Glastonbury is a place, a small town in the south of England. I remember going there aged 17 to see a band play with some friends and it was unassuming, from what I can remember. But that was probably because I was 17 and in a pub with real life boys and didn’t get ID’d. But at that time, it was just a place.
Glastonbury Festival however, is not just a place. It’s a movement. It’s a force. It’s a whole different world.
It might seem like a daunting prospect to take a baby or toddler to a festival, let alone a newborn, but it’s not rare and more and more festivals are providing a family feel. We did it, we went, we laughed, she cried but we all survived! So here are a few things I’d consider essential for making your baby-in-tow festival experience that little bit easier.
1. Pick the right festival!
Going to Glastonbury was last minute for us but an opportunity we couldn’t pass up, despite the fact that we had just had a baby. I have been to festivals in the past but all of them involved a day trip in and out, avoiding cold rainy nights in a tent. A field drenched with mud and drunken friends slurring their words to the latest indie band didn’t seem the place for a 9 week old baby. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong about this particular festival. We were lucky enough to be able to stay at my parents 45 minutes away which meant we could avoid adapting from sleepless nights in our bedroom to sleepless nights in a field but we knew even if we had chosen to camp that we would have been fine. Glastonbury is full of families and they really are woven into the very fabric.
2. Pack light
We had a couple of rucksacks between 3 of us and packed lunch, suncream, waterproofs (just in case… despite the positive weather forecast, it is England after all..) and a small nappy bag with the essentials. We kept one rucksack with us with the changing stuff in and spare clothes for Wren and then put the rest of our non essentials in the lock ups that are dotted around the festival. The best part about these are that they are free which is brilliant if you want to trek to see a band and return a couple of hours later to move on elsewhere. This was particularly useful for us as we were coming in and out and didn’t have a base to leave our belongings.
3. Get ear defenders
The week before we left for Glastonbury we went to a wedding. There was an amazing playlist courtesy of our wonderful hip swingin’ friend Tom and rightly so, it was loud. We were a bit worried about Wren’s hearing so one of us spent the majority of the 70s hits in a little side room whilst she had a snooze. Much of our plans for Glastonbury involved as much music as possible, so we knew we’d have to be prepared. We had a little look online and after recommendations from friends we bought these from Ems for Kids. The elastic was perfect for keeping snug over her head and as they’re super lightweight, she wasn’t bothered at all. She also got a lot of attention and made lots of new friends due to the ridiculous cuteness of it all. They were perfect for keeping her asleep whilst we watched bands and the fact that she slept all the way through the Foo Fighters set must be testament to their greatness!
4. Use a wrap
Prior to Glasto we hadn’t used a wrap yet only a carrier with straps and buckles. The thought of hauling a buggy around across potentially decimated grass wasn’t appealing in the slightest so when our friends offered us a wrap to borrow we were delighted. We used an older version of these Close Carriers which, because it’s a fabric carrier, is much more light-weight, perfect for the hot weather. Well, I say perfect, we still sweated all day but thats what tends to happen when another sticky human is strapped to another no matter what the temperature! The wrap was comfy for both of us and allowed for her to sleep soundly whilst we walked from venue to venue and whilst watching bands. She loved the closeness and despite initial protests, usually as soon as she was close and calm, she was asleep!
5. Find a feeding spot
The beauty of breastfeeding is that your boobs are always there ready to go but regardless of how you’re feeding your baby, zero judgement here, we’re all just feeding those screaming mouths, a place to sit and feed is essential. We scoped out a bar with sofas, (SOFAS!) in between two stages and I wandered back there if we were at either of those stages for a comfy feed for me and Wren. Due to the vastness of Glastonbury, we weren’t always near to the sacred red sofas so scouting places to feed was essential as we went to different areas of the site. Luckily, you’re never far from a cafe, bench or failing these, a piece of grass to lay a blanket on. For sterilising bottles, there are plenty of places where you can get boiling water on the go and an entire family area dedicated to helping out families at the festival. In the family area they even get out all the baby baths for you to keep your baby clean and happy each day!
6. Prioritise your agenda
We downloaded the Glastonbury app to organise our days, but by no means did we see everything we wanted to. There were some clashes in the schedule but mostly the thing that stopped us from seeing everyone we wanted was the sheer size of the place. Glastonbury is massive. It can take anything from 10 to 45 minutes to walk from one place to another and until we got there we couldn’t fathom the length of time it would take to get to see everyone we wanted. Had we not had a baby with us we might have tried harder to get to where we had planned to be but we were content to walk slower, take a different route, bask in the unknown music or find some food. Nothing like a baby who needs feeding to interrupt your plans but thats the thing, no matter where you go there is something great to see whether it is part of your original plan or not. Oh the beauty (and sometimes weirdness) of Glasto!
7. Be prepared to chat!
One of my favourite things about Glastonbury, which I have heard countless times from my friends who are regulars, is the atmosphere. Atmosphere is something you cannot predict, only experience, and at Glastonbury the atmosphere is really an experience! I loved seeing the diverse festival goers and enjoying the even more diverse music and arts. It was a great mix of friends, couples and families and having Wren with us was a talking point for many people we met. A few times over the weekend Lee and his brother Glen stayed in an area to watch a band or went to grab food and I went back to our little sofa base to feed Wren. As I did I got chatting to so many people who were so friendly, so kind, so encouraging about bringing a baby so young to a festival.
‘Hope she enjoys her first Glasto!’ ‘Start ’em young!’ ‘You won’t regret this!’ ‘In a few years you’ll look back and say how did I do that, but you’ll be glad you did!’
I spoke to lots of families, mainly mums, who also had young children with them. They shared stories of their own festival experiences and how although different from when they’d come with their friends as teens, they wouldn’t change a thing. Two girls even said they’d left their 3 month olds at home but were continually using their breast pump in their tents! I loved the fact that so many people had shared this experience with us and didn’t have any regrets. It might have changed their festival experience but it sure didn’t dampen it, in fact, I’d go as far as saying lots of people found Glastonbury even more enlightening, fun and amazing with their children in tow.
8. And finally, relax!
Two weeks prior to leaving for Glastonbury, I was awake in the middle of the night staring at a screaming baby and, having exhausted all possibilities of what could be wrong and shoving my boob in her face repeated times, I cried. I turned over and shook Lee’s shoulder and said ‘Lee, we’re not going to Glasto, that’s it’ and wiped away my tears to shove the boob in again. But there we were two weeks later dancing to Katy Perry and marvelling at Radiohead and laying on a picnic blanket listening to Laura Marling. So what if she slept longer than she would have done at home? So what if she didn’t have a feed every hour like she does at home? So what if we didn’t change her nappy immediately or if we were outside all day or if it was loud? Whatever loose routine we had formed in the previous 9 weeks (if any!) simply didn’t matter.
The fact is, had we got Glastonbury tickets prior to having a baby, you bet we would have been there with bells (and gin) on. The only difference this time is that instead of being two in our Family Mitchell, there are three. Some treasured friends once said to us before we had Wren that the reason they decided to try for a baby was not the baby, it was to have another person to share in everything they love. Their favourite music, their favourite hobbies, poetry, stories, places. Wren is that person for us and so why would we not take her with us to share in that joy?
It seems that festivals in the UK are really making a move towards being family friendly with many including family camping areas, additional events on the programme and areas dedicated to families and children. It’s obvious however, that at Glastonbury families are not an add on, but part of the ethos of the festival.
And so on the Sunday evening we traipsed back to the car buzzing from the crowds, the music, the atmosphere. Our Glastonbury experience had come to an end and we had enjoyed an amazing few days together experiencing all the best things in life; family, food, laughter to name but a few… And now, at the end of it all, I know that festivals are where these good things flourish, where life is soundtracked in fields of green, muddy utopias that make the spirit soar.
Although there are so many gorgeous small family festivals, here are some of the bigger festivals that are fab for families: