My Mom Made That: Traveling DC Icon

We just got back from another trip with the Monkey, and I realized that some of my experiences traveling with my nursling could possibly be helpful to other mothers out there.  Monkey has just turned 9-months-old, and has been exclusively breast-fed since birth.  Traveling with him has reminded me that there are situations and challenges that mothers encounter when hitting the road with a nursing baby.  I’ve also learned that many places are well suited for finding a quiet spot for nursing while others were probably better skipped until the Monkey was a bit older.   I travel to Washington, D.C. about once a year.  My last trip there was about 10 months ago, shortly before Monkey made his appearance.  Frog went with me on that trip.  He opted out of going back to DC this time around, as it would have caused him to miss a swim meet.

Before I share my experiences in many museums around DC, I also want to share this caveat:  Monkey is an exceptionally well-behaved, go-with-the-flow baby.  (I’m not simply bragging about his behavior, as I know that Frog would have never tolerated all that Monkey visited!)  Monkey loves people and being with his family, and as long as there are people to smile at and engage with, he can be entertained for hours.

Monkey at White House

Monkey at White House

 

Now, with the exception of our trip to the zoo, we did all of our sight-seeing on foot.  We love our Maclaren Volo Stroller.  It is light-weight, small and very maneuverable.  Our hotel was centrally located so that we were able to walk to everything.  Thus, I made sure to pack a sippy cup of water, a broad-brimmed hat and sunscreen for the Monkey.

Monkey and Mommy at the Zoo

Monkey and Mommy at the Zoo

The National Zoo:  We took a cab from our hotel near Metro Center to get to the National Zoo.  You can certainly take the Metro there.  I have ridden it there from the Mall when Frog was about 4 years old.  However, with the stroller, and the comparable cost, we realized that we’d only save about $10 riding the Metro.  The Metro puts you out about 4 blocks from the Zoo.  It’s not a bad walk, but the convenience of getting door to door service with the baby won out for us.  We went to the Zoo on a slightly overcast, humid day.  There were a few sprinkles while were there.  Like most of the museums in Washington, D.C., the Zoo is free.  The map of the zoo is $2.

  • Since I use a nursing shawl for privacy, I do not like to nurse the Monkey outside in the summer heat and humidity.  He gets squirmy and sweaty.  I always try to find a cool indoor location for his meal times.   During our day at the zoo, I found that if you don’t mind sitting on the floor, you are able to nurse in the air conditioning in the visitor center.
  • You can also nurse in the Amazonia gallery.  There are also restrooms for changing there.
  • I only found one indoor restaurant that was open.  It was just past the prairie dog exhibit and past the carousel.  It’s a little crowded, and you won’t have a ton of privacy, but it is air conditioned and has chairs with backs.  I saw one other nursing mother in there while we all had our lunch.
  • There is a no stroller policy in several of the animal “houses.”  If you are traveling with a non-mobile infant, I found that most of the time they will allow you to keep the baby in the stroller.  There are exceptions, and there were times where I was asked to park my stroller, and then saw others with their strollers in the exhibit.  I generally agreed with how they enforced the policy– if you child is awake and can walk, your child needs to walk through the animal house.  They also seem to consider the size of the stroller– remember if you take a really super-sized stroller, they are less likely to let you into the animal house with it!
  • Changing areas were a bit hit or miss.  Some of the bathrooms were a little gross, as you can expect in a zoo that gets lot of tourists.  I found that the coolest (temperature wise) with the most spacious changing area was in the Ladies’ Room between the police substation and the restaurant, near the carousel.

The Holocaust Museum: I went to this museum about ten years ago, and found it extremely inspirational and moving.  It is very impressive.  If you haven’t been, I recommend it as one of the high points of the museums in Washington, D.C.   That being said, it was not a museum for a nursing infant. I would also recommend that you go with children who are old enough to appreciate the museum, say 8 and up. 

  • The website says that you can’t bring strollers to the museum, so we asked at the information desk, and checked the stroller at the coat check.  However, we saw several strollers up in the museum’s exhibit halls.  I got mixed information when I asked the staff about it.  Some said no strollers, some said strollers were allowed.
  • This is a museum about the Holocaust.  It is a somber, quiet, reflective museum.  Loud disruptive children are not appreciated!  Monkey didn’t make a lot of noise while he was there, except when he got bored and a little fussy.  Then I felt like every single visitor was glaring at me.  (Okay, maybe I’m just saying that because I was embarrassed.)
  • The museum is also filled with neutral colors like grey, beige, brown, taupe, etc.  There isn’t a lot to stimulate the littlest minds and catch their attention.  Between depressed, unsmiling, serious faces and the lack of color, Monkey had no interest in being in the museum.
  • I couldn’t find a changing table anywhere in the museum.  In fact, I had a really hard time finding a clearly marked rest room once we started going through the museum.   I needed to change Monkey at one point, but really didn’t know what to do– the Holocaust Museum is not the kind of place where you can lay your baby out on a bench and do a fast diaper change!
  • There aren’t a lot of places for nursing with any kind of privacy.  Since I always use a nursing shawl, I don’t get embarrassed about nursing in public places, but I had a hard time finding any place that wasn’t in the middle of hundreds of people.  I ran into another nursing mother in one of the quieter rooms on a bench against the wall, and she greeted me and said that she, too, hadn’t known where she ought to feed her baby.
Monkey Banging the Drums at the American Indian Museum

Monkey Banging the Drums at the American Indian Museum

National Museum of the American Indian:  This was my first time checking out this museum, as Frog hadn’t wanted to go the last few times.  I really liked the museum.  It’s got gorgeous architecture, and the Monkey liked hearing his echo in the building.  I really, really enjoyed each of the exhibits about the different tribes.  It was very educational and interesting.  I also liked the museum as a nursing mother.

  • There were little seating areas around some lovely statues on each floor of the exhibit halls, as well as amble seating with backs along the hallways.  I had plenty of room to comfortable nurse the Monkey when he needed to eat.
  • I found the exhibit areas to be large enough to comfortable accommodate our stroller, and the Monkey liked the exhibits.  He found the dancing and chanting videos engaging, and liked some of the artwork as well.
  • The changing areas were new and clean, so I had no complaints there.
  • There is a great children’s exhibit called ImagiNATIONS that has arts and crafts as well as other hands-on activities for the children.  This is a good place for your toddlers and preschoolers to get their wiggles out.  The Monkey liked their super-soft carpet.  He had just started “real” crawling that week, and enjoyed exploring, particularly the giant TeePee.
Monkey in Kayak at American Indian Museum

Monkey in Kayak at American Indian Museum

Bureau of Engraving and Printing:  Frog went on this tour a year ago with his grandparents, and reported that it was fabulous.  Even though I’ve been to DC on numerous occasions, I had never gotten to visit.  If you want to go on a tour, I suggest you refer to their website, as you need to get a free ticket before your tour starts.  Mellow Man actually walked over the the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and stood in line while I got the Monkey dressed and fed.

  • You cannot bring strollers on this tour.  They are not allowed.  You have to park them at the start of the tour, and then go back and retrieve them once the tour is over.  Luckily the tour only takes about 20-30 minutes, so the baby shouldn’t get too heavy!
  • Other than the video at the start of the tour, the entire tour is standing and walking.  If you have to feed your nursling, you’ll have to do this while walking.  Alternatively, you can wait until the end of the tour.  There are a few uncomfortable benches in the store.
  • Given how short this tour was, I didn’t actually try to change the Monkey, so I can’t speak to the facilities.

We visited several more sites that I am going to talk about later in the week, including the Museum of American History, the Natural History Museum, the Portrait Gallery and the Spy Museum.  Does anyone else have experiences and advice to share about traveling with their nursling?

I’m sharing my experiences at: