Whether it's a weekend trek or a mid-week stroll, hikes are great ways to get outside, get moving, get some fresh air, and maybe a little bit of socializing, too. If you're gearing up to add a baby to your family, you might think the days of weekend hikes and other outdoorsy pursuits are behind you, but some of those adventures may be perfectly fine to undertake with a baby in tow. So, should you hike with a baby? The short answer is yes.
If you want to bring your baby along on hikes, you can do so. That being said. hiking with a baby in tow isn't the same as hiking trips pre-baby. It can be good for all of you to get out of the house if everyone is feeling up for it and, for some new parents, meeting up to hike together can be a way to make sure you not only get out of the house, but also get a little bit of adult human interaction, as well.
If you're planning to hike with a baby, you should look specifically for baby-friendly trails, according to the Baby Center website. Although that may sound obvious, it's important to remember that hikes that used to be too short or too simple will be completely different now that you have a baby with you. It's OK to set your expectations low, especially for that first hike, according an article the Pacific Crest Trail Association.
Baby-friendly trails are, of course, a good place to start, but there are also other things to consider if you're going to start taking your little one on hikes. Just as you want to make sure that you're prepared, make sure your baby is dressed appropriately for the weather and for spending all that time outdoors. According to Hike It Baby's website, babies stand a greater chance of losing circulation in their fingers and toes than adults. Bring layers or extra gear if need be. Ensuring that they're warm enough when the weather is chilly and don't overheat when the weather is warm is important for making sure that your trip is both pleasant and safe.
Additionally, depending on when you'll be gone and for how long, bring along any baby care items you may need including diapers, wipes, and snacks (if your little one is a bit older). According to an article posted on REI's website, bringing plenty of snacks and taking plenty of rest breaks can help hikes be more enjoyable and manageable. Little kiddos get hungry and tired (especially if they're hiking too), so make sure you've planned ahead for that.
Slowing down a bit to a more meandering pace is also a good idea when you have babies and toddlers along with you, as is considering a close-to-home hike. According to the aforementioned article on Baby Center, staying upbeat can help hikes with kids be more successful. Also, the previously mentioned Pacific Crest Trail Association article advises that naps remain a priority. Tackling a shorter portion of a longer hike, going home for a nap, and then doing the rest of the hike later or another day can help make sure there's time for a nap (that is, if your baby doesn't simply nap in the carrier while you're out on your hike). Matt Johnson, an REI expert, told the website in the aforementioned REI article that staying close to home can also help manage nap time, as well as mealtimes and bad days. Remember, less is often more when hiking with little ones.
According to Outside, in a study published in 2014 in the European Journal of Social Sciences Education and Research, researchers discovered that getting some fresh air can actually help little ones sleep better and encourage early language development. Hiking with babies is an entirely different experience than you may be used to, but if it's something you feel strongly about, it can absolutely be done both smartly and safely.