Five Fundamental Guidelines You Can't Afford to Ignore when Winter Hiking with a Baby

Five Fundamental Guidelines You Can't Afford to Ignore when Winter Hiking with a Baby

The wind cut across the field, blowing loose snowflakes and crumpled leaves in its wake.  It is a postcard worthy view, and I want to stop to admire, but the chill in the breeze discourages me from lingering too long.  The current temperature is only tolerable as long as I am moving.  Although it is only a little over twenty degrees, I am exhilarated to make my way out of the confines of my home for a brisk morning walk.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I am one of those hyperactive individuals who can't seem to sit without wiggling, who can’t seem to stand without pacing, and can’t seem to go a day without getting outside.  My eight-month-old daughter, on the other hand, doesn't seem to mind my hyperactive tendencies and indicates her approval by snuggling comfortably in a makeshift cocoon on my chest and emitting a contented sigh.

As one of the volunteer branch ambassadors for the Cumberland Country break of Hike It Baby, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to getting children and their caretakers outside, today’s excursion was not unusual. Unless there is a serious storm brewing or a frostbite warning, my daughter Lennon and I regularly venture forth into freezing temperatures to scope out new trails, to lead hikes and to enjoy other winter sports like snowshoeing and nordic skiing.  

Other new mothers sometimes view my activities with some trepidation as they are worried about the possibility of their child getting excessively chilled and sick as a result of being exposed to frigid temperatures. One mother even commented that she didn't bring her baby outside if it was below twenty degrees because most daycares and schools won’t bring their charges outside if the temperature dips below that threshold.   While I understand their concerns, exploring our beautiful Maine winter wonderland with a tiny human can be safe and enjoyable for both the child and their parents, provided some basic guidelines are met.

  1. Invest in warm winter wear. This year we went from two incomes to one, so I am all about finding the best deals when it comes to my daughter's clothes and toys.  However, when it comes to winter wear, it pays to splurge a little. Brands that specialize in cold weather apparel like LLBean, Columbia, and Northface are likely to be warmer than fashionable baby clothes brands like Carter’s or Old Navy. I bought my daughter a Columbia Snowsuit, and it has been well worth the investment. A similar one can be found here.  Your winter wear matters as well.  I find many mothers try to make due with last winter’s ill fitted jacket, instead of purchasing a new one.  While I am all about wearing leggings and loose shirts until my pre-baby clothes fit, a jacket is an essential items when one lives in Maine.  I found that the lightweight down jackets are ideal because they provide optimum warm without limiting your range of motion like this one from North Face.
  2. Wear lightweight layers. When dressing my daughter for the elements, my goal is always to strike a balance between being bundled and being too bulky.  This year I have a renewed love affair of baby-size Smartwool socks and fitness fleece pullover jackets like this one from LLBean.  Hoodless items like this add the warmth my daughter needs over a long-sleeve tee-shirt and stretchy pants without impeding her range of motion or making her head and neck uncomfortable.  I also use the Smartwool socks on her feet and hands as finding gloves that stay on has been a seemingly impossible mission this winter.
  3. Wear your child close. I have been babywearing my daughter since the day she was discharged from the hospital; as such, I have a collection of carriers, including a K’Tan wrap, a Moby wrap, an Ergo carrier, and a Deuter backpack.  While my backpack is the most structured and comfortable for long distance ventures, on cold days I always carry her close to my body in the Ergo carrier, so she can take advantage of my body heat. I also invested in a nifty carrier cover called the Jolly Jumper, which gives her an extra layer of protection from the elements.  
  4. Check your child. On cold days, I always wear my daughter in the front carrying position, so I can regularly check her head, hands, and feet to make sure that they are not too cold to the touch and that her hat, make-shift gloves, and Robeez boots are still on her feet.  Our outdoor excursions usually lull my daughter to sleep, so if she is ever excessively fussy, I head indoors to make sure that nothing is amiss.  
  5. Follow a familiar trail. On frigid days, I usually opt to follow a well traveled, familiar trail and I save the “road less traveled” for another day.  I also often scope out a coffee shop or cafe for a post-hike visit, so I can undress, change, and breastfeed my daughter in a warm location.  Plus, this mom runs on coffee.  I keep my hike short and enjoyable for both my daughter and me, so she will grow to be an outdoor enthusiast and nature lover like her mother.  
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