There were a lot of things I knew I would have to give up when I had Maia. Staying out late, drinking, wearing crop tops. The thing I was most afraid of sacrificing, however, was my time in the wilderness. Fortunately she turned out to be just as happy in the outdoors as I am. Hiking with a baby definitely takes more preparation than I was used to before, but it is totally achievable. These are some things I learned on our first few outings together.
As with any hike, know the route before hand and bring your own hiking essentials. Additionally, you’ll need essentials for baby. Having a checklist on your phone is a great way to make sure you have everything you need.
This is mine:
- Front pack
- Baby Sunscreen
- Sun hat
- Favorite toys to hang on the pack
- 2 diapers and a short stack of wipes in a Ziplock
- A plastic bag to pack out diapers and wipes
- Appropriate change of clothing for the weather
Don’t Push It
There is no rush after giving birth to get back on the trail. Listen to your body and go at your own pace. Start with small walks and work your way up. Establishing a home routine is important in your first few weeks with your baby, and if you can work outdoor strolls into it, that’s great. If not, no stress.
When you’re on the trail, go as slow as you need to. Do not compare yourself to other hikers. Do not compare yourself to other hikers. I said it twice because it is so important. Women tend to be so hard on themselves and their bodies, but you just made a baby from scratch and you deserve to set your own pace.
I won’t sugar coat it, nursing makes hiking with a baby much easier. I am comfortable stepping off the trail, finding a suitable rock to plop down on, and and breastfeeding Maia in the middle of the hike, but I know this doesn’t work for everyone for various reasons.
With some preparation, you can meet your baby’s diverse feeding needs on the trail:
Formula must be consumed within an hour of mixing. Portion out the exact amount of water you will need and put it in a sealed baby bottle. Additionally, measure out the exact amount of formula powder you’ll need and put it in a sealed container. If the kiddo gets hungry on your hike, add the powder to the bottle, shake it up, add a nipple, and voila.
You can also bring sealed bottles of pre-mixed formula and disposable nipples.
Breastmilk can be consumed up to 6 hours after pumping it or taking it out of the refrigerator on a mild day. In warm temperatures, it should be consumed within four hours. Use masking tape and a marker to label the the time it was expressed or removed from the fridge. Bring it on your hike in a sealed bottle and add a nipple when your baby gets hungry.
Warming on the Go
If your baby won’t tolerate luke warm milk, try an inexpensive portable bottle warmer.
Comfort is Key
Choose a baby carrying system that doesn’t put undue strain on your back. Wraps and ring slings are great for around the house and shopping, but I prefer a front pack for hiking because it is more secure and stable. Choose a pack that centers most of the baby’s weight on your hips, not your back.
Choose shoes that have adequate support for carrying baby’s extra weight. I recommend hiking boots with ankle support rather than trail runners. Your shoes should have adequate grip to prevent you both from taking a spill.
Keep it Simple
I keep our hikes under 5 miles and try and pick routes where we can turn around easily. If your baby is like most and becomes more fussy in the evening, plan your hike to end before the late afternoon.
Avoid poorly maintained trails with areas of rough scree and boulder hopping. If you’re carrying your baby in a pack, you’re more likely to stumble on uneven ground. But trust your feet. They have carried you your whole life, and now they can carry your baby too.
Your baby’s needs are your priority, and every baby is different. Some may be perfectly happy to sleep through your hike, and some may be fussy a mile in. Accept that you may have to turn around before you were planning to. If you are hiking with others, set the expectation that you may not be able to go as far as they want. Keep your plans loose and roll with the punches.