After our son was born on June 28th this year, we could barely wait the recommended two weeks of mama recovery time to beat feet back on the trail. We just knew that sharing our favorite pastime with him was going to probably be the most awesome thing ever.
And it was.
My first suggestion is to start slow. Our first choice was an ambitious road trip to Mt. Rainier National Park. It was perfect for us, since the pomp and circumstance of preparing and executing this early parenting feat required all of our baby skills accumulated thus far, but at the same time did not physically exhaust postpartum me. Once we got to Rainier, we had a long picnic and a short hike. Perfect!
Starting slow is important for a few reasons. 1 – Postpartum healing is no joke. Don’t rush it. 2 – Breastfeeding and walking simultaneously, especially up an incline, is massively exhausting – and dehydrates you very quickly. So if your baby is a cluster feeder, don’t be surprised when your short walk feels like a mountain climb.
Suggestion #2 – Get comfortable with your carrier beforehand. Obviously, a stroller does not do well on most real hiking trails. With this in mind, I made a Mei Tai carrier before little man was born. It was easy and fun to make, and I highly suggest it. However, our little boy discovered within the first week that he likes to stand (freaky), and he also liked to eat pretty much constantly until he was over two months old. Those two combined made any sort of walking with the Mei Tai quite difficult. So I switched to a ring sling and just let his feet dangle out. Problem solved, but only after many watched YouTube videos on ring slings 🙂
Suggestion #3 – Drink tons of water. See aforementioned dehydration warning. Seriously.
Suggestion #4 – Have a baby-led experience. Chances are, if you are crazy enough to take your newborn hiking, you were already climbing up mountains before your little one was a twinkle in anyone’s eye. So shift the focus from powering up to the sub alpine lake. Experience the hike from your baby’s point of view! Notice the sights he or she is taking in. Stop to admire a leaf. Take lots of rests to check out the cool dirt. Sing songs. For us, starting these family hiking rituals early has been one of the most rewarding experiences that parenting has provided.
Suggestion #5 – BRING THE TEN ESSENTIALS. I would also throw in a water purifier for good measure (ours is so light and small that it’s of no consequence). I must admit, we’ve failed at this, so please learn from our mistakes. I very much dislike the feeling of glancing at the rainclouds in the sky and realizing that you have no way to shield yourself or your newborn baby from a cold drizzle. Also, being more than a mile or two into the woods with a baby counts as being in the backcountry in my opinion. If you get lost, wet, or hungry – leaving civilization is delightfully unpredictable – you’ll thank me.
And lastly, a warning. Be prepared to be a total celebrity on the trail. Almost every single person we meet, no matter age or gender, must stop and take a look at the amazing hiking baby. Some express shock, some look a little skeptical, but most are incredibly supportive that our little Washingtonian is already out enjoying his great state.
Best moment so far? We met a woman hiking out of the Buckhorn Wilderness along the Dungeness River who was celebrating her 80th birthday with a backpacking trip. With a full eight decades between them, Miles and this amazing woman shared a beautiful moment together on the trail. All I can hope is that Miles is able to do the same eighty years in the future.