Hitting the trail can be more than just a fun way for your family to spend an afternoon. Fresh air can improve your health and your mood, and kids are never too young to learn how to respect and enjoy nature. So find your trail and follow these tips on how to hike with your baby.
photo: Scott Sherrill Mix via Flickr
Pick a Nearby Trail
Infants aren’t always big fans of hours spent riding in the car, so keep your trail choice nearby. You can hike your local nature preserve or search for a trail within a 50-mile radius with an app like AllTrails. If you can’t decide on a trail near you, ask friends for recommendations.
Slather on the Sunscreen
Even if you’re hiking on tree-covered trails, it’s still important to protect baby’s skin. Use your favorite sunscreen (on babies over 6 months) and apply it as often as necessary. And put baby in a sun hat. It will protect their face and make for some awfully cute photos.
Ditch the Stroller (If Possible)
Strollers, even durable jogging versions, are not the best option for trail hiking. Not only can the rocky trails bump baby around, it can be taxing for parents to push the stroller up hills and through water. Instead, wear baby in your favorite carrier or in a hiking backpack. Pro tip: If you’re using a new carrier, test it out before your hike to make sure you and your baby will be comfortable using it.
photo: Jens Johnsson via Unsplash
Even if you’re just planning a 30-minute hike, pack for a hungry baby. If your little one is breastfeeding, bring items to make you both feel comfortable if you have to nurse on the trail (like a lovey for baby to hold or a cushion for you to sit on). For a baby who drinks formula, bring pre-measured formula in a bottle and water to mix it with. If baby is eating solids, toss a few pouches, puffs or other favorite snacks into your backpack as well. Also, bring something for Mom and Dad too!
Pack Enough, But Not Too Much
Speaking of packing, try to keep it light (we know; it’s hard). Baby needs a few diapers, wipes and a pacifier, but maybe skip the favorite blanket, teething toys or a tablet, or leave those items in the car for the ride home. Focus on necessities and remember that you won’t be gone for too long.
Hiking with an infant (or a toddler, or an elementary schooler) should include plenty of stops. Dip baby’s toes into stream water, bend down to examine a leaf, spend time touching rocks. These sensory experiences are excellent learning opportunities for kids and gives them time to stretch their legs or arms before heading back into the carrier. A well-timed stop can be the perfect cure for a meltdown, or a special time to enjoy a snack together.
photo: Marcelo Silva via Unsplash
Bring your cell phone or camera so you can document your family’s adventure! Shoot a family selfie at the trailhead, as well as a few of baby enjoying the outing, discovering the breeze or holding their first pine cone.
Talk and Sing
Family time on the trail means you ditch the technology and focus on one another. Take advantage of this family interaction by talking and singing. Baby is listening and learning, and you and your partner have a chance to chat and get to know what’s happening in each other’s lives.
Ask for Help
People who hike and enjoy the outdoors are typically kind and helpful folks. If you find yourself feeling lost, unsafe or in need of some assistance (is that greenery by the trailhead poison ivy?), don’t hesitate to ask. Find another family who may be able to loan you a diaper, or seek out a park ranger.
What’s your favorite part of enjoying the outdoors with baby? Let us know in the comments.
— Haley Burress