THE WORLD HAS changed, and we parents have changed along with it. Whereas our mothers sheltered us for the first several months of our tender young lives, today’s mama is out and about doing everything she used to do before Baby showed up, and that includes traveling.
“Our lives won’t change when we have a baby,” today’s almost-moms and dads enthuse, and from a travel perspective, they might be right. Perhaps not since pioneer women delivered babies in swaying wagons along the Oregon Trail have so many infants been of the globetrotting ilk, and with a healthy backing from the travel industry, too.
Websites like DeliciousBaby and HaveBabyWillTravel pave the way for parents to shoulder the diaper bag, check the stroller at the gate, and zoom off to destinations worldwide. Nothing is overlooked; from parks to playdates, parents of infants can rest assured their wee one will not only be welcomed, but cooed and cuddled practically to death. And that includes Alaska.
I’ve worked hard these past few years to unearth the most family-friendly destinations within the 49th state, including those that provide opportunities for the littlest of visitors. As is the trend nation- and world-wide, traveling babies are a growing demographic that cannot be ignored. Today’s parents are savvy consumers who demand the same stellar service for their kids as they do for themselves, and they will race off to social media sites to either exclaim in glee or cry in horror for those that meet (or don’t) their high expectations.
Where can the parent of an infant or toddler work out the willies, allow a little free playtime, or hike a not-so-steep trail? Here are just a few of our favorites, by city:
ANCHORAGE: The Anchorage Museum offers a great infant/toddler play space in their Imaginarium Discovery Center/Tote Kids’ Space. From blocks to a waterbed, it’s all baby, all the time.
Anchorage Outdoor Family Network. Get connected to outdoor activities in the greater Anchorage area. Not just for residents, this group will help visitors find the safest, closest, and most beautiful outdoor opportunities for parents passing through.
HOMER: The Alaska Center for Coastal Studies offers family-friendly hiking options, touch-and-feel classes for little ones, and a gorgeous view to boot.
Bishops Beach is a lovely spot where little ones can feel the sand, seaweed, and water of the ocean in a kid-friendly environment. Flat and easily accessible, the beach also connects to the popular Islands and Ocean Visitor Center up the hill, where babies will enjoy the puppet box and toddlers the look-and-find displays.
SEWARD: After showing babies and toddlers the fish and fowl at the Alaska Sea Life Center, head downtown to the beautiful playground and tot lot, built by the community in 2008.
JUNEAU: Bundle baby in the backpack and head out to Mendenhall glacier where many accessible trails await your little family. Try the Trail of Time, an easy, half-mile trail winding through a spruce forest and offering great views of the glacier. Interpretive signs make it fun for parents, while flat tread makes it fun for new walkers.
The Alaska Marine Highway System provides parents of little ones ample crawling, climbing, and walking options on their ferries criss-crossing the Inside Passage. Staff are extremely helpful to parents for everything from warming up baby food to making sure the play areas are spic and span.
FAIRBANKS: Take a family walk across the shimmering meadow at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge and watch the flittering swallows or squawking cranes do their courtship dance. Perfect for families, the refuge offers flat trails and a farmhouse visitor center where children are made to feel at home. Year-round, Creamer’s field is a lovely spot to wind down a day.
Pioneer Park is a free park with both resident and visitor appeal. Play on the playground, ride the train, or wander the little Alaskan village. Whatever the activity, parents can be sure small children will be provided plenty of eye-candy.
In addition to considering one's own physical and mental health when starting a family, financial health is also a serious consideration - whether it's your first child or you're planning for baby number three. Let's face it - kids are expensive - the USDA's Expenditures on Children by Families 2010 report estimates that raising a child from birth to age eighteen will cost around a quarter of a million dollars - and that doesn't even include college. How can parents best prepare for these costs?
Producer Sarah Gonzales speaks with Stacey Bradford, author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents and Family Finance columnist for CBS Money Watch, to get her two cents.
We’re blessed in Alaska with wild fish and game, plenty of open space and fresh air so it’s easy to think of our environment as “clean”. But it may be that Alaskans are exposed to just as many or more pollutants and chemicals as our lower 48 counterparts and and they may be affecting our fertility and reproduction for generations to come.
Resources for more information on avoiding harmful toxins:
As contributor Jessica Cochran reports, a slew of researchers are working to figure out just how different chemicals affect reproductive systems.
THE FIRST IN A SERIES of programs on starting a family, we're focusing this episode on having children through pregnancy. We ask: "How can future parents best prepare their bodies and their minds to bring home baby?" And when conception is difficult, what are the options for achieving a successful pregnancy (while also remaining confident and calm)?
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining host Shana Sheehy to offer advice on preconception care are two guests. Dr. Michael Opsahl is a board certified doctor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive endocrinology. He practices at Seattle Reproductive Medicine and joins us by phone. Caryn Gonzales is a psychiatric and family nurse practitioner working in Palmer where her practice, Family Life Matters, specializes in behavioral health, including support for families during preconception, birth, postpartum and lactation.
DID YOU KNOW? If a woman 35 years of age or younger is unable to become pregnant within 12 months of actively trying, she should seek the advice of a reproductive specialist. For women over 35, this benchmark is 6 months.
FEATURED STORIES: • Toxins & Fertility - We’re blessed in Alaska with fresh, wild fish, plenty of open space and fresh air, so it’s easy to consider our environment as “clean”. But it may be that Alaskans are exposed to just as many - or more - pollutants and chemicals as our lower 48 counterparts - and they may be affecting our fertility and reproduction. As contributor Jessica Cochran reports, a slew of researchers are working to figure out just how different chemicals affect reproductive systems. • Alaska Community Action on Toxics • The Collaborative on Health and the Environment • Bad Plastics • How Much Do Kids Cost? - Let's face it - kids are expensive - the USDA's Expenditures on Children by Families 2010 report estimates that raising a child from birth to age eighteen will cost around a quarter of a million dollars - and that doesn't even include college. How can parents best prepare for these costs? Producer Sarah Gonzales speaks with Stacey Bradford, author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents and Family Finance columnist for CBS Money Watch, to get her two cents.
If you follow the latest parenting or science news you've heard about the incredible ways that children ages 0-5 are capable of learning. During this crucial time it's parents and caregivers who can do so much to teach their little ones. Today we're exploring the amazing world of infant and toddler learning and the ways in which we can all help them explore, discover and learn about the world around them.
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining KTD Host Shana Sheehy in the studio are two guests.
• Mike Hanley is the Commissioner of the Dept of Early Education and Development.
• Shirley Pittz is the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Coordinator at the Alaska Office of Children's Services.
DID YOU KNOW? You can foster of love of reading in your little ones by signing them up for the Alaska Imagination Library. They'll receive one book a month from birth to age 5 (that's 60 free books!).
- Helping Kids Start Strong - Best Beginnings is a statewide movement that aims to spread the word that parents can teach their little ones ages 0-5 at home - just by reading, singing and talking to them. Executive Director, Abbe Hensley, spoke with KTD Producer, Sarah Gonzales, about the work they’re doing in over seventy communities throughout Alaska to help very young children learn. Check out their website for family early learning activity guides.
- Alaska's Standards for Arts Education - Along with reading, writing, math and science, Alaska has state standards for the Arts. Studies show that in art-rich settings school attendance rates are higher and kids report more positive feelings about school. KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran speaks with artists in the schools and reports on some of the programs designed to increase access to the arts in Alaska schools.
-When I Was Young: Remembering Kindergarten - Even if you don't remember the name of your kindergarten teacher, chances are you have at least one strong memory of when you started school. Kristin Spack asked a few adults what they recall of their early school days for this installment of “When I Was Young”. [Full story]
A PSYCHIATRIST WHO works for Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, Dr. Mark Erickson is developing its New Generations initiative*, an effort to provide quality, wrap-around care for mothers before and after birth. He cites research that suggests links between breastfeeding and reduced incidence of child maltreatment and speaks about how a positive birth experience can help at-risk mothers bond with and nurse their newborns.
KTD Host Shana Sheehy spoke with Dr. Erickson.
*To read an in-depth report prepared by Dr. Erickson and concerning this initiative please view this PDF, titled: Preventing Child Abuse and Domestic Violence: Why We Must and How We Can. (The birth experience section begins on page 29.)
This story was originally featured on Show 15: Birthing Options in Alaska.
LAST NOVEMBER KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales attended the birth of her niece, Julia Paz. Her sister, Jamie and Julia's dad, Matt share their candid thoughts just five days into parenting on what it's like to bring baby home for the first time, share parenting responsibilities and deal with a serious lack of sleep.
This story was originally featured on Show 15: Birthing Options in Alaska.
MANY WOMEN GIVING birth will spend more time with the labor and delivery nurses at the hospital than with their doctor. Hilkka Bold has worked as an “L&D” nurse at Providence Hospital on and off since 1999 and she LOVES her job. She now works only one shift a week, and is on the call rotation so she can spend time with her kids (you may hear daughter, Keira, playing in the background of this piece).
Hilkka spent some time with KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran explaining what her days are all about.
This story was originally featured on Show 15: Birthing Options in Alaska. Photo via: iStockphoto.com
Jessica Sawyer, a midwife practicing at Mat-Su Midwifery in Wasilla and a guest on this week's Birth show is also the mother of four children. Each of her four birthing experiences were in progressively less interventionist environments; her first child was born in a military hospital overseas while her fourth child was born at home.
In the clip below Jessica shares what each of these births were like for her and her babies, and she explains why these personal experiences led her to pursue a career in midwifery.
The term midwife has been around since the 14th century and comes from the Old English with woman. Merriam-Webster defines midwife as:
1. a person who assists women in childbirth
2. one that helps to produce or bring forth something
There are two types of midwives recognized in the United States: direct entry midwives and nurse-midwives, but all midwives provide prenatal care, attend the birth and do follow up care with mom and baby afterward.
In this clip guests from the Birth show, Jessica Sawyer, CPM, CDM and Lisa Weston, CNM explain in further detail what those letters after their names mean.