Taking your baby to a festival
As the summer festival season kicks off, it’s easy to think that having small children means festivals are off limits. But many festivals are in fact set-up for earth mamas and their offspring. Small babies are very portable making it (relatively) easy to take them away. But be warned, enjoying the festival experience to the full requires a level of planning and equipment that probably didn’t exist in your pre-parenthood life.
Here we explain:
- Food preparation and safety – how to feed your baby at a festival
- Coping with heat, cold and damp
- Bites and stings
- Does your baby need ear muffs?
- The first aid you need to pack
Food preparation and safety – how to feed your baby at a festival
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, going to a festival with your baby should, in theory, be easy (read, in theory). If you’re bottlefeeding, a bit more planning is needed.
Cartons of formula are easier and safer than struggling with powder and boiling water and you can buy single-use, throwaway bottles. But if you’d rather not create that much waste, cold water sterilising with Milton, or sterilising tablets dissolved in water, is probably the easiest way of making sure that you keep bottles clean.
Take some large bottles of water and a large Tupperware box to keep the sterilising solution in. And remember to change the water every 24 hours and to wash bottles straight after use – bacteria and parasites love hot humid weather.
If your baby is older and eating solid food, it’s probably best to plan what they are going to eat each day, rather than relying on what’s available. This can reduce stress and grumpiness levels. Plum Baby or Ella’s Kitchen pouches are perfect for eating on the go and bread sticks, rice cakes and sugar-free rusks are good to chew on – buy small packets so they stay fresh.
If you’d rather work with what’s available, ask for a small child’s portion of food and make sure you see it prepared in front of you.
Coping with heat, cold and damp
Babies aren’t good at regulating their temperature and can overheat or get cold easily. According to Clive James of St John Ambulance, sunstroke in small children is potentially dangerous. “In hot weather, keep your baby cool by avoiding direct sunlight, dressing them in a hat, sitting them under parasol, or in the shade,” he says. You should also apply sunscreen (SPF 50).
Both formula-fed and breastfed babies can become dehydrated very easily. Offer your baby lots of fluids – it may be wise to give her more frequent feeds than normal. Exclusively breastfed babies don’t need water but formula-fed babies and those eating solids do. If your baby is under 6 months, this water should be cooled boiled water.
Once the sun goes down, the temperature can quickly drop and if you’re in a tent, cold will come up from the ground. To avoid your baby getting chilly at night, make sure they are sleeping off the ground in a Moses basket or on an airbed, and dress them in lots of layers (baby grow, vest, sleeping bag, hat, mitts etc). Use blankets, too, but make sure your baby can’t disappear under them. The usual safe sleeping guidelines should be followed, too, of putting your baby on their back to sleep.
Bites and stings
Contrary to what you might think, insect bites or stings are usually nothing to worry about but they may be painful or itchy.
If your baby is distressed by a bite or sting and is over 2 months, you can give them Calpol. If they are 3 months, Neurofen is fine too. An ice pack or cold flannel may also relieve the pain. Many antihistamine creams can’t be used on children so check the label and take some Calamine lotion instead.
In rare cases, a baby may have an allergic reaction to a bite or sting (anaphylaxis). The symptoms of anaphylaxis are swelling around the face, vomiting or diarrhoea. If this happens you should seek medical attention immediately.
To avoid bites and stings keep food covered and try to avoid places where there are lots of insects- festival bins are a Mecca for wasps and ponds and lakes attract midges. Cover your baby’s arms and legs. Insect repellents are best avoided if your baby is under 6 months and repellents that contain high levels of the chemical DEET (more than 30%) should be used sparingly with older babies. Always check the label for age-appropriate advice.
Getting back to nature is all part of the festival experience but, according to Clive James of St John Ambulance, muddy campsites and farmers’ fields aren’t always the cleanest of places.
Animal droppings can contain bacteria that can be harmful to a baby. It may also be on fences and surfaces around a farm. “Small children often put their hands in their mouths, so it’s probably best to keep little ones on a rug, or mat, where possible and to wash their hands with soap and water frequently, especially before eating. Wipes and hand gels are a good temporary measure but use soap and water whenever possible,” says James.
Does your baby need ear muffs?
Vicki Kirwin, from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), says, “Parents should avoid exposing their baby to loud noises. Excessive exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss and based on the knowledge of the long-term effects of noise on adults hearing we should be cautious about exposing babies and children [to loud noises].” Standing a little further back then you might if you were on your own is a good idea.
Ear muffs are one way to cut out loud noises without alienating your baby from the world around them – look out for baby-sized ones. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People recommends Peltor Kids Earmuffs, as worn by Gwyneth Paltrow’s kids and Danni Minogue’s son, Ethan.
“Noise does not have to be uncomfortably loud or painful in order to damage the ears. As a very general rule of thumb, if you need to raise your voice over the noise to have a normal conversation then the noise level could potentially harm the hearing and you should consider using ear protection,” Vicki adds.
What kind of first aid should you pack?
Whilst all festivals have some kind of first aid facilities on site, it is still worth bringing your own supplies and make sure you take any prescription medication.
The Kidz Field at Glastonbury has a First-Aid post but the website still recommends that parents bring “Savlon, plasters, wipes, waspese, midge repellant, Calpol etc” for little ones.