie. But when is traveling a baby ever as enjoyable as traveling alone? If you're flying, consider whether it would be worthwhile to bring a spouse, partner, or friend with you to the conference to help with the travel aspect of the trip. Even if you pack lightly for the trip, you might have as much as an entire extra piece of luggage just for swag on the way home. I also recommend bringing your baby's car seat on the plane so that you can attach the car seat to the taxi for the ride from the airport to the hotel. I brought our infant car seat and a lightweight stroller that attached to it.
Here's what it looked like in the airports: I wore the baby in my Ergo. I assembled the empty infant car seat into its attached stroller stand and used the empty stroller/car seat to hold my carry-on luggage. My main piece of luggage was a giant roller suitcase. So I was pushing the stroller and pulling my main luggage piece.
How did you feed the baby at the conference?
I was still breastfeeding, so I fed her anywhere and everywhere. I did use the Lactation Lounge at the conference space but I also just nursed right in the sessions without covering up. At one point, Little Lady got a bit rowdy and I had to remove her from a session. I sat on the floor outside the conference room and nursed her. Everyone who walked by either encouraged us or didn't even bat an eye that I was sitting on the floor with my boob out.
If you are breastfeeding: you must be comfortable nursing in public. The Lactation Lounge is rarely completely empty and you won't have time to go up to your room every 3 hours or so. If you are a person who needs to be completely alone in a room to nurse, bringing a baby to BlogHer might not be for you.
If you bottle feed: you might need to be prepared to defend your decision. Formula feeding isn't exactly embraced in this environment. Little Lady was only getting one small bottle of formula as a supplement to take her medicine at night, but I was too scared to ever whip out that evil powder anywhere but the safety of our hotel room. I leave this up to your discretion, but please know that I have warned you that you might experience some pushback for formula feeding.
A mic wrangler wearing a baby at BlogHer 2011
Did you attend the parties?
A few, but not many. I am a big nerd and I attend the conference to actually go to sessions and listen to the speakers. Many attendees go only to attend parties and socialize. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you are going to attend parties and socialize, you might have some challenges bringing your baby. Some of the parties are baby-friendly (I went to one sponsored by Eden's Fantasy in a hotel room that was a lot of fun and perfectly baby-friendly), but others are definitely not (i.e., very loud music and not much space). It might be difficult for you to tell ahead of time which you'll be able to attend. You don't want to be looking forward to a party only to realize last-minute that you'll have to cancel. That would also be a little unfair to the other attendees since most parties have long waitlists and other bloggers have been denied access due to size limitations.
I can almost assure you that the BlogHer-sponsored parties that occur right at the end of the conference day both days are baby-safe, and they don't go too late into the night because there are other parties starting after them. Plus, these end-of-day parties have free food! You'd almost definitely be safe going to those with your baby.
How did other attendees feel about the presence of a baby?
I cannot imagine a more baby-friendly conference than BlogHer. If your baby gets loud in a session, nobody even bats an eye. The only reason I left one of the sessions was because I was critical of the amount of noise I was making -- no one around me even cared. Several times when she got a little vocal during sessions, I had women who were complete strangers offer to take her and walk around the room. One time I actually did accept the offer, since my job was to be live-tweeting the session and the baby was causing issues for me doing my job. I exchanged several really sweet emails with the kind lady who helped me out after the conference ended.
The baby is also a great way to start conversations, since most bloggers have left children of their own at home or just enjoy seeing a cute, friendly baby. I was much more likely to start a conversation with strangers when I had my baby with me than I did the year before when I didn't.
Tips based on my personal experience:
Little Lady napping at BlogHer
- Babies who aren't active yet are the best age. My baby was right under 6 months, which is probably the maximum age I would bring either of my children into sessions, because they have both been extremely active after 6 months and refuse to sit still unless they are asleep. I understand that most kids are OK sitting still at older ages, and every child is different. If you've got an active (moving/crawling/walking) baby or toddler, there is on-site childcare that might be worth looking into so that you can actually attend sessions without the distraction of chasing them around.
- If your baby sleeps while being worn, GREAT! That is probably the best scenario. I did wear my baby, but she has always hated being worn and won't sleep that way. There were a lot of bloggers wearing babies.
- If your baby sleeps best in the infant carrier (car seat), bring a stand for that and use that as your main stroller for the conference. That way, the baby can nap during sessions. The conference area should be handicap accessible, which also means "stroller friendly".
- If your baby loves sounds machines like both of mine have, bringing a portable sound machine is a great idea. I love the Cloud B giraffe (in the picture, right) that attaches to a stroller or car seat. It helped to soothe my baby to sleep in crowded conference areas.
- Realize you may miss some sessions or lunches or other events. Sometimes the little ones just get overwhelmed and need down time in the hotel room. I found it was better to give her some quiet down time rather than push through with a fussy, upset baby and a stressed mama. If you have a sponsor, make sure they know there is a possibility that you might miss a few things and make sure that they are OK with that.
- All the usual tips about flying with a baby: nursing during takeoff/landing, bringing plenty of toys for them. A plug for essential oils: lavendar oil on the feet or the YL Peace and Calming blend can help sooth the baby on the plane.
- Accept help, if you are comfortable doing so. When someone offers to hold the baby while you eat a meal, or help soothe in a session, let them! Of course, this depends on the age of the child and whether you are concerned about germs, etc. My baby was 6 months old, so I wasn't too worried but there were also a few babies less than a month old, which is obviously a different story.
- Have fun! Don't worry about how cute the baby looks or whether the baby is behaving. Make sure he/she is happy and comfortable, and then enjoy the time together!
Overall, I had a great experience. I must add that it was also extremely exhausting. I am really looking forward to BlogHer 2012, if I do indeed get to attend, because I will not have either of my children with me and I won't be pregnant (as I was in 2010). I'm looking forward to having a few drinks and going to more parties this year. If you're going, let me know! Let's meet up!
Have you attended a conference with your baby? Do you have any tips to add?
Jenny Bradford is a wife and SAHM to 2 living right next to Dallas, TX who blogs at Conscientious Confusion - a blog about living consciously.