Weather in Portland has been unusually sunny this winter and spring, but “normal” is a lot of rain for about five months of the year. When I moved to Portland 12 years ago, I had to embrace the wet season. And when you live in an 850-square-foot condo like I do, home can quickly feel really REALLY small when you have a fussy baby who always wants to be on the move since the day she was conceived. I quickly learned that I needed to find places outside to move around or I would lose my mind.
So when my daughter was born in the middle of winter and postpartum depression set in, I knew I needed to get out of the house for my mental health. Yet, it’s hard to get out with an infant when the weather is cold and wet. Finding good indoor places became a priority. There are three elements that I look for in a hangout: restrooms, quiet area to nurse, and food (a nursing mama = very hungry mama).
The first place I went to was the library in my neighborhood to use the free book coupon I was given in the hospital. The Multnomah County Library Facebook Page shared this photo of her first visit. My daughter loved to snuggle next to my chest while I read her books. Then I discovered they had baby story time. Baby story-time is great because they usually have it in a room so if your little one gets rambunctious you don’t have to worry about the noise. The only thing the library doesn’t have is food, but I could always sneak a snack in my purse. As far as nursing goes, there are plenty of tables in quite corners that are perfect for breastfeeding.
Powell’s City of Books soon became my second favorite place. I could sit in the cafe with my soy chai drink and page through a magazine while she looked at the bright colors of the pictures. The noises, people, and activity around us would keep my daughter distracted long enough so I could have a moment to regain my sanity. There are lots of quiet corners with benches in all the different floors of the store where one can nurse and plenty of delicious treats in the cafe.
But as she grew older and became more mobile, she needed to be in a place where she could move about and REALLY be noisy. That’s when a friend of mine introduced me to the baby gyms at the Portland Recreation Centers. Baby gyms are times the gym is open for little ones who like to crawl as well as toddlers. They usually last about 1 ½ hours. This is perfect for those chilly wet days and a great way to meet other moms. AND they offer a variety of classes and activities for all ages. Several of the centers I went to had a little snack cart or vending machines, and in the restrooms there were changing booths perfect for nursing.
Swim Classes at the community colleges. Nothing will wear the wee ones out like water. The Portland Parks and Recreation Centers have indoor pools and offer swim lessons too. However, I took my daughter to Mt. Hood Community College for their Merbabies class. I liked their pool because it was saline and we didn’t reek of chlorine after each lesson. Note: In most programs, babies need to be eight months old. And just like the rec centers, they also have changing booths perfect for nursing and snack carts.
IKEA. Say what??? Yes, it’s true and here’s why I love IKEA:
- Gorgeous show rooms available for me to browse through and daydream
- Restaurant onsite that offers decent food for folks on a budget
- Family bathroom with complementary diapers (which I’ve had to use once) and wipes, changing table, and nursing lounge
- IKEA Family discounts
- Location: by the light rail line (MAX) and close to other bargain stores
I used to take my girl, walk the showroom, grab a bite to eat, nurse her in lounge, and then walk down to Home Goods. And many times she would fall asleep in the stroller. On nice days, I could go out in the little park area across the street, find a shady bench, and read a book or write while she napped.
Coffee Shops. In Portland you can throw a stone in any direction and hit a coffee shop, maybe two or three, but my favorite ones to hangout with Boo Creature are Bipartisan Cafe, Warehouse Cafe, and, of course, World Cup Coffee & Tea at Powell’s. Coffee shops are wonderful places to meet other moms and get that much needed cup of caffeine, not to mention pastries and other yummy treats.
Now it’s your turn. Where do you like to hang out with your little one?