The Diabetic Starter Kit: Toddler Edition

Navigating T1D with a toddler is, I suspect, much like navigating T1D with several sticks of aged dynamite. You never know when they’re going to explode or what’s going to set them off, and they are fiercely unreasonable in basically every way.

Our boy wasn’t what we might call the most reasonable of babies, but he definitely stepped up his game when he hit the toddler stage. One night he’d want chocolate milk, juice, his Grandparents, my husband, rain boots and finally a shower (he hated showers) before he’d contemplate going to bed, and the next he wouldn’t even consider sleeping without his dinosaur sandals and Nemo bike helmet. It was safe to say, folks, that back in 2018 we questioned with frequency whether we might be raising the most unreasonable human on the planet.

But then T1D happened, and suddenly we were faced with a lovable but wildly unreasonable toddler and a chronic health condition. Throw in all the T1D supplies we suddenly needed to remember as well, and the combination was not pretty. We’d dread leaving the house because every outing had become this whole new saga – gone were the days of just needing to worry about bringing him a drink/sun screen/six snacks/every toy he’d ever laid eyes on, and in came the days of needing all of those things plus approximately 800 pieces of Diabetes paraphernalia too.

What we didn’t realize when we first left the hospital was that what they send you home with really just covers the medical basics. It took us months to figure out all the other things we needed to make this T1D life more manageable, and so today I thought I might put together a list of some of those items, in case it comes in handy for any newly diagnosed folks who are currently navigating those hectic early days. I’ve added links (including some affiliate links*) to the products we’ve used (and that we particularly loved) in this post, in case it’s helpful.

So, here goes:

A Go-Bag. Early on, we tried them all, from kid backpacks (too small) and adult backpacks (so cavernous you can’t find a thing in there unless you unpack everything) to satchels (not insulated) and totes (not insulated and uncomfortable). We really had no idea where to start with this one, but we knew we needed something that was spacious enough for low snacks, insulated, and organized (because organized people we are not). We ended up going with this one, which fit the bill perfectly, until we eventually moved on to having a pump and we didn’t need to carry around quite so many bits and pieces any more.

A Medical ID Bracelet. These come in heaps of shapes and sizes, and we’ve found Etsy to be a really good source for kid-friendly options. A word of warning here: these things can get really expensive if you decide to get them engraved with emergency numbers, etc., but they don’t need to be. We paid about $50 for our first one (I’ve no idea why, I think I just thought that was our only option) but as above, there are affordable options out there that do just as good a job of conveying to the necessary people that your child has T1D.

Fast Acting Glucose Options/Low Snacks. A quick note here about low snacks (with the caveat that I am in no way, shape or form a medical professional, so please make sure you speak with your Endocrinologist before making any changes for your own child or yourself). When we were at the hospital, the general guidance was to give 15g of fast-acting glucose to treat a low. We quickly learnt that – for our two year old at least – 15g was a lot of carbs. Way more than he needed, and so early on we ended up with a bunch of rebound highs. With this in mind, we gradually lowered the low snack carb count until we figured out a range that worked better for us – somewhere between 5g and 9g. This left us with two good options for low snacks:

Juice Boxes. The T1D toddler’s best friend. I could give you detailed accounts of which ones are my favorites and which ones I loathe, simply based on how easy it is to pierce them with the straws they come with, but I don’t want to bore you. Some have just the right numbers of carbs to bring a toddler up, and others fall short by triggering the rebound highs I mentioned above. All I can say here, friends, is figure out which ones work for you early on. I’d recommend avoiding the foil pouches because those things never pierce properly and no-one wants juice all over the floor at 2am, but you may have better luck than I did. Do find a variety of flavors though, because toddlers are finicky creatures with very unpredictable tastes.

Candy. About three months into our T1D journey it occurred to me that one way to avoid having to change diapers three times a night was to stop with all the juice boxes. This pained me because, as above, a lot of love (and desperation) went into our juice box research. But a girl needs to sleep, and, well, sleep won out this time. Candy is a tricky one because without the juice box straw to bypass the teeth, it’s obviously not fab for dental hygiene. As with juice boxes, candy comes with many options. Our favorites have so far been these fruit jelly candies we found at Trader Joes, mostly because they’re vegetarian-friendly (useful for us as vegetarians) and contain only 4g or so of carbs apiece. They have multiple flavors in one box, and probably most importantly of all, they are an insane amount cheaper than juice boxes. I haven’t been to TJs in a while (because yay pandemics!) but from what I remember, a whole box of candies was cheaper than just 8 juice boxes. We do also use these glucose tablets purchased through Amazon from time to time, but those are significantly more expensive, although I suspect better for the teeth as they’re a lot less sticky.

A Portable Sharps Container. Because nobody wants to be lugging one of the giant ones around everywhere they go. We used these ones back in the days of frequent shots, which were fab because you could open them up and ditch all the sharps in the big container when you got home.

A Portable Device Charger/Battery Pack, and/or a Car Charger. This has come in handy on more than one occasion when we’ve been out for the day and someone (read: me) forgot to charge the toddler’s pump/PDM/iPod for the fourth time that week.

Alcohol Wipes. These things get used up fast with all the shots, site changes, Dexcom transmitter wipe downs and finger pricks. It’s always worth having some spare. We use these ones.

Low Carb Snacks. Everyone gets hungry sometimes, but not everyone (including my son) wants to be dosed when they have a snack. We mostly rely on celery, cucumber sticks, cheese sticks and Babybels to tide us over between meals these days, because our kid eats more than the average grown adult football player and even with a pump, sometimes it’s easier to forgo the insulin situ.

Juice Box Shares. Mostly because, at this point, we have spent literally hundreds of dollars on these things. I sometimes daydream about the millions we could make from juice boxes in the stock market, if only I had the vaguest of ideas how the stock market works.

A Pump Screen Protector. Because my child drops things. All. The. Time. We love this one, which has protected his pump from about a thousand falls and scratches.

Spare Pump Clips and/or a Pump Holder (For T:slim Users): When we first got the t:slim, our boy wore it in this belt all the time. It worked for a time, until he got fed up with having something permanently around his tummy. At that time, we transitioned back into using the clip that the pump came with, although after a while that clip broke (this seems to happen fairly often, from what I’ve read). Since then, we’ve been using this case/clip directly from Tandem, and it’s been working great. You can also get replacement pump clips here, if that’s all you need.

Omnipod Pump Covers: Just because it’s fun sometimes to add a bit of happy to your T1D kid’s day. We loved these ones because they’re reusable and colorful, but Etsy has a bunch of options to choose from.

Overpatch Stickers. Kids are active little things, and with so much movement and all the wriggling, ten days for a Dex (and sometimes even three days for a pod/infusion set) is a long time to keep things situated. We rarely used Pod overpatches and don’t currently use any for the infusion sets we have for our t:slim, but we do rely heavily on overpatch stickers to help us get through the stretch between our Dexcom sensor changes. There are tons of companies that offer these, in all sorts of cool shapes, colors, styles and sizes. We currently use Expression Med Tapes (mostly for their space themed G6 ones!), but there are loads of companies others love as well. Dexcom are also currently giving away free overpatches to help keep the sensors on, which you can order here, or through the Dexcom G6 app (Settings > Contact > Technical Support > Online Support). Dexcom does also offer some useful tips here with regards to helping sensors stay put for the full 10 days.

So there we have it, a (ridiculously long – sorry!) list of all the things we wish we’d known to get when we first started this journey. Not all essential, but really useful nonetheless. If you are new to this T1D thing (or even if you’re not), please know you’re doing amazingly, no matter how it might feel inside. This is so hard, but it is doable. And as I’m learning every day, the T1D community is huge, and there are so many people around to help. You’ve got this.

*Quick disclosure, here: if you do click on any of the Amazon links and purchase an item, Amazon will give us a fraction of the product cost, but only at a cost to themselves, not to you – you pay exactly the same as you otherwise would, you’re just helping us support the site too!

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