One of the biggest things that hampered my ability to join my first Hike it Baby hike was the fact that I was a new mom with a little guy who was breast fed – but exclusively by pumping because he never learned to latch. This was problematic when I wanted to be away from home for more than 2 hours. I could pump, feed one bottle before we headed out the door, put one room temperature bottle in my inside coat pocket (it was winter in Alaska so I had to keep it nice and warm) and then pack 2 frozen bags of breast milk in a cooler tote with a freezer pack. A thermos of hot water went into the diaper bag for when I would need to defrost a bag of frozen milk on the go. Most times I was somewhere with a Starbucks or the like to ask for a cup of boiling water as well for a faster heat-up. As soon as our errand was over I would rush home to pump or I would hastily pump in the car. I could not imagine how I was going to accomplish this on hike.
At six months old we switched to formula and this was much easier to keep sterile water in pre-filled bottles and be kept lukewarm to add a scoop of powdered formula to. I still wondered how I was going to hike and bottle feed my little guy, though. I had done plenty of stroller walks with stops to feed but how was I going to do it while he was in his carrier in the wilderness? I also wondered how other breast-feeding moms could do it. What did they wear for a bra? How did they keep warm in the winter? I’ve asked some fellow HiB Mamas and Papas how they feed their infants on the trail.
Here are some tips on bras/tanks/shirts that work well in warm weather:
I’m a nursing tank person nearly 100% of the time. So shirt up, tank down.
I wear a regular nursing bra, a tight base layer tank top (it’s actually a maternity tank from Target that works so well for pull down feeding and is a perfect base layer) and a light tank or tee on top. It sounds like a lot of layers but that’s been my outfit of choice all summer and I don’t feel like it’s too hot at all. When I put the carrier on, I make sure to lift my top shirt up above the buckles so when I need to lift that shirt to nurse, I don’t have to fight to pull it up. It works well.
Never did anything special… wore my regular nursing bra hiking and when I wear a sports bra it’s just a normal one.
I found a sports bra that zips in the front! And v-necks are the way to go!
I usually wear a regular nursing bra and only recently got a few racerback sports bras that are stretchy enough to pull down to nurse.
I love the sports bras from motherhood maternity. They aren’t super supportive- wouldn’t want to run in them- but they work for me- especially hiking. Baby doesn’t like it if the boobie is squished or mis-shapened from being pulled up and out of a non nursing sports bra!
I bought the cheap Target nursing sports bras and made nursing tanks from cheap spaghetti strapped tanks. So nursing bra, modified tank, and a hike it baby shirt on top. Like someone mentioned just make sure the top layer isn’t trapped under the belt. The cheapie nursing bra from Target works great for me and I’m not small.
I don’t use a specific nursing sports bra, just use a regular sports bra and either go up and over it or pull my boob out the bottom.
Warm weather nursing is pretty easy! I typically have two layers (mostly tanks) and do one up, one down for a little pocket opening.
Here is some advice on winter nursing:
A scarf in the winter is perfect for covering exposed areas as needed. We have joked that we need a boobie-clava for winter hiking 😉
Half-zip pull overs in the winters.
I never worry about lifting up and nursing always pull down in the winter all my base layers have zips that come below my chest so I can again pull down…no need to be lifting layers in the cold. So I wear bra, tank, half zip base layer (normally polyester or fleece but I do have a wool one too) and then my coat which is full zip… if it’s extra cold a zip up Hoodie too but again it’s just an unzip process.
In winter, ditto layering. I got some SmartWool mid layer full zip jackets that are close fitting so I could wear them over a tank or on their own as a shirt. That plus a big full zip jacket or Boba sweatshirt from the HiB store were more than enough in the winter.
I have Raynauds and in the winter I put a blanket over her so no cold breezes freeze my nipples. The heating pads for hands and feet work great in bras for people with Raynauds.
As for nursing in cold weather, I wear a nursing tank, a fleece layer that zips midway and then my warm coat (with a liner). If I need to nurse, I unzip my coat, unzip the fleece and then lift my boob out and over the top of my bra. Much easier when babywearing than lifting shirts up (and warmer too)
Cold weather was where I started and I had to be a little creative. I still layered in the same way, as it helped keep my chest warm. Creating the pocket between layers was almost like a warm improvised boobie-clava (love it!). I would then add my outer layer (coat, vest, she’ll) over my carrier straps. Scarves were also great, so I echo that one. I also love nursing tanks for hiking. You get that built in under layer and it’s a bra too… And so comfy! AND I’m a chestier (not a word, I know!) mama and it still works.
I have one of those boba baby wearing fleece vests…some of the best $40 spent ever! Can be used front or back wearing. Baby didn’t wear much more than her regular clothes since she was still right next to me. I didn’t need many extra layers either. I would wear my regular nursing bra, tank, long sleeve something or other that I could pull down and a scarf. I totally second the scarf! Keeps the top half of you warm while being uncovered and provides some modesty. Infinity scarves seemed to work better for me.
Is your baby bottle fed? I found that I COULD bottle feed while baby-wearing on a hike similar to how other Mamas breastfeed. Using a bottle that is shorter and wider was easiest. I would keep the ready-made formula warm in an inside pocket in the winter or just in the pack I carried in the warm weather. When it was time for a bottle I would loosen the straps of our SSC and let him lean back and drink! Plus, hiking with a HiB group meant that everyone would stop and slow down for us without making us feel badly.
Here is what one HiB Dad had to say about feeding on the go:
Before I would go on hikes I always started by defrosting about 5-8 oz in warm water as a ready to go bottle. I’d also fill a wide mouth Hydroflask food container and a 20oz thermos with boiling water and pack 2 more bags of frozen milk into a Packit Freezable lunch bag. This with 2 empty bottles would buy me about 6 hours away from home with a little extra for emergency.
So check off one item on the list of things that are stopping you from trying your first HiB hike! Come join us and get some tips and help in person!!
Christel Peters is the Branch Founder of Hike it Baby Rapid City and the Mama to Sebastian. When she isn’t chasing her adventurous toddler on the trails she is one of the Blog Editors for Hike it Baby. Do you have a story that should appear on our blog? Let us know!!