My daughter was born last October, and our first Hike it Baby hike was just a few weeks after that. I’ve been an avid hiker, snowboarder, cross country skier, mushroom forager, and camper year round in Oregon my whole life, and the one thing I know for sure: Layer! And Layer! And then, when in doubt, Layer! The new thing that I had to learn last winter was to layer for breastfeeding and my new, and ever changing body. I didn’t want to invest in a whole new wardrobe, so I improvised, and have some great tips.
Layering for Oregon or similar cool and damp climates consists of basically 3 steps: base layer of wicking/insulating long underwear, middle warm and cozy layer that’s easily removed, and a top waterproof windproof layer. It’s that simple!
Sub-base Layer: You are going to want comfy underwear. Wicking is good, but I always just go with cotton and I don’t like a brief because they ride up. Yes, I wear a thong to hike. Unless I’m wearing giant boyshorts. No, I did not wear a thong until I was at least 4 months postpartum. Your bra will need to be comfy too, but also really supportive and fit great. You will need a real bra fitting, there’s no getting around it. I like to wear nursing sports bras for hiking, they are more supportive then a regular bra, the straps don’t fall down, and there is easy access for nursing on the trail. This is not necessarily the layer to spend money on, just make sure you are not going to be worrying abo
Base Layer: This long underwear layer is very important, only second only to the top layer. Spend money here. Investing in good longjohns of different weights makes hiking in all weather ( I do mean ALL weather) possible and pleasurable. The pants should be fitted and higher waisted, you don’t want to deal with them falling below your carrier, or riding down when you are bending or squatting. The tops are key. Get at least 2 of different weights, and make sure they have boob access. Nothing is worse then having to take off your carrier and hold your baby with your shirts and jacket pulled up under your chin while nursing. Not only is your stomach exposed to the rain, but water will get everywhere. Get a quarter zip styles, or try on and test out any v neck or loose crew necks. Pull your full boob out, just being able to get the nipple out will not always be enough, what with your bra, middle layer, and rain coat on top. Here’s a style I like, just for reference:
Middle Layer: This layer I completely improvised as my body was changing in the 6 months postpartum I hiked through the fall and winter. I basically put on leggings of various weights over my base layer, including workout/running leggings by them selves when it was warm enough. My nice hiking pants didn’t fit until this summer. I don’t recommend spending a lot of money on this layer, and don’t shy away from wearing maternity pants as long as you can! They aren’t cheap, and this will help you get a bang for your buck, as well as save on investing in pants that only fit for a few months after each pregnancy (if you have more than one. Only one? Really don’t spend the money). For the top I was able to use my husband’s fleece coat for a while, and then get back into mine after just a few months. If your boobs have gotten huge and you plan on nursing for a while/having more babies and years of nursing, do invest is a nice fleece zip up jacket that fits your chest. You’ll get several years of wear out of it. On days that are warmer, just remember the boob access: Zips that are at least 3 quarters if not full (I prefer full zip styles) or buttoning shirts. I got a lot of wear out of my husband’s flannel shirts!
Top Layer: Waterproof is the key here. Not water resistant, not waterproof a few years ago when I first got it, not a down quilted jacket (that’s a middle layer!). If you don’t have a waterproof jacket, get one. Or get an awesome poncho (get it through our Indiegogo campaign this month and you are supporting Hike it Baby)! The key to not be held back by your gear when you and your baby want and need to get outside. Your pants can be waterproof too, but with a good coat or poncho I think the pants are less important.
Extremities: A wool cap or any other warm hat is a must. I also like fleece headbands that go over your ears for warmer days. Keep your hands warm, your baby will appreciate it when you go to change her diaper. I like fingerless gloves with mitten covers, for working with my phone, keys, straps, baby, etc. Shoes are key. Waterproof hiking boots or shoes need to have sturdy ankle support, and great traction, for slippery trails. Break them in with some neighborhood walks. Wear blister preventing double layer hiking socks, they come in all weights. Don’t skimp on these. I’ll just wear mine for hikes, I only have a few pairs, and not wash for a few hikes. My standards have changed since becoming a mom.
For your first several hikes in the rain bring extra pants, socks, and shoes for the ride home in case things don’t go as planned. Knowing you’ll be warm and dry shortly is a great motivator on a wet hike!
In summary, because this is really simple once you have the basics: wicking, warm, waterproof. Comfort and fit are key.
Beth Silva has been hiking with Hike it Baby since just a few weeks after her baby was born. When not hiking like crazy, she is a real estate agent in Portland, OR. In the month of November Beth will be leading the charge for Hike it Baby Portland on the Hike it Baby 30-in-30 where she will be hiking 30 miles of the Forest Park trails in Portland!