How to survive the shops with a baby in tow
Does this sound like you? Don’t worry - you aren’t alone. I am the kind of mom who can’t stay at home all weekend, and parting with my money for (mostly unnecessary) goods gives me great joy.
A shopping trip, however, doesn’t have to be worse than a trip to the Home Affairs office. In fact it’s much easier to shop with a baby than with an older child, so get in the maximum amount of shopping time while you still can!
Even if you are a working mom, there are quiet times to go to malls. Remember those long gone days when you used to sleep till noon on Sundays? Well, people without kids still do that, so shopping malls are generally quiet on Sunday mornings.
- Also see: BABY HOW TO: Our handy guide to babies!
First things first
Remember to pack some nappy changing supplies along with your credit cards. If your baby uses a dummy, take a small bottle of water with some sterilising fluid along with you, as the dummy will invariably drop on to the floor frequently while you’re out and about.
If your baby is bottle fed, don’t pre-mix the formula before you go, as this will be a total reheating disaster. Rather measure out the formula you need beforehand, and keep the powder in a handy milk powder dispenser. Fill the baby’s bottle with half cold and half boiling water before you leave the house. This way, by the time your baby is hungry, you can simply mix in the formula and bob’s your uncle!
Choosing a mall
I choose shopping malls based on how many elevators the mall has. Some malls will only have one and it’s generally not situated in the middle of the mall. Not only do you have to walk all the way to the other side of the mall and back again to get to a shop directly underneath the one you are in, you will also usually have to queue with all other moms, people in wheelchairs and those too lazy to take the escalator (try not to shout at the latter bunch of people as my husband tends to do - I am convinced this will scar a baby for life)!
Thankfully, most shopping malls have a few mom-with-toddler parking bays near the entrances (generally next to the wheelchair bays). Find these – a shorter trip to the shops makes a huge difference if you are carrying or pushing a baby. You’ll also find that some of those same baby-friendly malls will have prams that you can use, so you don’t need to take your own. This leaves much more space in your boot for all those shoes you are going to buy!
Ask for a pram at the concierge counter or information desk. The pram then also doubles up as somewhere to store your shopping bags - either in the basket underneath or by hanging your bags on the handles. Often, these strollers are a lot smaller than your regular pram, making them much easier to whizz up and down aisles in record time. If your baby is really small, or you’re planning a marathon shopping session, carry her in a pouch. You’re going to need both hands free to push that trolley and, as a bonus, the little one will probably sleep for most of the shopping trip.
- Also see: The teething instruction manual
Nappy changing time
So the munchkin isn’t smelling too fresh, and a nappy change is in order. What to do? Well, the disabled loos usually have changing stations in them, and changing a baby in one is a much more pleasant experience than queuing for the regular, far too cramped, loos. Most of the larger malls should also have a feeding room, or at least a dedicated mom-and-tots area. Once I even discovered a bathroom which rivals most home bathrooms. We’re talking regular loo, toddler-sized loo, changing station and feeding chair all in one private room here (I refuse to divulge its location!)
Some larger shops (like Woolies) will sometimes have their own baby change rooms, which are generally much quieter than the mall’s ones. These stores will probably also have their own lifts, if they take up more than one storey.
- Also see: How to change baby's nappy when you're in a restaurant
- 8 Frequently asked questions about baby care
Don’t have a free hand to rummage through the ‘just in and fabulous’ rail? Most shop assistants love babies (or work on commission and fake the coochy-coos in order to make the sale), so don’t be afraid to ask for help in finding what you need.
If you don’t have a chance to try something on and need to buy there and then, ask if you can exchange for a different size if it doesn’t fit. Most shops will allow this if you ask up front - a wailing baby will usually help seal the deal here. If you have a trolley and the mall has trolley assistants, don’t be afraid to let them help you - just don’t forget to tip!
Now, as you make your way out of the parking garage, think about all those without kids just beginning to surface. A lot of them will have hangovers and you’ll have that last pair of fabulous size 5 pumps!
How do you handle shops with a baby in tow? Share your stories and tips with us by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we could publish your letter.
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