Essential kit, part 8: ear defenders

A smiling mother holds a newborn baby wearing ear defenders in an empty theatre, while a man plays saxophone in the background. Credit Steve Pretty
The baby girl at her first soundcheck, when she was 7-weeks-old. © Steve Pretty

We owned a pair of baby ear defenders – sound-reducing ear muffs – before we owned a cot. That’s what happens when you have a baby with a musician.

In all seriousness though, buying those ear defenders felt like a statement of intent. We were determined that having a baby wouldn’t stop us from doing the things we love, including going to gigs, and we knew that to have the baby girl along with us at noisy events, we needed some kit.

The thing to look for when you’re buying ear defenders is the SNR value, which tells you how much sound they cut out. Most of the ones available for babies and children have an SNR value of around 26db – enough to stop their hearing from being damaged, while not totally cutting them off from what’s going on around them.

Ear defenders that fold up are more convenient and less likely to be accidentally damaged in your bag. The more comfortable they are, the more likely that your little one will keep them on. At least that’s the theory – the baby girl was perfectly happy to wear ear defenders when she was little, but started to object at around 12-months-old. These days we have to keep her constantly distracted while she’s wearing them or she’ll whip them off in a flash.

We started the baby girl on a pair of Ems for Bubs, which come with an adjustable elastic headband, making them suitable from birth. Once she outgrows them, at 18-months-old, we’ll be getting her a pair of Ems for Kids. Whichever style you go for, just make sure the ear muffs cover the ear completely and that no hair is in the way.

We bought the baby girl’s ear defenders to use at gigs, but the first time she wore them was actually at a wedding of some friends of ours when she was two-weeks-old. The music wasn’t all that loud, but combined with the hubbub of conversation, it was all a bit overwhelming for her. We put on the ear defenders, she calmed down and we were able to relax and enjoy the party.

We took the baby girl to Glastonbury when she was about nine-months-old and kept her ear defenders on us at all times. She wore them at gigs, of course, but we also put them on at nap time, which was always spent on the move in the sling. That way we were free to explore the festival without having to wake her up to put on the ear defenders when we found ourselves in a noisy environment.

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*WIN* a pair of baby ear defenders! I’ve partnered with Ems for Kids to offer two lucky winners a pair of Ems for Bubs baby ear defenders in a colour of your choice.

Here’s how to enter:
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The closing date is 25 January 2018 at 23.59 (GMT).
I’m giving away two pairs of Ems for Bubs baby ear defenders, in a colour of the winner’s choice (subject to availability).
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Welcome to Baby Adventuring

I’m a freelance travel and arts journalist and, as of autumn 2016, mother to a very cheery baby girl. This is a practical blog inspired by my travels with her, that I hope will be practical and inspiring for you. Before I get started though, here’s some context.

My partner and I spent years deliberating starting a family, trying to work out how a baby might slot into our busy freelance lives. Travel has been a passion for both of us, as well as important in our work, for as long as we can remember, so finding a way to continue our adventuring with a small person in tow was something we came back to again and again. Every trip we went on, whether for business or pleasure, the conversation would inevitably turn to how we might manage in such a place with a baby. We knew that travelling as a family would be different to travelling as a couple, and that some compromises would be necessary, but we were committed to approaching these new travel adventures with the same spirit that had informed our plans thus far.

There’s only so much you can game these things out of course, so eventually we decided to go for it. Our daughter was born just over a year ago and has proved remarkably amenable to gallivanting, accompanying us on work trips and holidays including a city break to Santiago de Compostela, Christmas with the in-laws in the ‘burbs, diving in the Red Sea, camping in drizzly Devon, visiting family in California, and to Glastonbury Festival, as well as countless trips into and across London from our home in Hackney.

Not all these adventures were 100 per cent fun, 100 per cent of the time, but I’d do them all again. (Well, I’d do most of them again. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking a four-month-old to Goa for just 10 days; we had a lovely time, but jet lag + heat + baby girl trying to put everything in her mouth = more stress than ideal.)

I’ve learnt a lot this past year and the aim of this blog is to package up some of those lessons to hopefully bolster the confidence of other parents to travel with their babies and toddlers. You don’t need to fly across the globe – baby adventuring is just about continuing to explore the world while your kids are small. For some, that might mean checking out a local arts festival, going camping as a family or taking your baby to the seaside. Others among you will be desperate to pick up where you left off in late pregnancy and whisk your newest family member away to far flung destinations. Most will fall somewhere in between, and this blog will have things in it for all you.

I’ll be asking for your tips too, and inviting you to request topics for me to cover. I hope this can be a space for conversation, an online version of the sort of chat that parents of small children share in WhatsApp groups, in cafes and at the playground. Parenting is largely trial and error, as far as I can tell – but mining your friends and acquaintances for tips certainly increases your chances of success. The same is true for travelling with babies and toddlers – I’d like this blog to be another location for that mining to take place.