Do you have that one hike that’s unforgettable?
Either everything was so awesome that you’re sure that the day will go down in history books as the most incredible hike ever.
Or everything is so miserable that you’re convinced that no matter what you can never have a hike quite that bad ever again.
My worst hike ever happened almost 3 years ago.
My husband and I write trails guides, so when we’re “working” we often split up with him taking a longer route and me taking a shorter route. At the time my oldest child was about 8 months old. Just like we did on a regular basis I strapped him to my chest in our beloved Ergo and started hiking in a different direction than my husband.
Typically the sound of my heart beating and the movement as I walked would put my baby right to sleep, but not on that particular day.
He was angry. Really angry. He did not want to hike, all he wanted to do was cry.
I started to get frustrated. I had photos to take and video of the trail to shoot. I had notes to write about the route and trail conditions and I simply could not focus on hiking and collecting trail data with a baby screaming in my face.
I tried nursing him. I tried taking him out and playing with him. I tried changing his diaper. I tried singing to him. I reached my hand inside his shirt and rested it against his back to check his body temperature, he was just right. I tried giving him snacks. But nothing worked. Our progress was almost non-existent until like magic he wore himself out and fell asleep.
We’ve all been there, right?
What do you do when you want to hike but your baby, or toddler has other ideas?
Here are a few things that help me motor down the trails (or know when to turn around and call it a day).
Accept the fact that sometimes babies just cry (and toddlers just whine).
We all have bad days. On hikes when your child is crying and you just want to cry too remind yourself that one of the very best things you can do for your baby is to be outside soaking up a nice dose of Vitamin D with them. So, take a deep breath, sing a happy song and force yourself to smile. Take a picture of your baby’s ‘sad face’ and think about how it will come in handy someday for a high school yearbook photo or post it all over your Facebook page to show everyone that you did it! That you hiked with your baby…and he or she will thank you someday for it.
Ignore the naysayers.
Sometimes when my children have been sad on the trails I’ve worried what other hikers might say. But in our neck of the woods people don’t seem to mind a fussy baby on the trails. Often they are just happy to see parents brave enough to drag their children into the mountains in the first place. Most offer a word of support and encouragement. Once an elderly lady said, “Oh, bless your heart dear,” as we hiked past her and it made my day.
Start hiking with your baby as soon as you can.
With my 3 1/2 year old it was 6 weeks after an awful labor and delivery before I felt like crawling off the couch. But, I was blessed with a really easy labor and deliver with my 1 1/2 year old and we were on a nice easy trail up to a waterfall when he was 7 days old.
We all recover from childbirth at different rates. My rule of thumb was as long as I healthy, my baby was healthy and I was comfortable feeding, changing diapers, and carrying my baby I was ready to hike. If you’re pregnant talk to your doctor or midwife about easing back into hiking after delivery and maintain a good hiking routine during pregnancy, it’ll help (I promise).
It’s easier to hike with a baby who started hiking as a newborn than it is with one who was introduced to hiking later during their baby or toddler years. They seem to adapt to their baby carriers, the environment and ever-changing weather conditions easier. My boys are both really good hikers and I think it’s because it’s been a routine part of their lives from the time they were conceived.
Know when to call it a day.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve turned around, headed back to my car and called it a day on hikes when my children really were having a sad day. Sometimes it’s best just not to push it. Know when you’ve hit your limit and when your kids have hit their limit. We want our children to have positive experiences and happy memories from hiking with us.
If all else fails
Go through your typical “at home” fussy baby routine. Change a diaper, feed the baby, check to see if the baby is too warm or too hot, sing a song, bounce the baby, say a poem, hold the baby close…do whatever you do at home to soothe your baby. If you need to hand your baby off to a friend or partner that’s okay too. That’s why it’s great to hike with a group.
There’s something magical about hiking with a baby. The bond as you carry them close to your heart and reach your lips down and kiss the top of their head is one of my favorite things about the baby years. Sometimes we have to hike through the tears to get to the smiles and sunshine and every step along the way is worth it.
Rebecca Walsh is the Branch Lead for Hike it Baby Laramie. But that’s just a tiny fraction of how much she does. Check out her website here.She also runs the podcasts for Hike it Baby.