By Kate Limburn
Walks with a baby are no more difficult than walking without a baby – it just takes a bit more planning, a degree of flexibility and a few extras to take along on the walk (one being the baby)! So nothing that the average parent doesn’t already have to cope with for every other baby related daily activity then…
Like anything new it’s a case of learning as you go along and picking up those tips that will make the process smoother and avoid being caught short on a walk without a nappy at the top of that trig point! Here’s a few suggestions from my experience (and mistakes) so far to get you started. If you have any helpful hints of your own, please post a comment below! Happy walking!
Before you go:
Plan your route: find out as far as possible that the walk is suitable for you and your baby. Check those contour lines on a map! If you’re taking a buggy, see if you can find a recommend from other buggy users to find if the walk is going to be OK in the weather conditions. Make sure you have an idea of how long it is likely to take you, including allowing for rests and feeding stops and look for early exit points in case the weather turns or baby decides to wail all round the walk! It’s always advisable to walk with someone else for safety reasons but if you do head out alone, try and check if it is suitable for a lone walker – is the walk close to civilisation should you need help? Is the walk through open fields or closed in woodland and narrow lanes? If the weather is looking uncertain, is there any shelter along the walk? Have you told someone where you are going or when you expect to be back? There are some great apps out there for smartphones these day that will track your device if you want to make sure someone knows exactly which route you’ve taken.
Plan how to get there: ever arrived for a walk only to discover it is a mini hike to get to the walk starting point? With a baby this isn’t always great news so check where you will park or get off the bus and what facilities are available at the start/end of the walk, if you need them. Also, make sure you know how long it will take you to get to the start of the walk and how this fits in with your baby’s routine. It helps if you don’t start the walk with a grumpy hungry baby who’s been stuck in a car seat for hours!
Pack your bag: here’s some suggestions for kit to pack in your bag:
-map of the walk. Full OS map if you walk is in the open countryside;
– a charged phone;
– waterproofs and extra warm layer for you and baby, regardless of how good the weather is when you set off for your walk;
– sunhats, suncream and eye protection for you and baby in hot sunny weather. It gets quite hot sitting in the top of an open rucksack!
– water and snacks for you – remember if you are carrying baby those extra kilograms make for thirsty work!
– provisions for baby – even if you intend to be back in time for the next feed, it’s worth having something with you in case the walk takes longer than expected or all that fresh air makes baby hungry! In hot weather it’s important to have enough liquids for baby with you too.
– nappy changing kit for baby, including a padded, fold-away travel changing mat;
– a small first aid kit (particularly if you are going on more than just a quick stroll).
– the bag itself – a small sports rucksack is ideal for most shorter walks or if you are walking alone with a back carrier pick a model of baby rucksack which has an integrated backpack. If really pushed you can carry a light sports rucksack on your front with baby strapped on your back but you don’t want to be too laden down or restrict your mobility whilst walking with a baby behind.
– your camera!
Layer up! Dress comfortably and use lots of light layers, especially if you are carrying baby in front carrier where they will be acting as an extra hot water bottle and getting you sweating in no time! Take along extra layers to keep you both warm in case it cools down or you stop for a break and don’t forget a wind and waterproof layer just in case.
Best foot first: even on a quick stroll it’s important to wear good shoes with decent grip. You don’t want to slip whilst carrying your baby or pushing that pushchair down a steep hill. Trainers are fine for a quick trip out in good weather but walking boots or shoes are always advisable for anything longer or on uneven or slippy terrain. Even if it’s sunny when you set out, remember that if it’s been raining in the last few days the conditions underfoot could be slippery.
On the walk:
Nappy changing! You know it’s inevitable, no matter if baby went just before you came out on your walk! If baby is just wet and you’re not on a half day walk or longer then it’s probably best to wait until you get back to the car or other shelter. However a soiled nappy is a different matter and if you’re out in the wilds there is nothing for it but to change on the go. Make sure you’ve packed a padded waterproof travel changing mat and wipes, as well as bags to take dirty nappies, wipes and any clothes caught in a ‘poo-splosion’ home with you. Pick as sheltered a spot as possible – behind walls or using your rucksack for shelter, and if it’s raining and you have two rucksacks you can even rig up a shelter by draping a waterproof coat or cover over the top of the two bags making a temporary tent below to cover baby. Try to dress baby in a bottom opening sleepsuit or trousers when going for walks so that you don’t need to undress baby’s top half and risk your little one getting cold or wet. Keep your nappy changing kit in a self contained bag within your rucksack so you have everything to hand and can quickly clean baby up and be back on your way asap. I’ve changed a baby with just the shelter of a trig point in the lake district before – luckily it was a glorious day and baby and I were both able to take in the view whilst partaking in a bit of al-fresco nappy changing!
Weather: make sure that if you’re taking baby in a rucksack that you carry a rain cover with you. This will also come in handy if you’re walking in an exposed area or hilltops where it can get a bit blustery and baby needs wrapping up against the wind. If you’ve got baby in a front wrap, wearing a large or stretchy waterproof that will zip up over you and baby’s body (not head) is a good idea. Similarly if it’s hot and sunny, remember that baby is very exposed in a rucksack and will need plenty of protection – a wide brimmed sunhat, and suncream are essential and don;t forget to top up the cream and cover up exposed arms and legs on longer walks. In the cold it’s important to make sure that baby has extra layers on. Whilst you may be warm from walking, baby is sitting stationary and being little will chill down doubly fast so it’s really important to make sure baby is bundled up warmly for the walk and has head, hands and feet layered up. Having said that, do be careful not to over-bundle and to check on baby regularly, particularly if you have a tiny baby in a front material sling with face tucked in against your chest or in a rucksack where you can’t see them. With front material carriers and wraps do be careful not to have a sleeping baby buried against any fleeces, down jackets or other bulky winter clothing as this can present a suffocation hazard. Remember – whatever the weather, it can change at any time and if the conditions turn really bad, turn around and head for home, making use of those emergency short cuts you checked on the map before leaving home. Babies and small children are much more vulnerable to the elements so do not take unnecessary risks or expose them to extreme weather.
Breaking the routine? Whilst a short walk may be possible to fit in around your baby’s schedule, longer walks will mean having to adapt your routine to the walk. Babies in general luckily enjoy the rocking motion of walking, whether in a front sling or backpack and will often nod off whilst being carried. As such, nap times should not present a big issue. Feeding also should be OK – if you’re breastfeeding you may want to invest in a sling with a breastfeeding position so that you can feed warmly and discreetly whilst out. Bottles and solid feeds give the excuse to have a picnic stop and take in the scenery.
Dummies: if you use a pacifier for your baby whilst walking I would strongly advise investing in one of the clips to keep the dummy pinned to baby’s top as replacing the many dummies dropped whilst on walks is expensive as well as littering the countryside with non-biodegradable plastic! Do make sure that the clip doesn’t have a long piece of cord attaching it or anything long enough to present a strangulation risk to baby.
Finally, enjoy! Walking with baby needn’t be stressful and once you’ve been a few times you’ll be a pro at packing your bag and getting baby in that backpack and out on those walks in record time. And who knows…scenic baby changing locations may soon be the new craze
Baby Routes is dedicated to promoting walking and outdoor activity with babies. For further inspiration on venturing out into the great outdoors with your baby and for tips, advice and reviews on everything outdoors, visit http://www.babyroutes.co.uk