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. After having my first kid, I was determined to rip off the Band-Aid and figure out outdoorsy adventures with a newborn baby in tow.
Our Saturday snowshoe was a success, although I will admit we got 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 suit if you’re carrying your baby in a carrier. Your body heat keeps them really warm, and they’re so tiny that the carrier protects them from most of the elements.
Unless you have a toddler/walking baby, they’re not 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.
I never felt myself wishing I had something thicker than the bear suit when Baby OB was in a carrier. Now that Baby OB is in a backpack, they are a little bit more exposed to the elements. We’ve bought a snowsuit (on sale, keep an eye on 6pm!) because they’ll be walking this winter and I didn’t want to have multiple items. I’ll probably use the snowsuit when they’re in the backpack since I won’t be able to share my body heat with them anymore.
No matter what they’re wearing, 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! They won’t keep sunglasses on their face, so I usually end up just holding my hand up to shield their face. If they’re in the backpack, we use the sun shade that came with it.
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!). We do have a backpack carrier now that Baby OB is big enough for it, which is more comfortable now that they’re bigger. BUT backpack carriers are very expensive, so if you already have a less expensive soft carrier or wrap that you’re comfortable with, use that!
If you gave birth to your baby, it totally depends on your personal recovery for whether you should carry them or not. I had a rough recovery and was only two months postpartum when we went, so my partner strapped on Baby OB.
Carrying a baby while snowshoeing is a pretty big ask of your core muscles, so don’t be disappointed if you aren’t ready yet. Take your time and be patient (I’m the least patient person in the world and this was HARD). I couldn’t carry Baby OB while hiking for at least six months, so if you’re in the same boat, try not to despair!
I always recommend hiking or ski poles for snowshoeing, but with the extra weight, you will DEFINITELY appreciate having them! Plus, they help you keep your balance with your extra precious cargo 🙂
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 in Colorado because we knew the state would plow, 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 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 was still breastfeeding at this point, so I fed Baby OB 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, 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.
If you need to bring a bottle of formula, you can put warm water in an insulated travel mug and prep it at the trailhead. To cut down on how much stuff we bring, I like to scoop the formula into the bottle at home and then put it in a coozie to keep it protected from the light.
If your baby is eating solids, try to make the trailhead meal a liquid one (bottle, boob, whatever). It’s easier to figure out on the go, particularly for your first time. Puree pouches are a decent trailhead option, but in my experience everything gets really messy, Baby OB can tell I’m in a hurry and doesn’t want to to eat it, and it’s just not really worth the hassle. However teething biscuits are a very handy emergency snack that I like to bring in the backpack just in case.
No matter how you feed your baby, it’s going to be difficult to extract them from the carrier, keep them warm, and give them food while standing up. I always recommend a trailhead feeding before you head out!
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 (so was 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 supplies as needed
- Soft carrier
- Snowshoes + poles for you
- 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 and feet 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!