So you have joined the Facebook page for the Hike it Baby Branch near you and keep seeing these awesome photos from events you would love to attend, but you have a baby who can be unpredictable. What if they start fussing or go into total meltdown mode? What if none of the normal remedies cure the crankiness? Rest assured, we have all been there! Meltdowns and crankiness are bound to happen at most events, whether it is your child or someone else’s. They are never fun to deal with, but they are much more manageable when you have a group of understanding people surrounding you! That’s why we have compiled this list of tips and tricks from the Hike it Baby community for soothing cranky babies on the trail.
Make Feeding Baby on the Trail Easy and Efficient
Whether you are breastfeeding, bottle feeding or rocking the baby puff snacks, learning how to feed your baby in a carrier will make life much easier for you and your little one! Your Hike it Baby community can be a HUGE asset when learning how to navigate feeding a tiny human on the go. Check out these tips for bottle feeding and nursing your baby on the trail from other Hike it Baby Mamas. And don’t be afraid to ask others on a hike. After all, who better to ask than those who are (or have been) in the same situation.
If you are breastfeeding, learn how to nurse in a wrap/carrier! My second baby was perma-hungry and being able to feed him on the go made outings much easier for everyone. – Melissa from the Hampton Roads, VA, branch
I learned how to nurse in a carrier on a HiB hike! Game changer! – Ashley from the Litchfield County, CT, branch
Check for Baby Comfort
An uncomfortable baby is a miserable baby. However, trying to figure out what is making your poor little one uncomfortable isn’t always easy. It is likely second nature to check the obvious culprits. Are they hungry? Do they have a wet/poopy diaper? Are they tired? However, being outside and in a carrier or stroller brings on other factors that can cause discomfort, such as being too hot or too cold and uncomfortable clothing or position issues. When I first started to back-carry my son, I had to ask for help from seasoned HiB parents numerous times since I wasn’t used to adjusting him correctly. These factors can easily be checked and remedied during the hike.
Check for cold hands and feet. Also check clothing layers for wrinkles or seams that could be uncomfortable. – Sarah from the Albuquerque, NM, branch
Try feeding the baby or changing the baby (even if it means stopping the hike briefly). Check if baby is overheating or too cold and add or subtract layers if necessary. – Tracey from the Anchorage, AK, branch
Sometimes babies just want to move and need a break from the confines of a carrier or stroller. This is especially true for older babies who are starting to wiggle around more and crawl. Most hikes include snack breaks or pauses for exploration, which provides the perfect opportunity to set your baby free and give your back and shoulders a much-needed break. Even if you have a young baby, this is a great opportunity for a little tummy time! Just bring a small blanket or towel (if you prefer that they not be directly on the ground) and let them explore the new scents and visuals of the outdoors.
Take lots of breaks so they can crawl and explore. These usually coincide well with our snack breaks while on toddler-paced hikes. – Tanya from the Adelaide Branch
Become an Entertainer
Nobody tells you that when you become a parent, you are also signing a contract to be an entertainer (at least during their younger years). Whether it’s a 3rd round of “Wheels on the Bus,” a dance-a-thon or a facial contortionist, providing a little entertainment can certainly turn a little one’s frown upside down!
Singing and making silly faces. It makes my kids giggle and forget their meltdown for the short-term. – Erin from the Green Bay, WI, Branch
Singing and dancing, my 3-month-old often cries when being put into the carrier but settles quicker when I sing a lullaby and add a bit of boogie to my walk. – Nicole from the Adelaide Branch
Let the Older Kids Serve as Baby Entertainment
One of the awesome (and convenient) things about attending a hike with kids of varying ages is the fact that you can often get a break from being your baby’s only source of entertainment. My little dude loved watching the big kids and their crazy antics. As a bonus, anytime something made him giggle, the bigger kids almost always wanted to keep making him giggle, so they did silly things to keep him entertained. This provided a much-needed break for my vocal cords and facial muscles (those silly faces require an astounding number of facial muscles!).
My littlest guy loves watching the big kids run around on the trails, sing to him, or in general just pay attention to him. That’s what I love about Hike it Baby; the various ages of kids entertain one another! Babies love action and big kids definitely provide that! – Annie from the Ann Arbor, MI, Branch
Bring Along Some Distractions
Are there certain things your baby loves that you won’t leave home without? When my little guy was a baby, it was his favorite teether, a binky, small monkey toy, and Puffs (once he was old enough to have them). Don’t be afraid to bring these with you on the trail! I was able to easily strap the binky on his shirt and the teether and monkey on the carrier. The dollar store is a great place to find fun little distractions as well (such as bubbles and light-up wands), or use what you find on the trail (a stick, a leaf, etc.).
For older babies, a snack or a toy to play with can work wonders. These can be “strapped” onto a carrier so they don’t fall or get lost. – Natalie from the Southern Adirondacks and Capital Region, NY, branches
Bubbles! – Nicholl from the Charleston/Lowcountry, SC, Branch
Use What Works at Home
Is there a method you use at home that works wonders for soothing your little one when they are grouchy? Don’t be afraid to use this method on the trail (if possible). For example, my son loved listening to the silly songs of The Laurie Berkner Band, so I put some of his favorites on my phone and played them on low for him when other calming methods failed.
My oldest daughter would have a hard time settling down for a nap when she was a baby. The only thing that calmed her down was the sound of a vacuum. I was able to find an app on my phone that played that same sound. When my daughter started one of her epic meltdowns on a hike, I would hold that up to her ear and it would calm her down enough to help her fall asleep. At first, I was embarrassed because the sound was SO annoying, but I quickly realized that the parents who attended HiB hikes were super supportive and understanding! – Natalie from the Southern Adirondacks and Capital Region, NY, Branches
This tip can encompass everything from learning how to carry your baby in multiple ways in a carrier (front carry, back carry if they are old enough, side carry, forward facing, etc.) to knowing when you need to turn back on a hike (and everything in between!). I remember having to bail out of hikes twice when my son was a baby. Once due to what turned out to be an ear infection, and once when the trail was extremely buggy and my son was too young for me to use bug spray (and I couldn’t use much due to nursing). It was no big deal, and we still had a good time!
Having the option of switching to carrier if using a stroller can help or even to just try changing the baby’s position if possible. – Tracey from the Anchorage, AK, branch
And MOST IMPORTANT…
Remember that you are surrounded by a community of people who understand and will help you any way that they can! We have all been there – embarrassed and frustrated that our baby is in total meltdown mode and we can’t seem to console them. Just like adults, babies can have “off” days too (or a string of bad days), and that’s okay. Being part of a group like Hike it Baby is proof that some days it takes a village, whether it is your child or someone else’s. We help each other, and we don’t judge. Because at the end of the day, we are all parents trying to do what is best for our kids, as exhausting and thankless as that may seem some days. We are not only teaching our kids to love and respect the outdoors, but each other as well.
Don’t skip a hike because you fear crying or meltdowns. Babies cry; it’s how they communicate. As long as you’re doing your best to meet her needs, listening and supporting her, don’t be embarrassed or nervous about it. You’re surrounded by fellow parents after all! We’ve ALL been there. Same goes for when they grow to reach full meltdown age. We all have big emotions sometimes. A huge part of a community like this is meeting everyone exactly where they’re at on any given day – that applies to a baby having a hard day just as much as it does to her exhausted mama! – Laura from the La Crosse, WI, Branch
When a meltdown can’t be cured (and let’s face it, sometimes they can’t), a mom friend who understands is gold! – Erin from the Green Bay, WI, Branch
Do you have other tips that help you soothe your baby when they are having a rough day on the trail? Let us know in the comments below!
- Hiking with young infants: Tips and tricks
- Hiking with a newborn
- Tips for getting your little ones on trail
Written by Rebecca Hosley and Natalie Kendrach. Photos courtesy of Rebecca Hosley, Natalie Kendrach and Tori Becker.