Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Living Aboard a Boat with a Baby is Hard Work, or, Why I Spend a Lot of Time in Bed.

Living aboard a boat with a baby is hard for a few reasons - one of which doesn't really begin until they begin crawling. Crawling babies get into everything! And when everything is a matter of inches away, they get into everything fast. We've gone to great lengths to try and keep the boat as safe for Ivy as possible, but some of it comes down to just being attentive with her.

Ivy started pulling herself up the same time she began crawling, although it hasn't been until this week that her balance is really top notch. I've spent a ton of time hanging out on the floor with her, because one fall was enough for me to realize that I needed to be down there with her so that she didn't do any major damage to herself.

But the other hardest thing about living aboard with a baby is that babies sleep, a lot. And if a baby sleeps a lot, you have to make sure that she doesn't get woken up. This is a very difficult task on a boat.

Ivy takes roughly 3 naps a day. Her first nap comes early - around 7:30 or so. I often keep Ivy quiet enough before that time so that Justin can get some well deserved sleep, so her first nap is an Ergo nap. Ergo naps are easy. Throw on some techno, dance back and forth, and she's out in five minutes. Her second and third naps tend to be Ergo naps as well, although we're transitioning lately to get her to sleep a bit more frequently in bed. I try to switch naps up a bit, so I stick our heads at the other end of the bed and play her children's music instead of techno. It seems to work, sometimes. But if she's teething or sick or has a belly ache or just feels like hanging out with Justin, the naps in bed become non-existent.

And then there's nighttime. She goes to bed early - between 6 and 7 pm. I had always been a night owl, but since Ivy wakes up around 6am, I tend to go to bed pretty early these days. Honestly, I'm usually just calling it a night by the time I get her to sleep and don't even bother getting up after she's passed out. Ivy likes to sleep on me, so it's really hard to get away. And even when I do get away, there's not much to be done. Justin's at work, and I have to be nearly silent in order to not wake her.

As I type this, Ivy is actually asleep in bed without me. This is incredibly rare. But like I said, there's not much I can do now that she is asleep. I can't do dishes (which always need doing around this time of night). I can't leave the boat, for obvious reasons. I can't make a phone call - she's less than 10 feet away from me. I can't close the door, because then it will get too cold in the v-berth for her. I can sometimes get away with watching a movie, but I can get away with that a lot easier when I'm laying in bed with her, because she sleeps a lot more soundly with me laying next to her and I can get netflix streaming on my phone!

And then there is the matter of the dog. The oh-so-protective dog. Living in a busy marina, he tends to bark at every passerby, every strange noise, etc. And then there are the people who don't think about the fact that there could be a sleeping baby aboard, so they knock on the hull, get the dog all riled up, wake the baby, etc. You get my point.

So when people ask me how it is to live on a boat with a baby and I tell them "it's no different, really", I'm totally lying. It's so different!

But there are awesome things too. I actually love being "stuck" in bed with Ivy all night, if I've planned on it. She has started throwing her entire body around while fast asleep, and it cracks me up. And I'm so happy that we're in such a small space with her. I actually think it's helping her learn balance and will eventually teach her how to walk, because there are so many things to hold on to.

And the most important thing, to me, is being close to my little family. I try to imagine living in a big house with a little baby. There are baby monitors. Video monitors, even. Parents are not only rooms away from their sleeping babies, but they are sometimes entire floors away!

I was worried that I was doing things "wrong" one day with naps and sleep in general and asked another boat mama what she thought. She gave me the best advice that I've gotten since becoming a mother. She said "When I don't know what to do, I ask myself 'what would a cavewoman do?' and I try that." And that's what I do now, with pretty much everything. This mantra keeps me much more calm and focused, and makes me realize that I'm doing an awesome job with Ivy.

So there you have it, the dirty truth about the difficulties of a baby aboard a boat. It's so totally worth it.


  1. Wow she has gotten so big since I last checked in, what a cutie! By the way, not all babies sleep a lot :) Zach (first child) was an awesome sleeper. Naia didn't nap at all until she started crawling and now we only get a once a day 1 hour nap. Enjoy your time ;)

  2. Wow - I can't believe she didn't nap at all until crawling! And I can't imagine only a single 1 hour nap during the day. It feels like all I do is help Ivy get to sleep/stay asleep!

    And yes - Ivy is huge. I also can't believe how big your kids are getting.

  3. Do you think Ivy and Freja will be friends when they grow up? Because they certainly seem to have a lot in common...(except Freja isn't a fan of techno, although she does appreciate merengue and bachata) Their mamas certainly seem to spend their days doing the same things: floor time, napping, crawling and standing up. And I am 100% convinced that Freja learned to sit early because of the rocking of the boat. There is something about constant motion that has given that girl amazing balance. (And she's not a fan of swings. It's not that she doesn't like them, she's just ambivalent. "yeah, so I'm swaying to and fro. What's the big deal?")

  4. Wait, I didn't mean to write that I spend my time crawling and standing up! I meant I spend my time supervising the crawling and standing up! Aye, I must be tired. :)

  5. Hi! We stumbled across your blog, and it caught our attention because of Willie! Your dog looks so much like ours and looks like he loves the liveaboard lifestyle as much as ours does too.

    We are enjoying your blog and pictures a lot!

    -The Gremlins Hammer

  6. Kristen - I think Ivy and Freja will be great friends. They sound very similar!

    Gremlins - Wow, you're right. Willie does look like your dog. He loves living on the boat! Thanks for the comment!