When getting out of the house to walk around the block feels complicated, getting back to (or starting) outdoor adventures with a new baby can feel downright impossible. But I was determined to rip off the Band-Aid and figure out outdoorsy adventures with baby in tow.
Our Saturday snowshoe was a success, due in no small part to being incredibly lucky with no poo-splosions (we forgot a back-up outfit). A few things we did have control over also helped – keeping our expectations low, planning ahead, and going with the flow. Basically no different than the rest of parenthood!
What should baby wear on the trail?
First and foremost, how the heck did we keep a two-month-old baby warm? Well, we picked a warm day. It was no accident we decided to go snowshoeing on a day that was sunny and 40. degrees! This was key for our first time out (for my anxiety and for ease of dressing Baby OB).
Just like adults, babies need a moisture-wicking base layer. In case baby does actually manage to get too warm, you don’t want them to stay wet if they start sweating. Cotton stays wet and non-cotton/synthetic fabrics dry more quickly.
But where the heck do you find baby base layers? Well, you can spring for some from Patagonia or similar brands. Or you can just put them in a onesie that isn’t cotton. I opted for the latter because I didn’t want to spend $50 on something that would only last one season. I used a long-sleeve polyester onesie with feet as my base layer.
For a middle layer, I added a cardigan since, again, it was what we already had. If you have a hoodie or really anything else that’s big enough to add on top of the onesie, just use that.
I used the beanie we got at the hospital and made sure tootsies stayed warm with these slippers (which we also already had and are 100 times easier than socks, so I highly recommend them).
The outermost layer we use is this fleece bear suit from Columbia (it’s the Tiny Bear II, on sale in some colors and sizes as of 11/8/20). It’s our go-to for walks and other outdoorsy time all winter. Baby OB loves getting snuggled in it and it keeps them super warm. The hood creates an extra layer of warmth that started coming in VERY handy once Baby OB decided they didn’t want anything on their head. They haven’t (yet) figured out how to take off a hood, so it’s super handy!
If you’re deciding between a puffy/water-resistant snowsuit (aka bunting) and a fleece one, I’d go with a fleece one. Unless you have a toddler/walking baby, they’re not ever going to be getting in the snow, so they don’t really *need* anything waterproof. As a beginner, I personally wouldn’t take Baby OB out if it was precipitating, so that totally eliminated the need for something waterproof. Plus, if they’re still in a carrier, your body heat is keeping them warm. I never felt myself wishing I had something thicker than the bear suit. Plus, it’s cheaper!
Once you’re out, make sure to periodically check to make sure baby is staying warm. It’s easy for their hands and feet to get chilly, even if they’re covered up by multiple layers. I packed handwarmers to stuff in the carrier just in case, but on this particular day Baby OB was just fine with hands tucked inside the bear suit.
How do I keep them protected from the sun?
This sun hat from Target has already been a huge help with the Colorado sun not blasting Baby OB in the eyes. I put it on over the beanie, but under the hood of the bear suit.
Since Baby OB was still facing forward in the carrier at this point, we didn’t really have to worry about sunglasses or keeping their face from getting burnt. Now that they are facing forward, we’ve relied on baby sunscreen to keep that from happening!
How to carry baby
I use Beco’s Gemini soft carrier all of the time – running errands, neighborhood walks, wherever taking a stroller would be a pain/unwieldy (so almost everywhere!). Baby OB isn’t old enough for the big backpack carriers, but they are also very expensive, so if you already have a cheaper soft carrier or wrap that you’re comfortable with, use that!
My husband strapped on Baby OB because I’m still not strong enough postpartum to carry him while hiking. I always recommend poles for snowshoeing, but with the extra weight, you will DEFINITELY appreciate having them!
Picking a baby-appropriate trail
You don’t want to be too far from civilization, especially in winter time when road conditions can be a toss-up. We went to Staunton State Park because we knew the state would have plowed, it was a popular enough location that we wouldn’t be alone, and we were less than an hour from Denver and only 15 minutes from the closest town.
If you’re also in Denver, I highly recommend Staunton for your first family winter adventure! We did part of the Staunton Ranch trail. The Davis Ponds loop is also a great option for a three-mile trek.
In general, when choosing a trail, remember that snowshoeing is harder than regular hiking. And that whoever has baby on will have a harder time too! Choose something that is relatively flat and be realistic about how far you can hike, whether as the person who has recently given birth or the person toting around the baby. For reference, it took us an hour and 15 minutes to snowshoe for two miles on a relatively flat trail at 8,300 feet of elevation. And I was TIRED after.
How to feed baby on the go
If it works out scheduling-wise, feeding baby at the trailhead will buy you the most time to actually go snowshoeing.
I fed baby at the trailhead to buy us as much time as possible on the trail and to reduce the likelihood that I would have to whip out a boob in winter weather. It wasn’t easy, since I’m used to having a Boppy and being on our couch in a robe, but practicing is the only way to make it easier to feed on the go!
To make it a little easier, I wore as few layers on top as possible. Just one base layer (that was relatively loose), a fleece jacket, and then my winter coat. These nursing bras have also been good sports bras since they are moisture-wicking and you can swap the straps to cross in the back for a little extra support. For arm support, I wedged myself between the carseat and the door handle (we have our car seat in the middle of our Subaru Forester).
If you need to bring a bottle (of milk or formula), you could prep it at home and then stick it in an insulated travel mug. I happen to have a Yeti that was a work gift, which is large enough to fit Lansinoh Momma bottles and keeps them warm for several hours. Alternatively, you could put warm water in any insulated travel mug you have and prep formula at the trailhead.
Changing diapers on the go
The poop gods were smiling on us this day, because we forgot a back-up outfit in case of a blowout. We got very lucky and no such blowout occurred, but don’t push your luck! The first time we went hiking, we got to the trailhead only to discover Baby OB was leaking poo all over me. A back-up outfit was necessary (as is hand sanitizer).
This travel diaper pad has been everything we need. It fits easily in a backpack (I bring it with us on the trail just in case) or you can just toss it in the backseat of the car. To change Baby OB in the car, I put the diaper pad part on my lap and use myself as the changing table so that I can keep the doors closed. Nothing makes a baby scream like the cold winter air on their nether regions!
Our winter adventure packing list
Okay, that was a lot. Doing anything with a baby feels like a lot, it turns out. Here’s a quick recap on what to bring:
- Hand sanitizer
- Diaper bag (diapers, wipes, burp cloth, something to put baby on to change them)
- Back-up base layer for baby
- Bottles + formula as needed
- Soft carrier
- Snowshoes + poles for you of course
- My complete hiking checklist is here for any outdoor adventure!
And what baby should wear:
- Base layer of synthetic fabric (ie a long-sleeve onesie with legs that isn’t made of cotton)
- Hoodie or sweater
- Fleece outersuit like the Tiny Bear II
- Sunhat (if applicable to the weather)
Head out on your easy, close-to-home trail and report back! Especially if I missed something. You can do it, outdoor parent beginners!