So many people thought that when our baby was added to the mix, our adventures would stop. Well boy did we prove them wrong! We were back out on the trail with the dogs when Parker was 3 weeks old and we haven’t stopped since. It’s definitely a bit more complicated to include an infant in our outdoor lifestyle, but it is far from impossible. I am determined to continue to get the dogs out on the trail as often as I can. Adventure is in their blood and they need to run, to play, to explore, to be truly happy… and so do I!
Through trial and error, we have come up with a pretty good system for outdoor adventure with a baby. Hope this list of tips can help other adventure mamas out there continue their active lifestyles with their dogs, even after baby comes!
8 Tips for Hitting the Trail with Your Dog AND Baby!
Tip#1 – Timing
Most babies are on some sort of schedule. I find it really helpful to keep this in mind when planning outings. By planning your trips around nap times and your baby’s feeding schedule, you can TRY to ensure you have a happy, well rested baby (and by extension a pleasant outing). Notice I said try. There are no guarantees when it comes to kids, especially at such a young age.
What we do: Parker isn’t a big napper so I mostly plan hikes around is his feeding schedule. He eats every 2 hours, so I make sure to feed him RIGHT before we leave the house, burp him, and set off. I pack up the gear ahead of time and have bottles made up to last us a few hours. I try to pick trails that are within a 2 hour driving distance max. This way we don’t have to feed him again until we get to where we’re going. He’s a great car napper IF he’s full and happy, so he’ll usually nap in the car on the drive to the trailhead. This works out perfectly because then he’s fed and rested when we start hiking, which sets a great tone for the day.
Tip #2 – Temperature
In addition to planning hikes around feeding and sleep time, our timing also revolves heavily around the temperature. In the summer, plan to hike in the mornings or evenings when it’s less hot outside. In the fall and winter, aim for the middle of the day when the sun is high to give you that extra warmth. I already did this to keep the dogs cool and comfortable pre-Parker, now it’s just doubly important with the little guy.
Tip #3 – Freedom
Bringing a baby on hikes means I have less hands free, okay basically no hands free. To make it easier (and more fun) for me and the dogs, I try to pick hikes where they don’t need to be on leash the whole time. Plus, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m a lot slower right now. Baby wearing is awesome, but I’m more careful with my footing and just more cautious overall. I mean, I’m carrying precious cargo! So, if the dogs can be off-leash, they can run up and down the trail and get all of their energy out, even when I’m being a slowpoke. Win-win!
Tip #4 – Base “Camp”
Our hikes are a bit shorter still right now with Parker being so young (3 months at the moment), but that doesn’t mean the dogs have any less energy to burn. In addition to off-leash exploration on the trail, I find it super helpful to find a good spot to set up camp. Since it’s summer and HOT as Hades in the South right now, I generally look for a flat, shaded spot near a lake or river. Once we find the perfect spot, I set up Parker’s tent and sleeping bag in the shade. Little man has been outside almost every day since he was born and is super content to just lounge around and watch the wind blow the leaves on the trees, listen to the birds, etc, at least for a few minutes. This gives me a chance to play with the dogs, throw sticks in the lake for them to catch, etc. It’s also convenient when it’s time to feed or change the baby, etc. I can do what I need to do and the dogs can run around hunting for fish or rolling in God knows what (fish guts, poop, all the fun smelly stuff).
Tip #5 – Shade
Babies and sun do not mix. Their skin is super sensitive to the sun and they’re not supposed to wear sunscreen for at least 6 months. So, pediatricians recommend that they stay out of the sun as much as possible during that time. This means we opt for trails through thick forest rather than grassy balds or mountain summits with little protection from the sun. We would honestly be doing this anyway right now for the most part because, you know, summer + South = death. Haha!
Tip #6 – Nourishment
Trail snacks are super important for any day on the trail. I always bring high protein snacks for us humans, high quality energy-filled treats for the pups, and now plenty of milk for the little guy. I use a small insulated bottle bag and bring at least 3 bottles on each hike, which gives me about a 6 hour window for exploring. Just like snacks and water for the humans and pups, ALWAYS err on the side of caution and bring more than you think you need. The last thing you want is a hungry, cranky baby in the middle of the woods. If you breastfeed, you obviously don’t need to worry about this (YAY for milk on demand), but since little man is adopted and on donor milk, I need a supply of bottles on hand at all times.
Tip #7 – Baby Wearing
When you’re hiking with your dog(s) AND a baby, you constantly have the issue of not having enough hands. Hands to hold leashes, dish out treats, throw a stick, etc. This is why baby wearing is such a lifesaver! All I have to do is buckle Parker in his carrier and I have both hands free to tend to both him and the dogs on the trail. I can’t recommend it enough!
Tip #8 – Entertainment
Because we like to set up base camp and hang out for a while, entertainment is key. My dogs love fetching sticks in the lake, but sometimes it’s hard to find good ones and having a toy for backup is imperative. We love tennis balls, frisbees, pretty much anything that floats! Don’t forget to bring toys for the baby too. We usually bring some sort of rattle or crinkle toy and a teether for Parker to chew on while he relaxes in the shade.
The best piece of advice I can give to new moms who are dying to get back on the trail with their pups but are scared to do so it this.. Start small. Set realistic expectations. Go with the flow. And most importantly, HAVE FUN!
Have other tips that you’ve picked up along the way? Or maybe questions for us? Leave us a note in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading!
Debbie & The Mutts