Being a new mom is exciting, but it can also be pretty overwhelming — especially in Chicago. Adjusting to life in the city with a baby is easier when you know a few secrets. From stroller tours in museums, to play spaces that cater to crawlers, to smart ways to find a sitter, we show you how to navigate motherhood with ease … or at least with your sanity intact. Read on for the dish.

mca-stroller-tour

photo: Museum of Contemporary Art

1. Aching to get out of the house? Soak up new scenery on stroller tours the Museum of Contemporary Art, held every first Wednesday of the month from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The Art Institute of Chicago offers them, too, every second Monday of the month (reservations are required to 312-499-4111). At both museums, you’ll follow a guide through current exhibits while pushing your stroller through the galleries. Get in touch with your cultural side; give baby a sensory treat. It’s a win-win.

2. Spilled milk stains taking over your stroller? Nobody said having a baby would be pretty. Luckily, Clean My Buggy Boo can help. The local company cleans baby gear and toys using eco-friendly processes. All packages include vacuuming, a soft cloth wipe down and light stain removal. For bigger jobs (er, vomit and diaper explosions), a deeper clean is required, and it comes with a polishing and wheel lubrication service. Get details online at myecosquad.com/cleanmybuggyboo.

3. Desperate for a reliable sitter? Somebody that doesn’t write love notes to Justin Bieber while baby cries in the corner? You’re in luck. Caregiver-finding services like UrbanSitter make it easy. Once registered (it’s free), you can view profiles and reviews for local caregivers. The site’s booking system shows how many “repeat families” a babysitter has, which is a great indication of how many families truly trust that individual. You can also search by date and time, or post your own open babysitting job.

4. Wishing you had a bra that actually fits? Whoever said your body would change wasn’t joking around. Keep up with your fluctuating needs at Intimacy. It’s a jewel of a shop run by nice people that will make you feel good about yourself. Stylists take your measurements and guide you through choosing lingerie that fits and flatters. There are locations in Oak Brook and the 900 Shops.

Moms and kids

photo: andrewmalone via Flickr

5. Need to find your tribe? Whether you want to meet new mom friends, are battling baby blues or just have a gazallion questions about parenting, there are people you can turn to. Chicago New Moms Group and Grasp Group are topical discussion-based groups that touch on everything from breastfeeding to traveling with baby. They run in sessions and registration is required.

6. Dying to slip in a workout? The Bar Method in Lakeview will watch your baby while you take a class. Childcare is offered weekdays at 8:45 & 9:45 a.m. & 4:30 p.m. during the regular classes and pre-registration is required online. Of course, many gyms across town have childcare rooms and you can read about them in our story here.

7. Not exactly a top chef? Don’t worry — get baby’s grub delivered. Petit Organics Chicago is run by a local mom that orchestrates delivery of fresh organic purees to your home. Online ordering makes it easy. If you want to make your own baby food, attend a workshop held by Neighborhood Parents Network or Bump Club and Beyond. Both parents’ groups offer DIY puree classes from time to time; check their calendars at npnparents.org and bumpclubandbeyond.com for details.

toddler-train

photo: Mixxie Sixty Seven via Flickr

8. Adventurous enough to ride the El with your baby? Go for it! We recommend carrying baby in a sling (if you don’t have one, Be By Baby in Roscoe Village has a great selection). However, strollers are welcome onboard, too. Just keep in mind that not all El stations have elevators (the popular North/Clybourn stop on the Red Line is one of them). Check the CTA site online here to find out which stations are fully accessible.

9. Thinking about taking a cab? Chicago cabs are not equipped with car seats and kids are not required by law to be in them in cabs. You might want to wait ’til your babe is older before cabbing it, unless you feel like toting around a car seat. If you need to get to the airport, try a family-friendly transportation service like Going Green Limousine that offers car seats for an additional fee. Click here for our full story on transportation.

10. Need a new set of wheels? Stroller wheels, that is. Galt Baby in Lincoln Park has an entire wall of strollers with several dozen makes and models, plus offers advice to back it all up. You are welcome to “test drive” the strollers around the block, and the onsite stroller repair service makes this spot a one-stop shop. Find out more online at galtbaby.com.

11. Looking for a play space where babies rule the roost? You’ll find padded paradises across the city, offering space for little ones to scoot around freely. There are a few play spaces that are especially baby friendly, including Sod Room in the South Loop (the eco-friendly spot hosts drop-in breastfeeding clinics regularly); Purple Monkey Playroom in Bucktown (it’s rare to spot kids over five years old at this intimate play space, which translates to less rough-and-tumble); and Cafe ‘n’ Play in Naperville (a relative newbie that hosts moms groups regularly).

12. Want to drink a beer with baby in tow without getting the stink eye from strangers? Babies in bars always stirs up a controversy, however there are several watering holes where they are welcome. Revolution Brewing in Logan Square is family friendly, especially during Sunday brunch. And Beat Kitchen in Roscoe Village hosts an entire kindie rock concert series. For the scoop on more family-friendly bars, read our story here.

Do you have a question about navigating Chicago’s new-parent scene? Ask us in the Comments section below!

— Kelly Aiglon, with additional reporting by Rachel Sokol