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By Diane Spicer
Hiking with babies seems much easier now than when I had my babies in the 1980's. (I know. The 1980's!!!)
Today, the baby carriers seem sturdier.
The parents seem sturdier.
Some of my fondest memories are of my babies in their carriers, their big eyes gazing around contentedly while the scenery rolled by.
For whatever reason, both of my offspring loved to be carried (swings were magical for them, too, but I don't envision you swinging them in the hiking carrier until you get to base camp, if ever!)
So I offer a few tips for hiking with a baby.
I think it makes perfect sense to get babies out on the trail while they're portable, light weight, and still figuring out what a "normal" family routine consists of.
If they're indoctrinated into trail time before becoming verbal or mobile, they simply accept that hiking is what the family does together.
Family hiking will be the norm, not the exception.
Your baby's temperament will dictate how much, and which kind of, hiking you can get away with.
Now that I think about it, this explains why there are so many types of adult personalities!!Do some trial runs around your neighborhood first, to see who you're dealing with (sometimes car rides can foretell hiking temperaments, too).
And hiking with babies is a never ending process: as the baby matures, hiking patterns may have to change to accommodate new likes and dislikes.
So hard to judge, as every baby is a universe unto herself.
I think a better question is:
How strong is the person carrying the baby?
Follow up question:
If mom is still depleted from giving birth or adopting, maybe someone else can carry the baby while she enjoys the trail.
Or mom may want to use the weight of the baby to help get back in shape and to get the body ready to be carrying the baby-into-toddler.
If you're still wrestling with how young is too young, read this article:
So what do you need to take along when hiking with babies?
If you're breastfeeding, lunch is no problem.
Otherwise, you must calculate how much formula to bring along, and be sure it can be carried properly (temperature extremes and leaking are to be avoided, right?)
Accept the fact that you are still eating, 1 way or the other, for two.
Take nutritious food for yourself, and don't be afraid to snack frequently on the trail.
Your hydration is super critical, since your baby depends on your milk.
Only you know how many diapers and related supplies are necessary for your hiking trip.
Consider the amount of ultraviolet radiation exposure your baby will be getting, and plan on appropriate clothing (long sleeves, hat, etc.).
Or use sun avoidance techniques: pack a hiking umbrella, picking a shady valley hike with no summit exposure, frequent shade breaks along the trail.
This article from the REI Co-op blog gives you all the details.
It also gives some tips for potty training on the trail.
Baby hiking carriers come in so many varieties that it's almost frightening:
Your choice will change as your baby becomes less of a dumpling and starts developing the muscle strength to look around and sit upright.
One thing to keep in mind about hiking with babies: the warm baby against your warm (perspiring) body may interfere with thermoregulation for both of you - an important consideration on very hot or wet days.
Be aware that not every hiker who passes you at your rest stops will enjoy hearing a crying or fussy baby.
I try to encourage young parents carrying babies, especially if that baby is being a bit "outspoken", but not everyone will do that.
It's OK - you have every right to be on the trail, and your first priority is taking care of business: diaper changes, feeding, rest breaks, naps, whatever the baby needs at that moment.
And remember to take lots of pictures. This is one of my deepest regrets, not having more photos of my kids enjoying Nature.
Bonus: when your kids hit their teen years, you can show these pics to prospective prom dates.
Here's a book suggestion: Babes in the Woods by Jennifer Aist.
Geared toward first time parents wanting to take baby into the great outdoors, there are suggestions for day hikes as well as longer trips (plus other outdoor sports such as camping and boating).
Give it a look before you go hiking with babies in the woods (or mountains)!Babes in the Woods
You just might run into a few other mamas out there...
And lots more hiking safety tips for you here!
Hiking With Babies