Chicago is our home-base. Since we’re there so infrequently, it often seems like a vacation destination for us. Chicago is a fabulous place to travel with babies, and I give it an overall rating of 5/5 for a baby-friendly place to travel. This is also one of the reasons we chose Chicago as our home-base (in addition to the fact that it has an international airport for easy access in and out).
Chicago has amazing public transportation. We don’t own a car, and rely completely on a combination of train and bus (Chicago Transit Authority- CTA), taxi, and Zip Car on the occasion that we need a car for running errands or small get-aways.
Check out CTA for information, routes, maps, and timetables for train and buses. There is a train that picks up directly from Chicago O’Hare airport terminal that we frequently use to get to and from the airport. You can purchase fare cards at the airport or at most train stations, which also work on the buses. There are many bus and train stops downtown as well.
Sometimes it can be hectic getting on and off trains and buses at rush-hour with strollers, so we avoid using strollers (and opt for a baby wrap) if possible.
Health & Safety
The water is drinkable, pedestrians have the right-of-way, there are lots of walking paths for pedestrians in non-traffic areas, such as along the lakefront and in other high tourist areas. There is access to numerous emergency and walk-in clinics and pharmacies.
I openly breastfeed in Chicago, and know it’s my right to do so. I am a bit more forward about my breastfeeding when I am in the U.S. because I feel it’s my culture, and I quite frankly I am disappointed that the U.S. lags far behind socially in its acceptance of public breastfeeding than a lot of other places in the world.
Although I openly breastfeed at parks, restaurants, and walking down the street, it does make other people uncomfortable at times. A lot of people just uncomfortably look away, but I also notice disapproving glances and whispers. Other people are very encouraging and smile warmly. I do not frequently notice other women breastfeeding openly. I try to just ignore most people and feed my baby- that’s what breasts are made for, and I’m not ashamed of providing my baby with the best nutrition possible.
Contact your local chapter of La Leche League for more information on breastfeeding, legal rights to breastfeeding in the United States, and for breastfeeding support.
Finding Baby Stuff
Chicago is a baby stuff mecca. Any grocery store or pharmacy will sell disposable diapers, wipes, bottles, and standard baby foods, etc., and many even have organic selections. There are a variety of Whole Foods stores throughout the city if you are looking for specialized products such as dairy-free cereals or dairy-free formulas.
It is also easy to find general baby toiletries like baby shampoo, talc powder, etc., including organic versions at some pharmacies and at Whole Foods. Standard medicines such as fever reducer, gas relief, sunscreen, etc. can be easily bought at groceries and pharmacies, including some organic versions (Whole Foods has many organic baby selections as well).
If you are looking for baby clothes or toys, these are also plentiful and many shops or malls.
Things to Do
Chicago is a great place for families with kids. The 24 miles of lakefront make a wonderful place for families with kids to walk, ride bikes, play in parks, picnic, play sports in grassy areas, hang out at the beach, etc. The Millennium Park is a fantastic place to visit, especially in the summer when almost every afternoon there are outdoor music concerts and events. You can pack a picnic or pick up sandwiches, spread a blanket on the lawn, and enjoy free entertainment in a laid back family-friendly environment with lots of room for wandering tots to explore. There’s also Navy Pier, the Lincoln Park Zoo with events and strolls through the surrounding wetlands area, the Botanic Gardens, and a plethora of museums with lots of kid-friendly exhibits (and free museum days every month for places including the Shedd Aquarium and the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier).
More coming soon on things to do in Chicago with babies!