Active Outdoors with a Newborn

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was bound and determined to not let the baby change our lifestyle. My husband and I loved the outdoors—this was going to be totally easy to integrate into our new lives as a family of three, right?

For the most part, the answer was yes. We found being flexible was our greatest asset–while she is the smallest member of your family, your child will definitely have the last word in any outings you plan or attempt. Beyond that, though, being prepared to get back outside played a major part in us enjoying the outdoors as a family.

Active Outdoors with a NewbornThe time of year your new baby is born has a real impact on what you can do right away. Babies are sensitive to temperature extremes. My oldest was born in January in Alaska, so lots of layers and quality cold-weather gear were key to being able to get out. At the far end of the spectrum, a friend’s youngest was born in the sub-tropics in July; she was dealing with keeping him out of direct sun and trying to avoid heat rash just going on short walks in the first months after he was born.

Having the right gear can make or break your trips outdoors. Don’t get me wrong–I totally don’t advocate buying out your local sporting goods store outfitting your new baby. A few things can mean the difference between getting outside and being stuck in your house though.

Here’s my list of must haves if you want your baby to start enjoying the outdoors with you:

  • A comfortable, safe baby carrier. Extra bonus points if it has a nap/sun hood on it.
  • A Versatile Stroller. If you plan on doing anything more than walking, you need a stroller. I ended up trying out several (thanks, Craigslist!) and my favorite for our family’s needs is the Chariot. Why? You can jog, ski, and bike with just one stroller and it has both a rain and bug net fly (which also keeps your child’s toys and/or sippy cups INSIDE the stroller). The price is steep, but buying used or waiting for a good REI sale is a good way to save money. If you think you might ever have more than one child, buy the double right away. If you have no need for a bike or ski trailer, there are lots of other quality options out there, too (BOB, City Mini, etc).
  • Layers! Just like you would for yourself, dress your baby in layers. For cold weather, there are lots of fancy baby long johns out there, but I always started with a pair of my kid’s pajamas. Next I would add a fleece bunting or snowsuit, preferably with fold over mittens (my kids hated mittens). These are a great thing to look for second-hand or from discount shops like Old Navy, since they typically are barely used before being grown out of. A hat tops off the ensemble. If they’re in the stroller, I put a blanket on top. Some people will toss a hand warmer into the stroller as well (out of arms reach).
  • Sun Protection. For hot weather, sun protection and breathable layers are key. I love, love, love muslin blankets for both. They also double as carseat sun covers and nursing covers. If your baby is under six months old (sunscreen is generally not recommended for children that young), sun protection is a major concern. Keeping a light blanket over their stroller or car seat, using hats when they are in your carrier, and generally avoiding peak sun hours are all good tools. Heat rash can also be a concern. Here in the subtropics where I live now, all of those adorable rolls on your new baby can be troublesome; if your baby has issues, you can try dusting on a non-talc powder before heading out.

Probably the single most important thing you need to get back outside or moving after a baby is an open mind. I had visions of days-long backpacking trips and cross-country skiing with my babies. My oldest in particular was very adverse to cold; anything over a light wind and he was howling. Both kids refused to keep mittens on in the ski trailer. My kids love being outdoors now though, rain or shine. Is it because we schlepped them all over as babies? Maybe, or maybe not, but we created some great memories in the process.

How did you get back outdoors after pregnancy? Any tips for expectant parents?

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two little boys, ages 3 and 6. Shes currently enjoying the expat life in Japan.

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