Staying active outside: 0-3 month old winter babies

Looks like this is going to be a series! If you haven’t read the first part, you can check it out here Staying active outside: Pregnancy (Update – check out the next 2 parts of this series 3-6 month spring babies, 6-9 month olds)

Before I get into the details of this post, I wanted to write about a few things I didn’t realize when I was pregnant.  I was very fit prior to getting pregnant and stayed fairly active during pregnancy as well.  I had assumed that since my pregnancy had gone well and I was healthy, recovering from delivery wouldn’t take too long and in no time I’d be excited to get out on some walks and possibly sneak in a ski day.  Things turned out differently.  I’d heard it said ad infinitum that everyone’s body handles delivery & recovery differently, but it didn’t sink in until I was there.  Delivery was … rough.  It took almost 3 months for me to be able to walk for 45 min + without any discomfort.  Breastfeeding was also a challenge and it took until the 3 month mark as well for us to fall into a good groove.  I don’t share this to be discouraging, I just want to give an honest account of what it was like for me as I didn’t fall into the category of mamas who bounce back quickly.  On that note, I HIGHLY recommend reading this post on postpartum healing from Meghan Ward (Take it Easy, Mamas: Finding Value in Unexpected Setbacks).

Whew.  Now that that’s out of the way on to the fun parts! While getting out and being active happened a bit differently than I had pictured, I still found ways to make it work and enjoyed what I was able to do.  It was a great mood booster to leave the house and helped alleviate cabin fever.  Having a winter baby made going outside a bit trickier but it was still doable (and enjoyable!).  Your mileage will vary on what works on what doesn’t depending on the season your baby is born in as well as how your recovery goes.

Activities

Walking/Hiking

Walks around my neighborhood were a staple in the first few weeks.  When you’re not sure how long you or baby will last outside, being close to home is ideal.  I would try to go on a 15-30 min walk every day or two around the block to get some fresh air.  And yes, this happened even in the dead of winter! As I got more comfortable with baby E’s schedule I ventured further from home and met friends at different parks. Here’s how I made it work:

  • As long as temperatures were -15 C (give or take) or above I felt it was fair game.  It’s doable to go out when it’s colder but you’ll need more warm clothes that fit which was a problem for me postpartum.  It also takes a bit of the fun out of things when your nostrils stick together when you inhale :)
  • I put baby in a stretchy carrier under my jacket so I didn’t have to worry about dressing her up.  More on how to do this below.
  • Footing is a tricky one.  Carrying baby on the front means you can’t see your feet and unplowed terrain gets compacted into a lumpy mess quickly.  For the most part I stuck to walks on sidewalks that were plowed.  Some bike paths in my community were plowed which I hit up as well but many were not (bummer).
  • I always wore good winter boots with rubber soles and had no problem with traction. My favourite boots are from Hi-Tec as they’re warm, waterproof and affordable.

“Out of town” hikes didn’t really happen for us during the first three months.  The idea of driving 1-2 hrs for a 45 min walk didn’t appeal to me when there were so many great options in Calgary.  We really took advantage of this time to get to know the city’s parks and do some urban hiking.  As a result, our first “big” hike was in Red Rocks, Las Vegas.

Here are a few things to consider when hiking with young infant:

  • If you want to take a stroller, ideally the path should be paved.  Even smooth gravel paths are quite bumpy for a newborn
  • If you’re going to put your baby in a carrier, you’ll be wearing them on your front which will block your view of your feet.  Keep in mind that his will make hiking on uneven terrain or paths with large steps, rocks or roots difficult.
  • Depending on the length of your hike, you will need to pull over and feed your baby.  Think about where you’d sit (on the ground? nearby flat rocks?) and what you’d need to bring to feed them.
  • Does the path have an escape route? It can be nice take a shortcut back to the car if things go sideways :)  Not that I’m speaking from experience here …
  • How long is the drive? Will you need to stop to feed the baby en route?
Gardens at the Springs Preserve

Walking around botanical gardens in Las Vegas using a stretchy carrier. This was baby’s first international trip

Walking (Indoors)

This technically isn’t an outdoor activity, but it involved getting out of my house so I’m going to count it!  While I can’t say I would have ventured into the mall if I had  had a summer baby, there were a few pros to heading to the mall in the winter.

If you have a newborn in the dead of winter in Calgary (or similar climate), you can generally expect to have to deal with 1-2 weeks worth of <-20C days.  And cue the cabin fever after day 2.  The mall provided a great escape minus having to worry about frostbite or layering.  An added bonus was that it provided a nice way to do a “trial run” of being out for a few hours with a newborn.  Instead of having to deal with nursing, diaper changes and carrying baby/gear while on the trail, I got to sort it out in a more comfortable setting so I had my system dialled once it was warm enough to go out.

Just being outside

Some days I just did not have the energy to tackle an outing with baby.  Or the sun would pop out of the clouds and the temperatures would increase … just as the baby finally took a nap.  Times like this I’d make a cup of tea or coffee and sit outside to soak up the sun.  Never underestimate the power of a little sunshine and fresh air to improve your mood!

Gear

Carriers

To start off with, here is a crash course in baby carriers.  They come in roughly two types, structured carriers which have fixed shoulder straps and a waist belt or wrap carriers that consist of a one or more pieces of fabric that you wrap around yourself in various ways to hold the baby.

I had originally planned on only using a structured carrier (Boba) in the beginning but after borrowing a friend’s stretchy wrap (Baby Buddha), I found it was much easier to use with a newborn.  The stretchiness of the wrap allowed me to secure E in a comfortably position while with my Boba, I was fiddling with stuffing blankets inside in an attempt to keep her in position.  While I did get a fair amount of use out of my Boba in the beginning (and it did work!), I used my stretchy wrap most of the time when out walking.

Clothing for baby

My favourite way to walk outside was with E in her stretchy wrap under my jacket.  Because she was under my jacket, I didn’t need to worry about dressing her up too much.  I usually left her in a cotton or fleece sleeper and added a knitted hat depending on temperatures.  On the rare days when a chinook blew in, I’d take out the Chariot and go for a spin.  In this case I’d dress baby up in a thick fleece bunting and use a blanket.

Clothing for you

The only additional piece of gear I needed to carry baby on walks was a jacket panel extender.  When I had purchased the Make My Belly Fit during pregnancy, I had also ordered the fleece insert.  I’m glad I did as it came in handy when I used the panel to carry E.  The panel itself doesn’t have any insulation so the fleece helped to keep her warm (though stuffing a fleece blanket between the baby’s back and your jacket would have the same effect).

Taking a walk with the baby carrier under my down jacket

Taking a walk with the baby carrier under my down jacket. I can tell this was a cold day due to the numerous layers!

Stroller/Chariot

The only use my BOB stroller got in the winter was when I went to the mall.  I used my Chariot occasionally during chinooks when the snow on park pathways melted.  With both, I found that the compacted snow on streets/snow plow piles were too bumpy for baby.  Also, I felt more confident that E was warm when she was under my jacket and she seemed to prefer being carried this way too.

For Chariots, if you want to use them with babies of this age you’ll need to buy the infant sling attachment.

An (over) bundled baby on her first Chariot walk.  Mountains in the distance made for good motivation and excellent views :)

An (over) bundled baby on her first Chariot walk. Mountains in the distance made for good motivation and excellent views :)

Diaper Bag/Extras

Most of the time I didn’t take anything with me on a walk.  E usually slept in her carrier for up to an hour so that’s how long I knew I had before she woke up and needed something.  In the winter it wasn’t really practical anyways to stop and breastfeed or change diapers.

I’d usually leave my diaper bag in the car with the following: change pad, diapers, wipes, extra hat, extra sleeper, blanket (doubles as nursing cover or blanket for the ground), snacks for me and a water bottle.

Logistics

I found that the best way to avoid having an unhappy baby on a walk was to make sure she wasn’t hungry.  Here was my general procedure for happy outings:

  • While baby was napping pack up everything you need, put bags in the car and make a pile by the door of jackets.
  • Leave right after a feeding or pre-emptively feed the baby before going out.
  • While you’re at it, change the diaper before you head out too!
  • If the drive was long enough, I’d feed baby again in the car when I arrived at my destination.
  • On the actual walk I wouldn’t bring anything with me as I planned to be back at my car by the time I needed to change any diapers or feed again

 

I hope some of these tips help out other winter mama’s who are looking to get outside with their babies.  The middle of winter is not the easiest time to acclimate to a new baby *and* tackle taking them outside but it is doable and can be enjoyable!

For an extensive list of resources for everything from pregnancy to toddlers, check out Adventurous Parents.  I also recommend reading Beth Rodden’s post on her experiences with a newborn.

If anyone has any other good tips or resources please let me know!

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4 Comments

  1. Fantastic post, Sarah! I appreciate how thorough you are. It is helpful for women to know all the ins and outs. I appreciate how you also added the Indoor Walking component – sometimes we just need to be practical! I don’t have this option here in Banff but sometimes I wish I did.

    Having a baby carrier in winter is so helpful for new mamas and makes walking outdoors so much easier. With your baby in your jacket you are hands-free and can keep the baby warm.

    Thanks for the link back to my article, too. I hope women continue to find it helpful.

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading Meghan and I’m glad you enjoyed it! It took me a while to write so I also hope other women find it helpful. I remember feeling very overwhelmed those first few and turned to anyone who was willing to give me advice! It’s nice not to feel like you have to re-invent the wheel when it comes to doings things with baby.

      Always glad to link back your site as I found it very helpful (and still do!).

      Reply
  2. Beth

     /  September 12, 2014

    Great post and helpful tips Sarah, thanks!

    I also found the carrier and the Make My Belly Fit jacket extender (with the fleece insert) to be essentials for wintertime walks with baby. I have an original style Baby Bjorn (cheap to pick up at consignment stores), and it worked great for the little one, as she was able to get into a comfy position quite easily and fall asleep.

    I also put a blanket on her, which I would tuck in to the sides of the carrier. And, I also made sure she was wearing a nice cozy hat.

    Reply
    • Great idea to check out consignment stores Beth! I only recently started doing this and wondered, why hadn’t I done this earlier?! Sometimes I can’t find what I want but often there are some fantastic deals on lightly used items.

      I also used the blanket trick but mostly in the spring when I wasn’t wearing a jacket. I like the idea of doing it in the winter as well to add an extra layer of insulation for baby.

      Reply

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