How to Hike with a Baby

Our last summer hike as a family was on Mt. Tom in Massachusetts. As we hiked along the ridge overlooking the multicolored squares of New England farms and distant rolling hills, we were greeted by a family hiking with their nearly teenage son. They were amazed that Johnny and I were hiking this trail with 6yr old Cap’n J and 3 month old Lil’ Squidge, who was strapped to my front in a Moby wrap. Their reaction seemed so strange to me because this mountain is like my home. I am always flooded with memories from my own childhood when I hike Mt. Tom or Mt. Holyoke. I get emotional about taking my kids through the same footsteps that I hiked so many times with my own parents.

I wish everyone had a favorite mountain and could share it with their kids. If you already do this I would love to hear your stories and memories. If you don’t know how, then I am going to help. If I have missed something here that you would like to know, leave me a comment and I’ll try to help. Also, don’t feel like you have to be Super-Mom/Dad and run off on a 15 mile hike. Take it slow with short hikes and practice doing the usual things in an unusual place.

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Pick a carrier

 

Even if your little one can walk well, they will get tired and you want an option that doesn’t involve listening to miles of whining. I carried Cap’n J up Mt. Tom when he was a year old in an Ergo baby carrier. Now I use a Moby Wrap with Lil’ Squidge (I get no money if you click on any of the links in this post. These are products I thought worth sharing) in the Hug hold. There is a Newborn Hug Hold for younger babies that I used when she was newborn to three months.

Be careful about babies hips when making your selection. Make sure the carrier keeps them in the frog position. I was surprised to discover that even car seats that are too narrow can set a baby up for hip dysplasia.

There are a few carriers that I have not tried that I think would be worth a look. One is the BityBean, reviewed here by Mountain Mama. It seems to be good as a backup or for short walks. On the upside, it is ultralight and less expensive than an Ergo.

Great backpack brands like Osprey make backpacks for carrying children. This kind of carrier is more expensive but I have heard they are the most comfortable option for the wearer.

Ring slings are the most versatile and fun option for carrying a baby. Alpine Florist carried Lil’ Squidge down the aisle in one when Johnny and I were married. Two Hot Mamas swear by them but I have yet to try one myself. RaspberryBaby is a shop on Etsy that seems to have reasonable prices. I do have to recommend Hot Mama Julie who runs Tiny House Textiles if you buy one and want it dyed beautifully. She does amazing work. That is my biased and objective opinion 🙂

 

Nursing while hiking

 

This section doesn’t apply to Dads so you can continue on down if you like but Daddy-support can really help. Since you can’t nurse, help Mom out by burping your little one or soothing them during breaks. This will probably pay off in the woods and the bedroom.

Moms – If you can nurse in your wrap at the grocery store then you can do it on the side of a mountain. I found that supporting Lil’ Squidge’s head while she was nursing kept her from pulling off my breast during every step up. Be extra careful to watch your step if you are on a rocky trail or nurse during breaks if you don’t feel sure-footed. Hiking with your baby should be fun not full of worry.

For most of our day hikes this summer I liked to wear just a sports bra that I could pull down easily instead of attempting to lift up my shirt which would be stuck under the wrap. I think a nursing tank top that unclipped at the top would work well too.

If you have never Breastfed in a wrap here are two videos that should help. The first is about how to nurse in an Ergo by the Badass Breasfeeder and the second is in a Moby by BabyTheBabySlings.

Taking breaks

 

DSC01094If the break is short I like to find a comfortable rock or log and leave Lil’ Squidge in the wrap. For longer breaks and hot weather you will both need time out of sweaty close contact. What worked best when my little one was a newborn was my stretchy hiking skirt that goes below the knee. When I took Lil’ Squidge out of the wrap I could sit with my legs crossed and lay her in my lap without worrying that she was going to slip off.

As she got older and even more squirmy I had to come up with new ideas. Stretching out my legs in front of me and laying her on them worked well.

I have also layed the wrap down next to me in a rock- and stick-free spot and just let the baby lay there looking up at the trees. Lil’ Squidge liked this too. She would look everywhere the birds were singing. This let my hands be free except for occasionally grabbing a handful of grass out of her hand as it headed towards her curious mouth.

 

Changing Diapers

 

We use cloth diapers at home but I find having some disposables for hikes helpful. They are less bulky and therefore take up less room in my already overstuffed day pack. A trifold diaper makes a nice changing pad though (and an emergency diaper if you run out) or you can purchase a waterproof changing pad like this.

I like it when everything in my pack has more than one use so instead of bringing babywipes we use paper towels and water. Having the dry wipe option is especially good for cleaning up poops. Using something wet first tends to just mush the poop around which you do not have time for when you are crouching down in the dirt to change a diaper.

 

Fun for baby

 

How do you make the most of being on a hike with a very young baby? Texture. Everything has texture and it is all new to your little one. Bark, seed pods, leaves, ferns, rocks. Let your little one touch everything and give them time to just look at it and wonder. It is so easy for us to forget what it is like when everything is new. Maybe taking your family out will rekindle your wild side.

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