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Baby on a Boat | What to buy for your little sailor

The scenario: you are pregnant and you are living on a boat, or about to live on a boat, and possibly living in a foreign country to boot. What should you buy in preparation for your new wee one?

37 weeks pregnant with baby #2 in La Cruz, Mexico.Lots of people say "you don't need much" to have a baby, and it's true. You are, after all, reading a blog of someone who lives on a 36' foot sailboat with her two kids and husband. We don't have a lot of stuff. But the idea that all babies need is some 'milk and some love', well, call me crazy, but I think they are going to need a few other things too...

If you are giving birth in Mexico, and most of the other parts of the world without handy stores like Target and BabiesRUs, and without access to Amazon.com shipping, try to plan ahead, or have your friends and family bring stuff down in suitcases when they visit.

Before I begin with my list, let me link you to a few other posts I've written on the topic over the years. I think I may be considered an "expert" on the subject of living on a boat with a baby since I've been living aboard for almost eight years and have raised both of my babies on our boat and I'm currently cruising, so somebody slap an expert badge on me, let me adjust my nerd glasses, and let's get to it:

What's it like with a baby on a boat? (posted September 2010)

Advice to Pregnant Liveaboards (posted October 2010)

You are doing this Pregnant? (posted October 2012)

What to bring to the hospital (posted May 2013)

Birth in Mexico (all the major links posted in May 2013)

Other things to consider. I don't have all the space that people on catamarans do (you lucky devils). I don't have running water (we use a foot pump). I don't have hot water (which doesn't matter at all considering how hot it is in Mexico.) We do not have a washing machine on board (some people actually do!)

Things to bring on your journey with you:

Bathing Cora in the Prince Lionheart WashPod.

  • NoseFrida. Go ahead and be grossed out all you want, but after using this with Lyra and finally being able to suck out my baby's snot and help her when she was congested, I wish so badly I would have known about this product with Cora too. It is cheap and effective. Get it. Don't forget to grab some saline solution too.
  • Baby bath tub. When both of my girls were very little I did have baby bath tubs onboard. For Cora I used a Prince Lionheart WashPod. For Lyra I used the Prince Lionheart FlexiBath with infant insert. As soon as they are old enough to walk around, we slap Crocs on them and take them into the marina showers with us to wash. In San Diego, these were the steps I took to wash Cora onboard. With Lyra, we just wash her out in the cockpit. The water is so warm we don't need to heat it up.
  • Baby products. We don't use much for our wee ones. Coconut oil is fantastic for all kinds of things (not just for cooking and baking, but for using on your baby's skin and on your nipples if you need it.) We also use Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm and Burt's Bees Baby Shampoo & Wash.
  • Baby Medicine. If traveling in foreign countries, don't forget to supply your own boat first aid kit with products you know how to use (so you aren't trying to figure out what to buy at 3:00am in a pharmacy in Mexico while your baby has a fever.) Think about bringing baby Tylenol and Motrin, Vick's Vapor Rub, saline solution, and a baby thermometer. 

Wearing Lyra at four months in my Tula Baby Carrier.

  • Baby Carrier. I recommend the Tula baby carrier (and I have tried the Ergo, BabyHawk, Beco, KinderPack, and Boba). The Tula wins hands down. It has super comfy leg padding, a higher and wider fabric panel, incredibly padded shoulder straps, that can be adjusted at the fabric panel and under the arms, and the best overall fit of any carrier I know of. 
  • When people tell me that baby carriers are expensive, I don't disagree with them, but people spend a lot of money on baby products. Have you seen how much a good stroller costs nowadays? If you are going to be living on a boat, you most likely won't have a stroller (I did have a jogging stroller for exercising when I lived at the dock in San Diego.) I sometimes need to walk for miles on any given day when we are at port, out adventuring, or just trying to find groceries and marine chandleries. You will need something that will let you be truly hands free and be ergonomic on your body. Consider even getting two carriers so you can switch one out while the other is in the wash. I've never needed an infant insert. I just used a rolled up receiving blanket under my baby's butt until they were old enough to put their legs out (there are plenty of YouTube tutorials showing you how to do this). Plus, the infant insert was HOT, and I didn't want anything else to heat me or the baby up. Feel free to message me or leave a comment if you have any more questions about babywearing. I can talk about it all day long.
  • My baby wearing stash includes having a wrap, mei tai, or ring sling for when the baby is a newborn. As soon as they are old enough to move up to a baby carrier (or as soon as you feel comfortable), I'd use a baby carrier. I also have a Tula toddler carrier for my three year old. She can walk amazing distances, but even seafaring toddlers get tired. I used her toddler carrier a few days ago when she had been feverish for several days and was too weak to walk her normal distances until she felt better again.
  • Consider getting a water sling (plenty of sellers on Etsy) for times you are in the water and don't feel like having both hands on the baby, or if you have older children to chase around.
  • Lastly, if you are going to use a baby carrier, learn how to back carry! Once babies hit about 15lb they will hurt your back if you wear them for long periods in front of you. Here is my how-to video on how to back carry.
  • Swaddle blankets. These are so helpful. They won't work in incredibly hot environments (like La Paz in the summer) but for any place where the baby won't overheat, learning how to swaddle is a great tool for calming a baby. I love Aden & Anais (read my review here) and just discovered these gorgeous organic swaddle blankets by Bambino Land.
  • Breastfeeding. It's great! If you can breastfeed, go for it. Formula is expensive and difficult to find in parts of Mexico that aren't large urban areas. You are also not guaranteed that you'll find the same type of formula that you like, over and over. If you formula feed, consider bringing your supply of bottles down along with a great drying rack, like this one from Boon. You can read my review of it here and it is now available in several sizes. If you pump, most definitely bring down your own pump, and all associated parts. In the past, I recommended Medela, but after reading this article, I would advise you to do your own research. I'd buy a Hygeia pump if I had to buy one again.
  • Nursing necklaces. If you want one, get them while you still have reliable shipping. I have one I adore from KangarooCare and one I love from ChewBeads.
  • Nursing pads. I used disposable ones when I lived in the states, but I have never seen disposable ones in Mexico. Bring some cloth ones down with you. There are tons of great shops on Etsy. Also, don't forget a lingerie bag so you can throw them all in the laundry without getting lost.
  • Nursing bras. I could write an entire post about this alone. Bring lots as you won't know what will fit, what you will live in, or what works. In San Diego, I loved Bravado nursing tanks but their fabric is thick and too hot down here. In Mexico I use these comfy nursing bras, or just sports bras I got at Target. I also lived in them when pregnant because underwire bras hurt when I'm pregnant and breastfeeding.
  • Burp cloths. Also known as throw up catchers, changing pads, sun covers, really, they serve all kinds of purposes. I love the Gerber cloth diapers for this. Buy a ton. Make sure you get the heavyweight ones, not the kind that will wrinkle up and shrink after one washing. They make fabulous boat rags when you are done with them. Also, just use one of these as a changing pad when you are out and about. 

A few of my favorite things. Cora with her seahorse toy, Sophie the giraffe, homemade baby blankes, and swaddled.

  • Blankets and towels. Yes, your baby can use your grown up towels and blankets, but it so nice to have some set aside just for them.
  • Toys. Truly, kids don't need that many toys. A few I've liked for babies (and I include my nursing necklaces as toys) include the Fisher Price Ocean Wonder Seahorse (read my review here), Sophie la Girafe (read my review here), and books!! Hey, books can be toys.
  • Kids books. If you want books in your own language, bring them along. You'll need to invest in books because there are so many good ones and you'll want some for different ages. I don't have a list, but my friend Cindy, on Zach Aboard, has a fantastic list of nautical books, seasonal books, and everything else for you to peruse. 
  • Baby clothes. Yep, they sell baby clothes down here. However, if there is a brand you love, a product you adore, or something you just can't live without, bring it with you. And bring lots of sizes as kids grow like weeds. I prefer to buy a year's worth of clothes at a time because shopping for clothes in the heat, without a car, with an infant or a toddler, is a chore.

  • Diapers and wipes. You'll need to really look for diapers and wipes that don't have aroma. (Look for sin aroma, or without aroma, on the wipes). The BioBaby diapers above don't have an aroma but I can only find them at Mega and Walmart. So far Lyra hasn't had any problems with the Klean Bebe Comidisec brand. There are boat moms who cloth diaper. I have no idea how they do it, especially in Mexico. We really wanted to use gDiapers, but they don't sell them in Mexico. Interestingly, another boat couple, Jess and James, just had their baby in Mexico too, and are using gDiapers for a trial run. gDiapers is providing diapers to them for the first few months and they are blogging about it. Hey gDiapers, start selling in Mexico and we'll buy your diapers!!!
  • Infant life jacket (PFD). I really like the Mustang Survival Lil' Legends brand.
  • Sun Protection. Products I'm using for Lyra and Cora include full sun protection clothes like this outfit from Coolibar (it runs super big, just FYI) plus any type of sun shirt you can find from a retailer you like, Sunday Afternoon sun hat, BabyLegs BabyCool SPF leg coverings to protect her legs when I wear her, and this sunscreen, Coppertone Babies Pure & Simple Sunscreen, rated 2 by the Environmental Working Group, (and what Eric and I use on ourselves too).
  • Swim diapers. I received one from a friend but just bought two more sizes up of Kushies swim diapers as well (caught them on sale at Zulily.com.)

A lot of times pregnant mamas (especially new moms) focus on the tiny baby, but if you are going to be traveling around the world with a wee one, think ahead for what you will want as your baby grows.

Don't forget to think about:

Cora playing with her books next to her portable high chair.

  • A "high chair" that will work on your boat. With Cora we used the (now discontinued) Phil & Ted's Me Too, portable high chair. (See it in action here as we brush Cora's teeth for the first time.) We now have this one from Chicco. I like these two sold on The Portably Baby as well: Mountain Buggy Pod and the Phil & Ted's Lobster.
  • Eating utensils. If you want specific items, and you want them BPA free, buy them up in the states. Think about sippy cups, training cups, bowls, and silverware. We used this EIO Training cup for Cora and will re-use the same one for Lyra.
  • Bibs. Bibs for teething (all that drool) and bibs for eating (so, so messy.)
  • Shoes!! This one is a bit hard because you don't know at what age your wee one will start walking. I have a tiny pair of Crocs my friends gave me for Lyra but I haven't bought any others yet because I don't know what size she'll need. When I do look for a pair, a few of the brands I like are Livie & Luca, See Kai Run, and Pediped.
  • Foulweather gear. Think ahead to any type of foul weather you may encounter. I love this Muddy Buddy suit by Tuffo because it works for rainy weather and cold (just layer warm clothes underneath it.)
  • Sunglasses!  Don't forget to protect their eyes. We use Ro.Sham.Bo Baby for baby sunglasses (they are a San Diego company!) and Babiators for toddler sunglasses.

Lyra rocks her baby sunglasses by Ro.Sham.Bo Baby.

Please notice that nowhere on my list is a crib (who has space on a boat?), a bouncer (where would you put it?), a stroller (again, unless you are at a dock, or have a gigantic boat, where will you store one?), a diaper bag (just stuff the essentials in your backpack since you'll be on foot so much), fancy baby food maker (we do baby-led weaning), or nursing pillows (I discovered laid-back breastfeeding and I'm never looking back). 

Our girls sleep in berths in the boat, with custom lee cloths to keep them safe when underway and contained at night when we're all sleeping. You can read about the lee cloths I've made by following this link.

Ali on Bumfuzzle rocking her Red Charlotte Stuff Sack.

Also, as the founder of Red Charlotte, you can guess that I'd suggest getting some sucking pads and one of my original Stuf Sacks to store your baby carrier. I find both of these products essential to my babywearing retinue, but I didn't include them in the list because they are not going to make or break your time at sea with your little one. Are they awesome? Helpful? Beautiful? Yes :)


Now I add my disclaimer that all babies are different and everyone parents differently. Maybe there is something on this list that wouldn't work for you or something that you think I'm missing (let me know if so!)

A few links to our parenting style:

Lastly, buyings things for a baby can be so fun!! But make sure you really think about wants vs. needs. Still, your wee ones are only babies once. If there is something that you can't live without, or would make you resent living on a boat, maybe consider getting it, or asking a grandparent to help you splurge.

When I am in the States visiting, or know someone will be coming down to visit soon, I subscribe to emails for sites I like to get deals on shipping, discounts, etc. and then buy in advance so everything is ready when we arrive. When I head back to Mexico, I discontinue getting the emails. Websites I shop at for children's products are (in no particular order: Carters, Zulily, Baby Steals, Kohls, Livie & Luca, Crocs, See Kai Run, Etsy, Coolibar, and Ro.Sham.Bo Baby.)

Reader Comments (10)

As another "expert"(ahem) who has spent almost a decade raising my kids on the boat from birth, I can say I don't think that raising kids on a boat is that much different than a land base in that it just boils down to your parenting style. Of course there is no space or need for so much stuff that land based folks buy for their kids, but aside from the baby carrier and life jacket my list would look completely different :) Right? Different boat, different part of the planet, different kids, etc etc. So glad you found your groove.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercindy

Yay, another expert weighs in. 'Tis true, we do all raise our kids differently. Even in boat life I think things differ hugely between boats. Cats and tris versus monohulls. A 50' boat versus a 31' boat. Living on a boat in the United States versus 3rd world/developing countries. Living aboard vs cruising. Cruising in the States (or your country of origin) versus somewhere not your country of origin. Cruising with small children versus older children. Did you see I linked to your book lists? So helpful!

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

So glad you found them helpful! When I come across more I will send them your way. That's one perk of having the kids 6 years apart, I have everything somewhat researched and figured out already for Naia.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercindy

What a helpful post! I totally agree with the differences in living aboard vs. cruising and because we were day sailing and doing short overnights when Kitty was tiny, my list would be pretty different as well! (save for the life jacket and baby carrier).
Great post.

August 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCidnie

Glad you found it helpful, Cidnie! Hope we get to share an anchorage some day soon.

August 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Thanks for the post. A friend of mine just turned me on to your blog, which is super helpful as I am pregnant with our first child due late September/early October. I love having the resource of another cruising Mom's advice. We are in the process of trying to contain the excitement of the Grandparents (their first too) who could easily fill our 35' boat with everything the baby "needs".

I just subscribed. Thanks again!

August 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAshley Chapman

Some boat cover models include a section to cover an outboard motor, although separate motor covers are also available. Covers are secured to the boat itself or to a trailer by straps, but some custom-made models are fastened to the hull with snaps.

October 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKayaks Accessories

Thanks for all the links Charlotte, you've saved me hours of web searching :)

October 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

Many customers are in favor of visiting boat shop to purchase high quality of accessories.

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Cuthbert

The photos of mothers with their babies with different situation on the above blog are looking so nice. These moments are very valuable for a mother. Spend some quality moment with baby always bring sweet memories for parents. A good mother wants to take proper care of her baby and choose the best products to give a luxurious and health life to her lovely baby.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHamilton

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