A new baby doesn’t necessarily mean your outdoor adventures are over. This is the first post in a new series about getting fresh air and exercise after the arrival of your little one.
I was delusional while I was pregnant. First, I thought that putting our baby to sleep would entail laying her in her crib, kissing her goodnight and going back to making dinner or watching movies or doing whatever it is that perfectly rested new parents do.
My second delusion was that I would be right back on skis, not missing a beat since last winter. I even stood in our kitchen at eight months pregnant and told my partner, “While we’re on leave, all that’s going to be on our agenda is eating good food and skiing.” It was going to be awesome, like an epic ski vacation, just with a new little baby around. I don’t know where I thought the baby was going to fit into this picture.
You’re probably rolling your eyes at this point. Hopefully you’re still reading. I assure you that I’m sane, and I have learned a lot since those naive days.
Our beautiful baby girl, Elise, is now 3 months old. We’re skiing, but it takes way more effort than I ever imagined. I'm mostly doing flat-terrain cross-country ski tours, with Elise in a carrier. Or my partner and I are taking turns heading to the resort or into the backcountry on our own. In all of those scenarios, there's been a steep learning curve.
My first foray into cross-country skiing with Elise included 45 minutes in the trailhead parking lot of Montpelier’s Hubbard Park, getting myself, my baby and our dog ready for an easy tour. After putting on my outerwear, carrier, baby and boots in the wrong order, as my dog whined in the background, I clung foolishly to the side of my car, reaching high into the box on top to get my skis while being careful not to hit my daughter’s head on anything.
A stranger approached me and said, “Can I give you a hand? You look like you’re struggling.” I tried to hide my annoyance with her observation. Yes, I’m struggling
, I thought.
But out loud I said, “No thanks, I’ve got to figure out how to do this on my own.” I’m already learning important lessons from the mistakes I’ve made. For example, I now know to take my skis out of the ski box before I put Elise in the carrier.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is going to be tricky with the addition of Elise. I’ve had to adjust my attitude, big time. Any time on skis is a good time these days, even if it’s just 20 minutes out the back door.
On that first cross-country outing with Elise, when I finally hit the trail with her strapped to my front, I glided blissfully through the soft snow into the fading afternoon sunlight, and then remembered I’d forgotten my headlamp. After returning to my car to get it, I returned to the trail and kept going for an hour and a half — with Elise sleeping peacefully in the carrier. It was so worth the effort.
If you're a new parent like me, you might wonder how to find time to get outside, with or without baby. I’ve got four ideas:
- The Dawn Patrol: Usually reserved for 4 a.m. drives to the mountain to get first turns in fresh powder, this term has new meaning for outdoor-loving parents. Get up before everyone’s day starts and head outside on your own. Leave a bottle for the baby with your partner, and lay out everything you’ll need the night before. In my book, an hour of sleep is worth trading for some alone time outside.
- The Lunch Hour: If your baby is in someone else’s care during your workday, this is the perfect opportunity to sneak in some outdoor fun. You’ll need to bring your gear to work and pack some wet wipes to clean off any sweat before going back to your job.
- The Headlamp Tour: Get comfy with heading out at night and find friends who want to join you (sans baby). Whether it’s to ski, hike, bike or run, there is still plenty of fun to be had after the sun goes down. Trade off with your partner or other parents who might be willing to babysit. Invest in a good headlamp and keep it charged.
- The Family Outing: If you're bringing baby along, make sure to dress her well — this includes wool or synthetic base layers, a fleece mid-layer and an insulated bunting— and know how to tell if she’s in distress. Older babies can go in a ski polk, backpack-style hiking carrier or jogging stroller, but younger babies cannot. Babies that can’t yet hold their own heads up should go in an infant carrier, but only if you are sure you won’t fall. Keep the outing well within your ability level. If you’re cross-country skiing, for example, stick to kicking and gliding on flat terrain. If you’re not comfortable skiing with your baby, try snowshoeing, hiking or walking. Use traction on your shoes like Ice Trekkers Diamond Grips for walking or Kahtoola Microspikes for hiking to avoid slipping.
These are just a few tips to get you started. Stay tuned as I continue to share my adventures as an outdoor-loving new parent.
Sarah Galbraith, who lives in Marshfield, is an avid outdoorswoman, mother and ambassador to the Vermont Mountain Bike and Catamount Trail Associations. Follow her family's adventures at greenmountainlines.blogspot.com.