Tips on Traveling with an Infant

disclaimer: I was provided the Dockatot Grand and Travel Bag in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

Wondering how to travel with a baby? It doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. I would encourage any family wanting to travel to definitely do so, and to start young. We took Leo on our first family (car) trip up north at 3 weeks, first international trip to Mexico at 8 weeks, and to Nashville at 6 months.

Many of our friends and coworkers couldn’t believe we weren’t going to curb our travel once we became parents, but it is truly a passion of ours and we never want to stop exploring or going on adventures together. We want to show Leo the world!

Here’s a few tips and pieces of information for anyone traveling with an infant.

1. Getting a Passport
Infant/Child passports are good for 5 years. Birth certificates are made available to the State within 3 weeks of birth. Both parents will need to be present when applying for a passport, and it must be done in person. You can check online using your zip code to see what office is closest to you. Normal processing time is 4-6 weeks. We expedited ours for an additional $60, and it arrived in about 10 days.
*Try to print a picture beforehand. The size is 2×3, which is NOT the same as “wallet size.” Learned that one the hard way…*

2.Planning Flight Travel
An infant up to 2 years of age can be considered a “lap child/child in arms” and you do not need to purchase an additional ticket for them. After purchasing an (international) ticket for yourself, contact your travel agent or the airline and let them know about your child and they will add them to the flight. For international flights, you will need to pay the international fee and taxes for the baby, even if they are considered a lap child. (For Mexico, this was about $18 each way.) For domestic travel, the check-in counter can add them to your flight ticket and it will print with your boarding pass. *Be sure to bring the baby’s passport for international travel and either passport or birth certificate for domestic travel.*

When you check-in for your flight, ask the airline if the flight is full. If it is not, you will be able to bring your carseat on the flight with you (placed rear-facing, in a window seat.) Make sure you have the FAA sticker that approves it for flight. Some flight attendants may ask to verify.

3. Navigating the Airport
Bring your stroller and car seat for FREE! Both these items, as well as your pump, and diaper bag all qualify as “courtesy items” and will not be charged as a carry-on or checked item. If you are traveling with breast milk, this is considered “liquid medication” and does not have to be stored in 3oz sizes-it can be more. Pack in a cooler with ice and go through security-they’ll likely scan it with a laser to make sure its just milk.

When we’re traveling with Leo, we keep him in his stroller until we get to the gate. We also bring our Ergo360 for transporting him-this is handy walking through the airport if he wants to be held, or if the flight is full and we aren’t able to bring our carseat on.
When you get to the gate agent, ask for the tags that say “gate check” Put your stroller (and carseat if the flight is full) in your gate check bags, and put the gate check tag on each bag. This way, the ground crew will bring your stroller and carseat back up to the ramp as you deplane.

My biggest tip in-flght would be to feed your baby at take-off and landing. This will help their sensitive ears adjust to the rapidly changing pressure in the cabin. Other than that, kids will be kids and you can only plan and pray so much that it will go well. You could try introducing a new toy, packing snacks, or trying to plan your flight during nap time. We’ve been very fortunate that Leo has been a happy, sleepy, curious traveler so far.

Don’t leave home without….
For those that follow my blog or instagram, you know how much I LOVE our Dockatot! This is the #1 thing I recommend to all expecting parents. We bring it with us everywhere. Its great for tummy time, play time (look how cute the new play bar is!), sleepy time, and all the times in between. Who wouldn’t want to travel with their own bed? Its comfy and familiar. The geniuses at Dockatot just came out with a travel bag that makes it so easy. The travel bag is available in both the Deluxe Size (perfect as a carry-on) or the Grand Size (needs to be checked.) I pack all of Leo’s diapers, clothes, and necessities for the week in the bag as well.

Have any questions on the Dockatot, what to pack, or traveling with a baby? I’d love to help! email:

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Covered Goods GIVEAWAY!

disclaimer: I was provided a Covered Goods in exchange for my review. All opinions are 100% mine. This post includes affiliate links.

It can be so overwhelming registering for your baby since there are numerous brands for each item and so many different things needed! My advice would be to do your research on the bigger, more expensive items you’re hoping will last several years and/or kids- strollers, car seats, etc. and go with your personal style preference on the other items.

I’m quickly learning in these first weeks of being a mom what my go-to items are. My most used and favorite items are those that have multiple uses. I was so excited when Covered Goods sent me their 4 in 1 nursing cover!


It works like this:
1. Nursing Cover
breathable fabric that’s lightweight means that it makes for a great nursing cover when I’m in public. Last week, we were shopping in Nordstrom when Leo needed to feed. It was so easy to breastfeed without hassle.

2. Infinity Scarf
There are so many cute patterns of Covered Goods, and I love the black and white stripes that match my diaper bag. This scarf is also coming in handy to wear in our cold Michigan winter right now.

3. Carseat Cover
This is by far the best and most useful! When I’m headed out the door, the cover goes over Leo’s carseat and helps protect from the wind, sun, and snow, and rain outside. Even better, Leo feels very comforted and safe in there and almost always falls asleep! I’ll leave the cover on him when he’s in the stroller in public, and he’ll stay asleep.


4. Shopping Cart Cover
This one will come in handy when Leo is a little older. The cover stretches over the seat part and around the shopping cart for a comfortable and clean shopping experience with toddlers.

I’ve teamed up with Covered Goods for a GIVEAWAY! To enter, leave a comment on this post! Head over to my instagram (@emeraldandoakblog) for an additional entry! Contest open through Sunday, January 15th!

To enter:
1. Leave a comment on this blog post
*For additional entry, like my instagram post

You can check out all of the stylish Covered Goods prints on their website.

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Leo Emerson: newborn photoshoot

A few weeks after Leo was born, my friend Laura (who also did our maternity photos) came over to our house for a newborn photo shoot. While my goal was to try to capture some of those sweet, naked, sleeping newborn photos, Leo was wide awake! I’m so glad too, because she was able to take some very precious photos of Leo’s wide eyes.

It was so special doing our first family photoshoot and I’m excited for many more over the years with my boys.


Leo Emerson – 11.30.16 – 8 lbs 5 oz – 21.5 in

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Dock a Tot

dockatot6disclaimer: I was provided a Dockatot deluxe in exchange for my review. All opinions are 100% my own.

For those who follow me on Instagram (@emeraldandoakblog), you’ve likely seen me posting photos of a very playful or peacefully sleeping Leo in his dockatot. This thing is a lifesaver!


I first learned about the Dockatot on Instagram but was hesitant about its necessity while already owning a pack and play, rock and play, and boppy lounger. I figured we could easily make do with Leo napping in the pack and play and rock and play until he was ready for his crib. I was completely wrong in this assumption! Besides diapers and wipes, the Dockatot is our most used and beloved baby product! It is the perfect lounger, napper, and co-sleeper. The Dockatot was designed in Sweden and handmade in Europe, and is now becoming very popular in the States.

The Dockatot stays downstairs with me during the daytime and is the perfect place for Leo to lounge, play, and sleep while I’m doing other things. The fit makes him feel snug and comforted, and is much safer than having him sleep elsewhere. We bring the dockatot upstairs for bedtime, and if Leo is getting really fussy during the night in his rock and play or pack and play next to our bed, I’ll move him into the dockatot and into our bed between us. The shape and fit is perfect for co-sleeping and we can fall asleep knowing that he is safe.

Even better, the dockatot is super lightweight, breathable, and easy to transport anywhere, much easier than hauling and setting up a pack and play. We put this to the test last weekend when we went up north for a weekend getaway as well as to a New Year’s Eve party. We are headed on our first international family vacation in January, and I know the dockatot is going to be coming with us. Plus, they have a stylish carrier for it that can be used as a carry-on!

Besides the dreamweaver pattern I have, there are more patterns, covers, and a classic white available on the website. It is important to note, there are two sizes of the Dockatot available, the Deluxe pictured (best for newborns-8 months) and the Grand (up to 3 years!) You may be tempted to purchase the Grand so that your baby can grow into it and you can use it longer, but I would advise against it! The Grand is much too big for your newborn. Our plan is to invest in the Grand once Leo outgrows the Deluxe and then use our Deluxe for his baby sister or brother in the future. Plus, the Grand will be perfect for the transition from his crib to toddler bed.

The quality is fantastic-these will definitely last for years to come and be coming with us when we’re away from home!

You can purchase the Dockatot here !

Do you own the Dockatot? I’d love to hear what you think! If there are other baby gear items you’d recommend for new parents, please let me know! I’d love to check them out.

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Leo Emerson

All these months of planning and preparation, of waiting and praying, of watching him grow inside me, and he is finally here. And its better than I ever could’ve imagined, sweeter than I ever could’ve dreamt, more beautiful than I could’ve ever thought.


Shortly into dating Cody, we talked about kids, family, and our individual hopes for the future. We both desired greatly to become parents, and we quickly knew we wanted to do so together. However, I didn’t know if it was possible for me. The surgeries, the absence of periods…I was told for years that it would likely be difficult to get pregnant, and if I did, I would likely struggle to be able to carry a pregnancy to term. I still remember sharing this with Cody, and the comforting words and promise he had for me. He was the first person to ever make me smile and laugh about it, as he said with certainty that no matter what, we’d have a lot of fun trying. We talked about adoption as a possibility, something we both desire, and for the first time, that afternoon at Rose’s overlooking the lake, I felt at peace with my body, whatever was meant to be.

I was running on the treadmill the week before we left for Europe. I had just returned from a business trip in Florida and needed to unpack and repack the same suitcase. I was breathlessly dictating a to do list into my phone while in motion, when the tenderness and pain hit me. I felt my chest bleeding. I ran into the bathroom to check, but there was nothing. Leaving the gym, I went home, took a pregnancy test, and continued to pack. I nearly forgot about it until I returned to the bathroom to pack toiletries. There, in the daylight, unmistakably, two pink lines. I was 5 weeks pregnant. An answered prayer, albeit sooner than we would’ve planned, an answered prayer.

My pregnancy wasn’t the easiest, from extreme morning sickness through the first 23 weeks with multiple trips to the fertility center for IV’s, to the third trimester’s weeks of passing out in public and in my car, to the people that were once close to us but have not come around to the fact that we have started our family before we have the piece of paper declaring us a family through marriage. Despite the hardships, our baby grew and flourished in the womb. I loved feeling him kick and hearing him hiccup.

We learned he was a boy, we celebrated together, we were showered by my family and all our friends, we painted and decorated and built the nursery, and we prayed for the life this little boy would have. That he would know love and be love, that he would grow strong and courageous, and that he would live a life of adventure and purpose.

We looked at his November 25th due date as a finish line, and as the days led up, then passed, I grew anxious to hold him. Each day beyond the due date feels like an interminable groundhog’s day, repeating the same mundane tasks, not venturing too far from home, and trying the same tricks to ease into labor: lots of sex, walking, bouncing on the exercise ball, spicy food, pineapple, red raspberry leaf tea, massages, baths, chiropractor adjustments, membrane strippings.  It is true what they say: they will come when they are ready.

The morning of the 29th, I went for a 4 mile walk around the same lake where we discussed kids and our hopes for a family together. That night, at 12:20 am, without any contractions beforehand, my water broke, and I was instantly in labor. The contractions came immediately, no more than two minutes apart. Our plan was to labor at home as long as possible, before arriving at the hospital with our doula. It was clear, however, that we needed to go to the hospital immediately. When we arrived at 1:20 am, we met our doula, Megan, in triage at 4 cm and 100%. I felt nauseous so Megan grabbed some peppermint oil to put on a towel near me. Labor moved quickly and intensely, and by the time we moved to our birthing room 40 minutes later, I was 8cm. Cody drew a bath, our plan from the beginning, but I could only stand to be in it for one contraction before starting to push. The next hour is a blur, and I am so thankful for the amazing team and support that was around me: Cody, my love and life, who gave me water, encouraging words, and hands to grasp. Megan, for her encouraging words and support, while rotating between pressing a heating pad into my lower back, and applying a warm compress and stretching my perineal so I did not rip. The on call doctor and rockstar nurse, who did not let me die despite my request. And again to Cody, for advocating for our wish for a natural birth, and telling the doctor absolutely not to the epidural I requested just minutes before our son was born at 3:56 am.
8lb 5 oz
21.5 inches
Absolutely perfect.


I knew nothing could’ve prepared me for the instant love I would have for this precious baby. But more than that, nothing could’ve prepared me for how much deeper in love I fell with Cody. I didn’t think it possible to love him more than I already do, but the moment I saw him become a dad, and hold our son, is indescribable.

Short and sweet, strong and steady.
Latin for lion, the name of great popes, soccer players, writers, actors and activists.
There have been many great Leo’s in this world, but never yet this Leo, our Leo. The name is also shared with my late great grandfather. As my grandmother held Leo for the first time this past weekend, at 4 days old, she told me of her father Leo’s wish that she would name her firstborn, my dad, Leo. When he learned she was pregnant, he wrote her a card, the envelope addressed to Leo VanTongeren. My grandmother chose the name Thomas instead, and even after all these years, she still wished that she would’ve used Leo for one of her children to honor him. She looked at me, smiled, and said that surely he was smiling down at us. He finally got his Leo.

All these months of planning and preparation, of waiting and praying, of watching him grow inside me, and he is finally here. And its better than I ever could’ve imagined, sweeter than I ever could’ve dreamt, more beautiful than I could’ve ever thought.

Of all the things my hands have held,
Of all the things my eyes have seen,
the best by far is you.


The First Trimester: Expectations vs. Reality

View More: post has been incredibly tender to write, but I believe in authenticity, always. I believe it better to be known than portray an incomplete version of myself.

I’ve always dreamed of being a mother. In hopes and plans for the future, I never imagined a life without kids. I remember crying to my then-husband, confiding that I felt a strange jealousy when our mutual friends were getting pregnant, because our relationship wasn’t at that point, and I always thought we’d be in those chapters at the same time. When we divorced and the decade dream of having children together was gone, I still didn’t rule out children. I turned one of my savings accounts into an adoption fund and started saving faithfully.

I imagined pregnancy to be joyous from the moment I would find out, to feel confident in my newfound glowing skin, finally embracing the stomach I always hated myself for. I imagined taking pictures each week to document the bump, growing snugly. Since I already don’t drink coffee, I imagined giving up my beloved red wine as the only major caveat. I imagined making pregnancy look as effortless as you see celebrities like Blake Lively achieve.

I found out I was pregnant in March, shortly before heading to Europe on a two week, five city exploration. I stared at the test as the two lines appeared, whispered our baby name, and cried in the bathroom. The tears, one would assume, would be those of happy, I-cant-believe-this-dream is being realized, emotion. I wish I could tell you that’s what it was.

Our plan wasn’t to wait until we were married, but we hadn’t planned to start trying until September. The plan was to have a summer baby, in which baby and I would be able to enjoy the sunshine, with options to go for a warm walk around the lake or work in the salsa garden during nap time, without clearing snow or bearing through a dreary, gray day cooped up inside until what little daylight there was decided to give up at 4:30 p.m. Truthfully, I’m scared of the winter, of the cold, of the dark, and I have strong feelings post-partum depression could hit me harder during those months.

Selfishly, I was also looking forward to European wines, as well as two wine trips planned with friends back in Northern Michigan during the Spring. Wine tasting is something of a sport to me and I take it seriously. I was looking forward to a summer of working out, happy hours, visiting with my sisters in Cape Cod, grilling out with friends, finishing a few projects with the house, and mastering my newer job. This summer was to be a bucket list of activities and dreams before deciding on starting a family.

Within the week we found out, two couples close to us confided that they each suffered miscarriages. Their babies would’ve been born just weeks before ours. They had each been trying, praying, and planning for the addition to their family, and were devastated by the loss, rightly so. This pain takes residence in people, and because we care deeply about them, their pain matters greatly to us too.

I felt enormous guilt that it was so easy for me to get pregnant, that we weren’t even trying, that my reaction wasn’t pure joy, when so many of my friends are struggling with fertility. They’re crying in the bathroom each month staring at just the one line, trying medicines, and shots, and IVF. They’re mourning the physical and emotional fallout of miscarriage, and they’re angry at their bodies. And at the very same time, I was angry at my body for betraying me, for getting pregnant when I didn’t want to be. At best, I felt ungrateful, and my worst during the first trimester was much, much uglier.

The first trimester was incredibly hard on me emotionally and physically. There’s a level of exhaustion that crept its way in like a heavy fog that didn’t totally dissipate until week 18. On good days, I threw up once or twice. On my worst days, I threw up 12-20 times, pulling over on the highway, running from the bed to the bathroom, or hugging public toilets in major cities as flies buzzed around the warm, wet bathroom. I didn’t even have the energy to produce tears.

I lost a significant enough amount of weight that my doctor put me on IVs filled with antinausea medication and fluids to make it stay down. At $153 a visit, I emptied one of my retirement accounts to keep up with my new expensive habit which also took 90 minutes out of my day. I excused myself from nearly all social events, opting for the couch, or my bed. I missed out on social engagements I looked forward to, and felt I let my friends down, all while keeping my pregnancy a secret to most, not ready to share, not yet feeling excited about our growing family.

The first trimester was hard on our relationship. My fiancé was thrilled from the moment I told him, which made it hard to comprehend or share my polarizing emotions. He often felt helpless, just wanting me to feel better, to eat something, to be able to offer something that would magically work. He would stand nearby the bathroom, ready with a cold washcloth for my forehead and a Gatorade, and would tuck me into bed, sometimes as early as 7:30. I am so incredibly grateful to have an amazing partner: patient, kind, helpful.

My sister gave birth to her first born, Lily, in May. Her pregnancy was physically great, but it was incredibly difficult to witness the lack of support, excitement, and celebration my family had for her. Christie and I attempted to pick up the slack, to generate excitement, and to do everything we could ourselves, but our efforts didn’t mask what was missing. Knowing I was also pregnant made me reluctant to share our news, and sad to need to emotionally prepare for a lack of support and celebration as well.

When we began to share the news with family and friends, there were comments that got under my skin, the kind that are hard to ignore, and more difficult to forget. Fortunately, our relationship has only grown stronger through each one of them. Our path may not be traditional, but our commitment and love is strong as ever.

When we were able to hear the heartbeat and see our baby’s image projected on the wall, kicking and wiggling, it started to change things in me emotionally. The baby was real, the heartbeat was strong, and this baby wasn’t leaving me. The part of me that fears abandonment and loss so much, I realized, was holding me back to the point I couldn’t bear to get excited about the baby until I knew it was certain.

The first trimester was incredibly tough for me, physically and emotionally. It’s a period of time I know I’d like to gloss over, to forget, to pretend it didn’t happen, but I don’t feel right about that. Perhaps by sharing my experience, someone else will find connection, to know its ok to feel this way, and to know that it gets better in time, just as life always does.

We’re starting to plan the nursery, gender neutral with grays and whites, and I’ve had a lot of fun looking at little outfits for our baby.

This experience has been a different journey than the one I expected, but it has been beautiful in its own way. And as I sit here to write this, feeling the kicks, there’s no mistaking the tears in my eyes come from happy, I-can’t-believe-this-dream is being realized, emotion.

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