This past weekend we decided go hiking with a baby. It was Roark’s first hike!
Ever since we moved to Colorado, we were inspired by the families we crossed on the trails that took their kids on every type of hike, even ascending 14,ooo ft mountains. Naturally, we embraced this adventurous parenting style even before Roark was born. Now that he is 3.5 months old and a lot more aware of the world around him, we decided it was time to go hiking with a baby.
Since we haven’t hiked for over an year and it was Roark’s first hike, we had some apprehensions and some lessons leaned that hopefully we can adjust in future hikes:
Practice Makes it Perfect
When we started the trail, Roark broke down in tears. We weren’t sure what was bothering him, so we did what new parents do, eliminate possible problems. Is he hungry? Is the diaper dirty? Is he in pain? No, no, no. We realized that Roark was fine hiking in our arms, but not in the baby carrier, which meant we would need to address that for future hikes with plenty of walks during the week using the baby carrier. Roark used to throw a fit every time we strapped him in the car seat as well. We kept trying and took him out often in the car seat to get him used to it. Now, we still get a mean stare every once in a while, but he no longer cries the entire time he is in it. I hope the same will happen with the baby carrier.
Place baby facing out
After a good 15 mins minutes trying to figure out why Roark was crying. we finally realized that he wanted to see forward instead of facing my chest, so we flipped him around. After that he was happy as a clam. Such a small thing, but it took us worrying about his diaper, hat, clothes, the carrier, if he was hungry and a multitude of other things, before we got to the fact he simply wanted to ride facing forward.
Get a comfortable baby carrier
We have a baby carrier, but I think we need to look at other brands. It provided good support on my hips, taking the bulk of Roark’s weight, but it lacked back support for when Roark fell asleep and his body slumped forward away from my chest. One solution would be to face him towards me, but I still think a baby carrier that provides a better support on top would be better on longer hikes. However, we may need to do some research because at 6 months old, he will be able to ride on a backpack style carrier, so it might be better to just wait and make the investment one on a carrier we can use longer.
Get the appropriate sun coverage
Because Roark is under 6 months old and has really fair skin, we have to cover him up from the sun with clothes instead of sunscreen. However, in a really hot day, long sleeves and pants can also cause overheating since babies don’t sweat like adults to regulate their temperatures. The solution is to hike early and mainly in shaded areas, cover his head with a hat and when we had no choice than to hike in the sun, use a light fabric to cover any exposed skin. This worked for short distances, but in the future I will have to either find lighter clothes that provide sun protection or only choose hikes with lots of trees.
Choose a short, less strenuous trail
For Roark’s first hike we went to a park we had hiked before, but instead of doing the trail we were used to, we decided to go for the less strenuous and less popular trail in the park. This worked really well since the trail was mostly flat and shaded and we shared it with very few hikers eliminating the physical stress of a strenuous terrain and the emotional stress tied to worrying about bothering other hikers if Roark decided to cry loudly in the trail.
Be prepared to go back without reaching the end of the trail
Instead of going all the way to the end, we hiked for about a mile and when Roark fell asleep, we turned around and hiked back. We wanted to start small and that worked well. I am glad we didn’t set some lofty goal that left us feeling like a failure.
Be patient while hiking with a baby
Be patient not only with your baby, but with your partner. Be supportive of each other and take one step at a time. You are a team! Thankfully for us, we had been hiking for a while before Roark, so we know our stress points and how to communicate our needs. That helps when you realize that one of you will need to carry the baby and the other the supplies.
Be prepared, but don’t get paralyzed
I was really anxious about where I would change Roark or where I would feed him, but as it turned out, it’s not brain science. Hiking with a baby is not that difficult, specially in snow-free trails. All you need is a ground cover or a wide flat rock in which to lay your baby upon. That’s it. With snow, it may get a little trickier, but I am devising a plan for that as well. The key is to think about these things, prepare for it, but not let it stop you from hiking with a baby.
Be aware of the baby’s normal schedule
When we arrived at the trail, Roark was a little cranky. His morning nap had been delayed and he was hungry. I breastfed him in the car, changed his diaper for a second time since leaving home and proceeded to get ready for the trail. As soon as I strapped him in the carrier and strapped on my backpack, he started crying. I tried walking into the woods to give him something to see and movement, and the cry just got louder. In hindsight, next time I would probably try to hike earlier so I wouldn’t need to wake him up to go hiking.
Create a positive association
At one point in Roark’s mini meltdown, I was about to quit and admit defeat, but then I remembered when my husband and I dove for first time on our own. We were in the Great Barrier Reef, diving out of a boat that we were sleeping in for 4 nights and we had just received our certification. We were newlyweds, diving the first time as partners, without an instructor and without a guide. We descended with a group and while everyone else moved on, the hubby and I were fascinated by the clown fish right below the boat for a while. When we were done, we looked around and we were all alone. We looked at each other to decide where to go. As you can imagine, having a conversation underwater is not a simple thing. My husband wanted to go one way and I wanted to go the other way and because we were newlyweds, newly certified and quite unprepared to lead and follow, we got so frustrated trying to communicate underwater that we decided to ascend to the surface. As soon as our respirators were out of our mouths and we signaled the boat we were ok, we had an argument. Our dive instructor looked at us trying to get back on the boat and said “Get back underwater! This is your first dive and it can’t end this way. Talk to each other, make a plan and try again.” We listened to the 19-year-old Kiwi, because he knew what he was doing! We got back in the water and had a fantastic dive. We’ve had more than 100 great dives since then all over the world and I am grateful we didn’t let our first dive be ruined by our lack of experience. All the wonderful dives we had over the past 11 years may not have existed without that second try.
Hiking with a baby was like our first dive. If we left the trail without trying because we were flustered and worried and running out of patience, we ran the risk of associating hiking with our son as a stressful experience. I didn’t want that to happen. I also didn’t want him to associate the carrier or the trail with something bad. So we would stay at the beginning of the trail until we could calmly hike, even if we only did it for 100 ft. The distance or how long it took was not important, what mattered at that moment was trying, persevering and succeeding.
Have you hiked with a baby before? If yes, please share your tips below!
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