If you are pregnant and planning a PCS shortly after your baby is due, then this post is for YOU. I know how stressful and overwhelming it can be to PCS with a newborn... let alone prepare for a big move when super pregnant. No one wants to be starting the moving process in the third trimester and moving with a newborn, but it's more common than many non-military folks might realize. When my second born son was about 6 weeks old, we moved from South Carolina to New Jersey because my husband is Active Duty Air Force. For those of you who are not familiar with military life, this is called a PCS or permanent change of station. And it was a full DITY (clearly we love to suffer or something). This means we didn't have movers.
The months before my son was born, my husband was working crazy hours, and was TDY a lot (aka extended business trips.... to Vegas of all places... fun for him, not so much for me ). So I was about 8 months pregnant, with an under-two year old toddler, prepping to move SOLO. I knew this was coming of course, so I did what any smart military spouse does, and started planning in advance (to the best of our ability, amiriteee). We owned our house so we were preparing to sell. Imagine having to have a show-ready home with a toddler.... and a newborn. Uhhhh. Yeah. Right. So I started by decluttering EARLY. And I mean early. Christmas tree came down in January and stuff started getting boxed up the next day for donations and selling. Once I cleared all the JUNK, I got a storage locker and we started moving non-essentials weekly so that our home would be free of extra "stuff". We lived very minimally for the weeks-months before our move. But that was the easy part. Here are my 5 tips for a DITY with a newborn.
1. If you're doing a DITY, plan in advance.
We really planned out our moving strategy in advance as far as the storing packed things in a locker and then bringing it all home. Some would say it's doubling the work, but for us it worked really well so we didn't have a bunch of clutter around the house with little ones.
2. If your trip is 12 hours, plan on 24. If your trip is 4 hours plan on 8.
You will have to stop every 2 hours to feed your newborn and get them out of the carseat. They really shouldn't be in the seat longer than 2 hours at a time, ever, from a development standpoint. From personal experience, 3-4 hours has been the max I could push it until they were uncomfortable. Be okay with pulling over at truck stops and rest areas to nurse in the car. Not every stop needs to be a get out and stretch your legs kind of stop, but trust me, these stops tend to be best for everyone's SANITY. Especially if you had to split drivers like we did meaning there was only one adult in the kid car. PLAN TO STAY IN A HOTEL EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU COULD MAYBE DRIVE STRAIGHT THROUGH. AND BOOK IT AHEAD OF TIME. Seriously. Don't play the fly by the seat of your pants game I usually play because then you end up at some obscure nasty hotel you don't want your baby near.
3. If you are traveling with expressed breastmilk...
Get a styrofoam cooler and some dry ice. The dry ice goes in the bottom, put a piece of carboard over it and pile your milk on top. This should get you about 3 days or so of travel time without losing your milk stash.
4. Warming up milk...
Warming up breastmilk can be tricky when you're on the road. Not everyone is comfortable with bottle warmers but there won't be an option for hot water baths... Here is my tip. Before traveling, take any milk you will need out of the freezer and keep in a cooler NOT totally iced down where it will stay cool but can thaw some. A little while before it's time to feed your baby, pull out the milk and let it sit on the dashboard for a few minutes to defrost the rest of the way, then warm it up by tucking it in your bra between/under your breasts. I promise it's way less complicated than all that sounded.
5. Give yourself grace and be flexible.
Be flexible. This is hard on everyone. It feels like there's a lot of stress, but if you block enough time to be flexible, it will be easier to put your needs and your baby's needs first. Remember you don't have to rush and this is probably going to be a rough transition that throws your baby completely off schedule and changes his behavior for a little while. That's all normal. Just be sure not to skip feeds and/or pumping sessions, and bring a non-electric hand pump just in case you need it. I'm super NOT looking forward to this upcoming PCS to TX because we plan to DITY again and this drive will be much further, with FOUR little ones (not two), one of them being a newbie. I truly believe, though, that with the strategies I listed above we can turn this move into another adventure where some lessons will be learned but it won't be too terribly painful because I know at the end of the day, as long as we all get there in one piece, that is what matters.
Bonus Tip: My move was after my VBAC and we are planning that this one will be another vaginal birth. If you are having a cesarean shortly before your move, keep in mind it can take a month or more to really be in any condition for an interstate move. If you can have family come help, don't be ashamed or afraid to ask. The last thing you need is to hurt yourself trying to lift boxes and furniture. Regardless of what kind of birth you have, remember that postpartum bodies take time to heal and need quality nutrition. Don't stress over a quick fastfood stop, but don't be surprised if you feel extra beat if your nutrition is lacking. Packing easy nutritious snacks in a cooler and LOTS OF WATER is essential!
Share your tips for PCSing with a newborn!
Jaimie Zaki is an Air Force Wife, Mom, Certified Birth Doula, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Jaimie helps MamaBears birth and breastfeed with confidence by teaching them how to plan for the perfect situations and prepare for the unexpected challenges. Jaimie helps women to learn about all of their options, and teaches women how to use this information to become a fierce self-advocate for herself and her Little Bears. Jaimie offers online birth and breastfeeding prep classes, one-to-one virtual prenatal support, birth planning help, and virtual lactation consults. Learn more about the services Jaimie provides at www.littlebearlactation.com. Follow Jaimie on instagram and facebook now!