“Are you mad?!”… That was the reaction that we got from everyone when we told them of our plan. “You’ll change your mind once the baby comes”, people warned. But what was it that was deemed to be madness by all around us? Simply taking our 8 week old baby to the largest music festival in the world… Glastonbury!
I had always taken my stepdaughter to festivals from when she was 5 years old, and as long term festival goers we were determined that our son should be able to share the festival experience.
We felt that having a baby with us would enhance rather than detract from the experience. In fact we spent a lot of time planning and preparing to go. How many changes of clothes (two per day and one for bedtime), which nappies to take (eco ones), which toys to pack (not enough), stuff for hot weather including the sunshade tent, stuff for rainy days including snow suits and stuff for floods.
By the time the preparations were done, it looked like we were going for a month but that did not deter us. We undertook two dry runs before we went.
Firstly we spent one night in the tent in the garden to see if we could cope, knowing we could just run inside if we needed to. The night we picked saw an unexpected hail storm in the early hours, but we were OK, and saw the night through.
We then had a weekend away in North Wales to see if we had everything we needed. It was a roasting hot weekend, which highlighted what we needed to keep baby cool. After all that we were all set to go.
The festival experience itself was different to going pre-baby. We found that we spent more time in the other areas rather than just the music area of the festival which resulted in us seeing much more of the festival than we had ever done before.
Glastonbury is like an umbrella festival with about 8 different mini festival areas within it, indeed the children’s area is the largest children’s festival in the world. Last year it was headlined by Rasta Mouse and was standing room only!
It was within this area that the local Branch of the NCT had set up an area for young children. There was one tent full of playmats, sofas, and goodies for babies under six months, and one for babies between 6mths and 18months.
There was also a café where you could use bottle warmers, microwaves and full baby changing facilities. In addition, every evening there was baby bathtime. This was all tucked away at the back of the children’s area and it was like a haven, where you could happily lay baby on the floor and let it have a good wriggle.
Another area that we spent time in was in the Green Fields, here you could have the opportunity to do baby yoga, pregnancy workshops, belly casting, and meet the Radical Midwifes. The Radical Midwifes are a collection of midwifes who work outside of the NHS supporting women through pregnancy and birth. They were very welcoming , and offered endless hot drinks and comfortable areas for you to feed you baby. They also had a wealth of experience so could answer any queries and concerns, offering ante-natal and postnatal care to women. On a personal note after having a beautiful but difficult and traumatic birth it gave me the chance to talk and come to peace with what had happened.
It was also in the Green Fields that I visited a homeopath. After feeling the all too familiar hot lumps in my breast. I thought ‘here we go again’ with the third dose of mastitis in a month. I had seen my GP at home gone through two sets of antibiotics, and was fed up that it was back. One course of treatment from the homeopaths worked for me and the mastitis never returned.
If you are not into alternative therapies , there are medical centres onsite, with qualified midwifes, so there’s fantastic medical care. The medical centres are within 1/2mile of any place in the festival, so we were probably closer to medical support there, than we had been at home. Most festivals have similar medical and first aid facilities.
On a final note, common sense should always prevail: If it’s not working for you and your baby, then be prepared to go home!
My Top Tips for festivals/camping with babies.
1. Ensure you have stuff to keep baby warm. Think layers, it gets very cold in a tent late at night.
2. A UV sunshelter. Sunshelters are great for keeping UV rays away but they don’t keep the heat out, and end up being a baby sauna. Place foil blankets over the top of the sunshade (Home Bargains or Pound shops do cheap ones).
3. Use cold water sterilising bags if you are bottle feeding or using dummies, much safer than boiling them on a camping stove.
4. Anti-bacterial wipes. We used Tommy Tippee ones and they were a life saver, in particular when changing mats got covered with mud.
5. Anti-bacterial hand cleaner. Festival toilets, need I say more? (Related article: Festival Toilets with Children)
6. Buggy – if possible beg/borrow a buggy that has air filled tyres (like a bike) this will tackle the uneaven ground much better than a normal buggy. If possible a 3 wheeler as they can cope with potholes and cow pats better. [Related article: Carting Kids round Festivals]
8. A tent you can stand up in, so when you need to rock the baby, you can. All the crouching in a small tent gets very tiring with a baby. [FK: We love the Coleman Waterfall 5-man Tent]
9. A good sling that suits you and your baby (visit the sling library to see which suits you). We used a wrap-around Moby sling last year and this year as baby is one we will use a back pack carrier. [Related article: Babywearing]
10. Sleeping. Make sure you use lots of layers, we used a vest, babygro with scratch cuffs and cardigan to dress our son and then added blankets (2 cotton sheets, 2 cellular blankets, 1 wool and 1 pram blanket). We added and took away the layers as it got colder in the evening and warmer in the morning.
11. Plant/water spray and mini fan. These were great for keeping baby cool in the tent and out and about, a quick spray on the feet cools baby right down.