This weekend I went to Mumsnet Blogfest 2014 at King’s Place in London, a blog conference. I’d bought a ticket way back when, earlier this year, and my thought process was: “Ophelia will be eight months. I could totally leave her with Laurence for the day.”
But when I went to a night photography workshop a couple of months ago, I realised two things: I would need to build pumping breaks into the day (totally doable but I prefer to just breastfeed her!) and she would just rather be with me. So, I decided to take her with me.
I wasn’t the only one who’d decided to take a baby along. It was lovely to see Me, the Man and the Baby, Mummy is a Gadget Geek, My Buggy Junction, and blogger-to-be It is Well in Jesus all with their babies. And it’s great that Blogfest was the kind of conference where we felt able to do that.
Having survived the day, I’ve a few tips I thought I’d share about taking a baby to a blog conference.
1. Go in with a plan
This is a sensible idea for a blog conference, whether or not you’re taking a baby with you. They can be massive, busy, somewhat overwhelming things. Think in advance about what you want to achieve. What sessions will you get the most out of? Who do you want to meet? Get in touch with people beforehand, if you can, to arrange how you’ll get in touch once there.
2. Set realistic expectations
Maybe you’re thinking you want to get the most out of your ticket price but go to every session and you may well risk burning out. The keynote sessions at the end looked amazing but I knew Ophelia and I would both be cream crackered by the end so we peeled off around 4.30. I’d made the decision beforehand so it wasn’t too heartbreaking when it came to it.
3. Know your baby
A lot of people said to me, “I couldn’t have brought my baby.” Actually, I doubt I could have brought Talitha when she was this age. She was just so active. She would have been on the floor crawling everywhere the whole time. Ophelia bumshuffles and explores when we’re out but, mostly, she still prefers to be held so I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about that. She’s also a relatively quiet baby. You’re the only one who can say whether your baby would be fine in a situation like this.
4. Think about where you sit
There were different thoughts on this. I sat at the back in all the sessions so I’d be able to make a quick escape or get up and jig if I needed to. Emma from Me, the Man and the Baby chose to sit at the front, at least in the morning keynote session, as she thought there’d be more there to grab her baby’s attention.
5. Know yourself
Think about your own energy and comfort levels. Go easy on yourself and be honest about what you’re going to be able handle. I chose not to mingle quite as much as I have done in past conferences because I knew that I’d soon lose the will otherwise.
6. Be respectful of others but don’t worry
I always think there’s a fine balance to be struck here. Provided your baby is not being too loud, most people are happy to overlook the odd babble. Crying is impossible to ignore. I left the beauty blogging session a little early because Ophelia’s happy noises were getting too loud. But then, I’d set my expectations around needing to dip and out of things so that was fine.
7. Wear your baby
I think every blogger I saw who’d brought their baby had a sling. It’s great for getting babies to sleep, navigating your way through a crowd and letting them be up by the action. Buggies were present too for holding all the stuff that comes with babies and for laying down a sleeping baby. I must admit that when I collected my goody bag, I could have done with a buggy or my granny trolley! But then, I would have hated taking it on the London underground, I suppose.
8. Accept help
Thank you to everyone who offered to hold Ophelia for a moment, helped entertain her and offered to get me things. You bloggers are a friendly bunch.
9. Dress comfortably
As it was going to be a long day, the last thing I wanted was to be overly conscious of what I was wearing. So I wore a breastfeeding dress which allowed me to feel reasonably stylish while giving me easy access. I wish I’d thought a bit more about my shoes, though, brogues don’t deal well with standing for long hours.
10. Be prepared
Will you need to take food? Bottles if you’re not breastfeeding? Nappies? Plan in advance so you can just forget about all that on the day and just focus on what you wanted to take away from the blog conference.