TIPS FOR ENJOYING THE GREAT OUTDOORS WITH A BABY

In the past six days, we have managed to take Oliver sailing and snowshoeing! And since J works during the week, I was completely on my own for getting Oliver and myself organized and out the door for snowshoeing. Given that two months ago, a good day was one where I got breakfast in my belly before 4:00 P.M., it is safe to say we’ve made some progress.

I will not profess to be an expert based on two excursions alone (no, I’ll save that title for the woman I saw cross-country skiing with three very young children in tow!), but I would like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned this week. I’m sure that this list will evolve as we continue to expand our horizons.

1. Start them young.  This was a philosophy we adopted concerning getting out of the house in the first few days and weeks after Oliver’s birth. I always thought to myself, “It will never be as difficult or overwhelming as it is right now; it only gets easier from here.” I think the same holds true with outdoor activities. The logistics of getting out sailing with a three month old in fall or winter are far more complicated that those of getting out with a six month old in spring — or a nine month old in summer. So by the time spring and summer arrive, our trips should involve minimal stress and maximum enjoyment.

A sailor in the making.

2. Start small.  When it was just J and me, we used to take the boat out for weekends without a second thought. However, it seemed overly ambitious to make our first sailing trip with Oliver an overnighter, so we went for a short day sail instead. When I used to snowshoe sans baby, I would go for long, steep, fast treks through the mountains. With Oliver, it was more of a meander, with an extended mid-way feeding/changing break in the lodge. Over time, our trips will increase in length and complexity.

Taking a break inside the lodge for feeding and changing.

3. Have realistic expectations of time.  When trying to do any sort of outdoor activity with a baby, there is an approximately 4:1 ratio of prep time to activity time. For example, we started getting ready for snowshoeing at 9:30 A.M. We were back home with everything cleaned up and put away by 6:00 P.M. Somewhere in there, I think we may have managed a couple of hours of actual snowshoeing 🙂

4. Plan. With a young baby, you must accept the inevitable demise of spontaneity — at least as far as outdoor excursions go. If you don’t schedule the activity in advance, it’s not likely to happen. Invite others along to make sure your activity doesn’t get pre-empted by the seemingly never-ending list of household and baby care chores. Notwithstanding that, if you live in the Pacific Northwest and happen to wake up to the sun shining on a winter’s day, please — forget about the housework and get outside!

A beautiful day for snowshoeing!

5. Get an early start to the day.  Especially in winter, when daylight hours are limited, it is important to get as early a start as possible. By the time baby is fed, changed and dressed, you are fed and dressed, the gear is packed, baby is fed and changed again… well, you get the picture. It takes a long time to get out the door, and darkness comes early.

6. Pack carefully. The amount of “stuff” you need to take for the baby is a little bit overwhelming. Suddenly most of the things you used to bring for yourself are relegated to optional status, and you find yourself carrying a much larger bag, filled with anything and everything the baby could possibly need. I suggest making a packing list at least a day before the excursion; that way you have lots of time to consider your requirements, and you won’t forget any critical items in the chaos of getting ready to get out the door.

7. Dress to feed.  Consider ease and accessibility of breastfeeding when layering your clothing. Layers with zippers make it easier to feed in the cold with minimal skin exposure. A blanket or breastfeeding cover can help to protect against the elements.

There’s nothing like the rocking motion of a boat to help a baby nap.

8. Be flexible.  Things may not go exactly as planned. Our day of sailing turned out to be almost completely devoid of wind — and it was bloody cold outside — so we headed home early. Aside from Mother Nature’s whims, babies and children also have a way of throwing a wrench into even the best laid plans. If you’re doing something, you’re doing more than most people are, so be proud of whatever amount of activity you manage to accomplish, even if it wasn’t exactly what you set out to do.

9. Have fun — and don’t forget to take lots of pictures!

The happy family 🙂

10 responses to “TIPS FOR ENJOYING THE GREAT OUTDOORS WITH A BABY

  1. Awesome – looks like you got out and enjoyed yesterday’s sunshine too – I hear there’s more ahead in the next week -enjoy!

  2. I’ve always wondered who would need the ski attachments for the Chariot stroller/bike trailer we have and it sounds right up your alley :-).

    Hooray for doing big things out and about. I can imagine it certainly boosts new-mommy morale! It is much more rewarding to say, “Today I went snow shoeing with my baby” than it is to say, “Today I folded 10 loads of laundry, changed 4 poopy diapers, 10 pee diapers, wiped up 3 urps, showered and somehow managed to get something on the table for dinner.” While that is a marathon in and of itself, snowshoeing definitely makes for better adult conversation when you do find yourself around other adults without kids! 🙂

    It looks like you all had a lovely time, despite the cold! Really, the memories of even taking a small trip far outweigh the benefits of getting *all* the laundry done in a day, or *all* the dishes done. Plenty of days of dishes and laundry await us in the future. Yay for you! What a nice post!

    • Only three urps?? More like a couple dozen around here! 🙂

      Yes, it is definitely a morale boost to actually get out and do something interesting and different from the daily routine. I try to make a point of at least getting out for a long walk every day, but every so often I end up stuck in the apartment ALL DAY (especially when the weather is particularly miserable, as it is prone to being this time of year), and it drives me stir crazy.

  3. Hey, you seems to have a wonderful time! 🙂

    I was wondering, very selfishly, what were the carrier and outdoor combi you are using? We have the Ergo carrier for our part: very satisfied (you can see my review here http://healthylivingtribes.com/pagereviews/1/18/excellent-for-being-active-outdoors/tab/698) but I’m still wondering if there isn’t another better carrier and it looks like yours might fit the bill 😉

    I’m even more interested in the outdoor combi you chose in fact, as while we’re living in Sydney where we’ll never use it, we’re going to the US and Europe this winter and wondering what to choose!

    Best,
    – Julien

    • Hi Julien,

      The carrier is actually just an Ergo Sport. We have been very happy with it as well.

      The bunting suit is a synthetic shearling from GapKids (which I bought secondhand for $7! :)). I like that the legs can either be snapped together to form a sack, or snapped separately for use in a car seat, carrier, etc.

  4. You guys are all looking great! So good to see you all enjoying the outdoors… particularly enjoyed seeing Oliver actually in charge on the boat…….! Can’t wait to see you all again soon! xx

    • I think that the earlier you start, the easier it is in the long term. It’s a bit intimidating at first, trying to balance feeding/changing/napping with actually getting anywhere and doing anything, but I have to think it can only get better and more fun from here 🙂

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