Before becoming a stay at home mom I was a teacher. Now, I truly loved the school year and all that came with it (most of the time) but even more than that, I loved the summer. June, July, and August are great reasons to teach. Pre-baby, I would spend my summers hiking and biking and reading. After I had L, I didn’t want too much to change in the way of adventures. I took him on his first hike at five weeks old (end of April) and we haven’t really stopped since. Here are eight things I have learned about hiking with a baby (5 weeks – 12 months).
Take someone with you.
I have probably taken L on over 30 hikes in his first year of life and I have only ever done three alone. Taking a willing buddy makes everything from moving the baby, to changing a diaper, to carrying all the baby gear easier.
Breastfeed if possible.
Now I know I have a whole post about how I hate breastfeeding but hiking is one of the few times when I wished I was better at it. There is nothing like hauling bottles around in your backpack especially if they are full of pre-pumped breastmilk. Depending on your hike, your baby will drink butter if you aren’t careful. That being said, I did haul bottles around because I was terrible at breastfeeding.
Pack milk carefully with an ice pack and bring more than you think you will need.
In order to avoid the aforementioned butter, pack milk carefully. If it is breast milk, I suggest bringing at least two bottles in an insulated bag with an ice pack. Formula is much easier to pack than breast milk. Just have your bottles of water ready to go and have the formula premeasured. I love these containers for formula.
Baby Needs Shade
This may seem obvious but I am a bad mom and didn’t even think about it the first time. When I asked my pediatrician how much I could have L outside and what precautions to take, he told me, “as much as you want but make sure he is covered”, not in sunscreen, mind you, but in material and shade if possible. So, L usually hiked in a bucket hat and his light cotton PJ’s because they covered everything but his neck and hands (it is really hard to keep the bottom of a baby leg covered when they are in a front facing carrier). I also slathered him in sunscreen, after making sure his skin had no reaction to it, before and during every hike (especially his hands, neck, and face).
Use Hiking Poles
I was never one for hiking poles and didn’t start using them until I tripped while wearing L. I was lucky and tripped on nothing on a completely flat trail and nobody got hurt. But had I tripped twenty minutes earlier it could have been bad. Ever since that day I have hiked with poles because it just isn’t worth falling. Wearing a baby that moves of his on volition can throw off your balance.
Have a Comfortable Carrier
This one is so important. Use a comfortable carrier. I know some people love slings but I really don’t and I wanted something a little tougher for hiking. I think that because I am a hiker, I prefer to have the weight on my hips, not my shoulders. So, I did my research and found one that I thought would work for me. Admittedly, the one I got was kind of difficult to use when L was a little floppy newborn (I still don’t know if that was me or the carrier though). It did work, however, and I have absolutely loved it ever since he got to the point where he could hold his own head up. He is 32 inches tall now and I’m not sure how much longer it will work but it is still comfortable and we both like it. Anyway, do your research and find one that works for you. (Borrow some from mom friends first to see what you like.)
Pick an Amount of Time to Hike Not a Place to Get To
Not only does picking an amount of time help you pack better but it allows for flexibility. Hiking with a baby requires a lot of flexibility and patience. So instead of deciding that you will make it to the top of a mountain, decide that you will hike for two hours. This allows for stretching breaks and diaper changes and tree touching (Link loves to touch all the trees) without the fear of not meeting a goal. It’s okay to have fun, introduce your baby to nature and take it slowly if you need to. Just remember that your baby might have different plans than you do. They might not want to make it to the top of the mountain or even make it for your planned two hours.
What to Take for Baby
I know it is hard to pack your own stuff and your baby’s stuff. Even if you have a willing helper who carries everything it’s hard to know what to take. The things I have found necessary for baby on a relatively short (1-3 hours) day hike after this first year are as follows:
- Diapers and wipes: determine how long you will be gone and figure out how many diapers you will likely need, then take at least two more. Sitting in a carrier for too long against your sweaty body can irritate your baby’s skin, you don’t want them getting a diaper rash as well. Be brave and change them on the hike.
- A spare set of clothing (or an extra pair of pajamas): L has completely peed and/or pooped out his clothing no fewer than four times on hikes. Something about that spread eagle position makes blowouts more common.
- Food (bottles or boobies): see above.
- Burp cloth: I always take two and tuck one behind him and one in front of him in the carrier. This protects me in case of a blowout and gives him something to suck on. Your baby might not want to suck on the front of the carrier but mine sure does. They also come in handy for other things (see swaddle blanket).
- Sunscreen: I put the baby sunscreen in a travel size container and we both wear it.
- A light swaddle blanket: These don’t add a lot of weight but they are super useful. I have used one as a changing pad, extra shade, extra warmth, a pillow, a prop for pictures, and we even stuffed one into the leg of his jammies to keep him warm after he peed once and we didn’t have extra clothes.
- A jacket: I usually take a larger jacket for me and zip us both in. During the last couple of months of his first year, I brought him a jacket each time as well.
- Snacks: I didn’t need much in the way of snacks for L until about 11 months. He preferred the bottles on hikes. Know your own baby.
I would love to hear anything that you have learned hiking with your baby. Comment below with your own hiking tips!