Mountains, molehills, and parenting

Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Friday morning, I began my least favourite Friday tradition: trying to decide what to do on the weekend.  Or lately, with winter MIA, whether my plans need to be changed.  Those topics join a list of others that I’m finding challenging of late.  The challenge being that there is no cut and dried solution to any of them.  The name of the game seems to be patience, acceptance and change of perspective.  In any case, here’s the shortlist.

The weekend.  In my dream world, every hike would be a 25 min drive from my house, the weather would always be great, no one would ever be sick, errands wouldn’t have to run, and my toddler would be happily participate in activities or nap quietly in her carrier/Chariot.  Oh and all our gear would magically fit in the trunk.  Instead, deciding what to do on the weekend involves balancing what we have the time/energy to accomplish vs if the outing will be worth it based on driving times, weather, amount of packing, “fun” factor for each family member, etc.  This often means that as much as I want to do a certain hike/snowshoe/ski, plans frequently need to be changed.  I always have fun once we get going but the process of planning can be discouraging at times.

Finding friends.  I have amazing friends (both with kids and without), but life is busy, kids get sick, and not everyone (and their children) are in the same place at the same time with regards to outdoor abilities and interests.  In particular, I hadn’t realized how different each stage is, from babies to toddlers to preschoolers.  Finding partners involves not just finding another family who’s free and interested, but one who’s kids (if they have any) are in similar stages to ours.  With a baby, we were able to do longer hikes which were further away.  With a toddler, we need to plan activities with less sitting time in cars/backpacks/Chariots and more moving time (exploring, walking, crawling).

Work/life balance.  This one is a work in progress.  Some days I feel like I really nailed it, and others I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  I want to have down time, but I also I want to fit in me time, husband time and family time.  I want to eat home cooked meals but I also want time to play outside before dinner.  I want a clean house but I also want to go outside on weekends and squeeze in an adult workout.  I’ve discovered that it’s helped to schedule in a few things that are important and go with the flow for the rest.

Time to myself.  As much as I dislike giving up any of the time I have with my daughter, I know that it’s also important for me carve out time to exercise or see friends.  I didn’t anticipate the guilt I’d feel when choosing to spend time away from my daughter, even if it was a perfectly reasonably choice to make.

Everyone knows the saying … this too shall pass.  That sums up how I feel right now.  Overall I’m very happy with my family and my life and I think my husband and I do a darn good job of balancing everything.  I’m also so proud of all outings we’ve been able to get out on, in good times and more sleep-deprived times! That doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments where I get frustrated, or feel discouraged about how things turned out. I often wish there was an easy answer, but I haven’t found it yet! It does mean I need to remind myself more often to put things in perspective; what feels like a mountain today, will probably look more like molehill when I’m further down the road :)

I don’t tend to write much about the things I find difficult as I don’t like to dwell on them.  It seems much more personal to share your struggles than your highlights!  That being said, I think there is value in acknowledging them.  If you feel the same way, you’ll like these posts:

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Gift Ideas for Outdoor Women, Mamas & Babies

I’ve always enjoyed reading gift guides around the holidays.  Sometimes I find items that I’d like to add my wish list (or my shopping list for someone else), but mostly, I just enjoy checking out all the neat products/books out there! It’s fun to see what others with the same interests would list as their favourite items.  Here are some of my favourite items that I’d recommend for outdoor women/mamas & babies!

1. Books

I recently discovered Erin McKittrick’s writing this year.  Her first book “A Long Trek Home” is about her journey walking from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska with her husband.  I love wilderness adventure books so this was right up my alley and reminded me how much I’m looking forward to backcountry camping again someday :)

Her second book, “Small Feet, Big Land”, documents her adventures walking on the Alaska coast and on a glacier (a glacier!) with her husband and two small children.  While this type of trip is way out of my little family’s league right now, I still found it inspirational.  Highly recommend this one!

On the theme of adult books, I’m halfway through “The Calling:A Life Rocked By Mountains” by Barry Blanchard and would recommend this if you’re into books about rock/alpine/ice climbing and how it’s evolved over time.  Barry is a local guide and it’s the story of how he started climbing and the expeditions he went on.  It’s a particularly fun read if you’ve climbed locally as you’ll recognize so many of the places/routes!

2. Make My Belly Fit

I reviewed this in a previous post but this is one item I’ve used a ton from pregnancy to carrying around a 10 month old baby.  If you’re an outdoor women like me, you have an impressive collection of technical jackets and would prefer to wear them rather than stash them away when you have a baby.  The MMBF panel will allow you to continue wearing yours before & after baby by adding some extra room to your jacket.

Enjoying the jacket panel on a cold day while snowshoeing at Bragg Creek

Enjoying the jacket panel on a cold day while snowshoeing

3. Wee Woolies Hat

My husband and I both love our merino wool hats for outdoor adventures big & small so we figured, why wouldn’t we treat little E to the same thing?  Some perks of this hat: it’s reasonably priced ($17.99) , it’s made by a Canadian company, it’s soft, and it layers well under hoods or thicker hats for extra warmth!

4. Down Blanket

For the longest time, I’ve kept my trusty Eddie Bauer down blankets (yes, I have several) in the car for emergencies: warming up in the car, chilly nights by the campfire, emergency picnic blanket, car pillow for tired passengers, etc.  When E came along we found a new use, stroller warmer!  In her Chariot it’s kept her warm on fall days without a snowsuit, and on cold snowy days we add it on top of her snowsuit to keep her extra warm. The blankets are very sturdy and I’ve washed ours with regular laundry and not noticed any effect on performance.  The price is also very good for down ($60 though it it looks to be on sale right now for $30!).

5. Stonz Booties

Ever had the problem of going out in the winter and needing a pair of shoes to walk to/from the car and a separate pair to wear indoors? Well, if you’re an adult you’re out of luck.  If you’re a baby or toddler, you’re covered!  I put E’s shoes on and slip the booties on top which make it easy to transition from walks outside to play gyms.  If we’re just heading outside I skip the indoor shoes and layer 2 pairs of socks (one of hers and one of my wool pairs) for extra warmth.  If you find the pricetag is a bit high, try checking out kid’s consignment stores.

6. Patagonia Down Sweater

This is hands down my favourite jacket and is so versatile that I wear it year round.  I’ve had mine for several years and I think it’s well worth the price tag (I’d buy it again in a heartbeat!).  Hubby has one as well and shares my opinion.  I wear it around town during all four seasons and I’ve also taken it hiking, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, ice climbing, alpine climbing and rock climbing.  After baby, I’ve found it extremely practical in that it washes well, and packs into a small ball that’s easy to throw in a purse or diaper bag.  It’s also useful as a warm emergency baby blanket!

 7. Insulated straw thermos

After going through a few baby travel cups, I was browsing the selection at MEC when another mom came up to me to rave about how much she loved this thermos.  It was enough to convince me to buy it and I have to agree, it’s awesome!  It actually keeps water inside without leaking, it’s easy to take apart and clean, and everything is dishwasher safe!

Photo from www.mec.ca

Photo from www.mec.ca

For some more family-related gift guides, check out the following!

Staying active outside: 6-9 month olds

If you haven’t already read the last three parts of this series on staying active outside, you can read them here Pregnancy, 0-3 month old winter babies, 3-6 month old spring babies

While each stage comes with it’s own challenges and perks, I’ve found myself really enjoying this one.  Seems that over time, as some things get so much easier, others get harder. Camping, or more accurately any form of overnight travel, was a major fail.  Turns out my daughter is a big fan of routine … at night.  Her little personality started to shine and she has proven very adjustable to changes in her daytime routine.  Nights? Not so much.  And the more her daytime routine changes, the more her night time routine needs to stay the same.  The story behind that is probably another post in and of itself!  One of our big successes at this stage was coming up with a fantastic hiking procedure for the summer/fall.  Through a bit of trial and error we came up with a system that worked well for us.  Here is a bit more detail on what we did and how it worked out:

Activities

Hiking

I’m going to start with what was our biggest “win”, getting out hiking! After a long winter and spring, I was more than ready to be outside and see some mountains.  It took several trips to work out a system so here’s ours:

  • Choose your trail the night before. We found that E was happy about sitting in her carrier for 2-2.5 hours during a hike so for us, that translated into a hike that was 4-8km long with up to 300 m of elevation gain.
  • Schedule in “wiggle” time.  E started to get very wiggly after sitting for too long and needed time to stand or sit on her own and play with toys.  When picking a hike, we found it helpful to choose hikes near Bragg Creek, Canmore or Banff so we could end our hike with a trip to a kid friendly restaurant for food and play time before the drive home.
  • Pack the night before.  Morning is a rush of breakfast and getting dressed making it easy to forget something essential (been there done that!)  Get everything ready the night before and put as much as possible into the car to make things go smoothly.
  • Pack all the baby items in your baby backpack and items you are less likely to need in a second pack.  One parent carries the baby, the other carries the second pack and is able to grab baby items out of the backpack carrier for baby as needed.
  • If possible, try to time your drives with morning and afternoon naps. It’s not essential but it sure makes the day less stressful when baby snoozes peacefully and you can enjoy chatting and a coffee during the drive :)  On days where we missed the nap window, snacks and fun toys along with mom in the backseat helped keep everyone happy.

In addition to a regular diaper bag (see below), here are some extra items we add in for baby when going hiking:

  • Picnic blanket for baby to play on.  We’d choose a small fleece one that could be used to keep baby warm if necessary.
  • Tylenol.  Teething baby + middle of the woods is enough to make you pack this every time.
  • Baby lunch & accessories: sippy cup, fruit pooch, snacks, bib (keep all in a ziplock bag)
  • Car entertainment: snacks/fruit pooch (in addition to what you brought for lunch), variety of toys

Here are some hikes we enjoyed at this stage:

  • Ptarmigan Cirque (Highwood Pass)
  • Elbow Lake (Highwood Pass)
  • Sundance Canyon (Banff)
  • Sunshine Meadows (Banff)
  • Fullerton Loop (Kananaskis – Hwy 66)
  • Riverview Trail (Kananaskis – Paddy’s Flat)
  • Ford Knoll (Kananaskis – Hwy 66)
  • Agnes Tea House (Lake Louise)
Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Running

Over the summer I continued running sporadically and once September hit, I decided to schedule a weekly run with a friend.  Having a set running date helped me find some motivation and added to the difficulty of our (short) runs as we were not only running and pushing babies, but also chatting!  I found choosing a route with an option to cut things short was helpful in case of a meltdown mid-run.  Also, I noticed that I needed a different layering strategy for E when she was in the Chariot (see below!).  By the time E reached 9 months I saw a big improvement in my fitness level.

Climbing

After a summer hiatus from climbing indoors (because who wants to do that when it’s nice out?!), I returned in the fall to my weekly indoor climbing date.  Despite taking the summer off, I felt like I was climbing much stronger than before and even felt up to leading a few easy 5.7 & 5.8’s.

Walks

The biggest change to my weekday walks were that I was stopped using strollers and started almost exclusively using my Deuter kid carrier backpack.  I found it was less hassle to get in and out of the car, E loved it, and it made me feel like I was getting a workout in the process.

The biggest problem with walks was beating the heat in the summer.  I’d try to do any walks around 9 or 10am (and in treed locations) and if it was too hot by then, we’d usually skip it for the day.

Out of town trips/Camping

We did two trips, one to Penticton and one to visit family.  The first trip to visit family was … challenging.  In retrospect, travel + teething + starting solids was a poor combination for us and led to little sleep all around.  Many baby milestones are hard to predict but in the future, for those I can anticipate, I’ll avoid travelling around them.  Our second trip was much more successful. We drove ~8hrs to Penticton and stayed in a rental house.  A few things that made this trip easier:

  • For the car ride: snacks & toys.  For both of these, there is no such thing as too many! We packed several old toys and bought a few new ones so we could switch toys frequently as E got bored.  Having someone sit in the backseat to feed snacks also helped.
  • Leave early.  We decided to leave around 4am and have baby finish sleeping in the car.
  • If the baby is happy, don’t stop driving.  We tried as best we could to make sure we had enough food & gas so that if E was sleeping or happily playing, the car kept moving.
  • Bring familiar items.  We packed crib sheets, toys, feeding items and blankets from home which (I hope!) helped the trip go smoothly.
  • Stick to your regular routine.  We tried as best we could to do things as we did at home.  There was also a time change and as it wasn’t too big, we found it easiest to let baby wake & sleep when she wanted to instead of going with the new time zone.

Just being outside

As E has gotten older, I’ve become more appreciative of days spent at home where I don’t have to load anyone up in the car.  On days where we stay at home, I try to plan a few activities to do before naps to pass the time and get outside (both of which are necessary!)  The great thing about babies this age is that they don’t need much to be entertained; a patch of dandelions, a pile of leaves, a container of rice with toys hidden inside, walking with mom around the yard or down the street to the park, playing in pea gravel, etc.  Even a quick walk to the park to go on the infant swings can take a good part of the afternoon.

Scoping out the route!

Scoping out the route!

Gear

Carrier

Once baby was over 6 months, I found it difficult to carry her in the Boba for prolonged periods of time as it hurt my back.  I mostly wound up using the Boba for in town trips and short walks.

Backpack

Once E was around 6.5 months, we discovered she could fit in our Deuter Kid Comfort II (she was just below the 50th percentile for height & weight).  Since then, this has been our transportation method of choice for longer (outdoor) walks.  I could go on about how much I love this backpack but suffice to say it’s relatively light, adjusts easily between carriers, and has a lot of storage room.

For keeping baby comfortable in the backpack, here’s what I used:

  • In warm weather, I’d try to dress her in the clothes that would keep her the coolest while also covering her up.  For any uncovered skin I’d use ThinkBaby sunscreen.
  • For cooler weather down to ~6-8C, I’d put her in a warm fleece sweater and her Stonz booties.  We bought the booties in M so they came up to her knees cinched up.  I’d also recommend knitted legwarmers as you can easily put them on and take them off without removing baby from the backpack.
  • For temperatures closer to freezing (~0-5C) I’d put her in a MEC Cocoon Bunting with her Stonz booties, mitt cuffs flipped over and a hat.
Little snoozer enjoying the backpack

Little snoozer enjoying the backpack

Chariot

I used the Chariot mostly for running and the occasional walk.  I tried using the BOB for running but found that I preferred the Chariot (we have a CX1).  One of the interesting things with the Chariot is that because you can completely enclose the baby, the interior is it’s own micro-climate which can differ quite a bit from the outside air temperature.  I did a fair bit of overdressing of baby before I got the hang of things.

  • In warm weather, I’d dress her in a onesie and fully lower the sunshade.  I’d also unzip the plastic side panels completely to allow a breeze.  One downside is that there is less sun protection on the sides with the plastic unzipped so I’d bring sunglasses for baby and a thin summer swaddling blanket to drape over the side to shade her face if necessary.
  • Down to 0C, I’d dress baby in a fleece jacket, her Stonz booties and I’d add a warm blanket (thick fleece or down).  I never found it necessary to dress baby up any more than that since the tinted side shades and sun cover create a bit of a greenhouse effect and warm up the inside.  In fact, on several occasions I had to remove the blanket, booties and sweater and/or unzip the side panels to cool things down inside.  It’s much easier to cool baby down this way than to have to take them out of the Chariot and remove a snowsuit.

Gear for baby

During this time period, some gear I found particularly helpful include:

    • Sunday Afternoons Playhat – the brim & neck cover are some of the best I’ve seen!  I ordered mine from Mountain Baby.
    • ThinkBaby sunscreen (available from MEC, Mountain Baby or Westcoast Kids)
    • Julbo baby sunglasses (available from some optometrists)
    • Baby leggings to wear over pants
    • Fleece sweaters – easy to clean and stay warm even when damp
Sunday Afternoons Playhat  being used while exploring the grass. You can see it cinches to make a tight fit.

Sunday Afternoons Playhat. You can see it cinches to make a tight fit.

Gear for you

A summer trick I used was to wear a light infinity scarf when carrying E in the Boba.  It gave me the option of  covering her legs and/or arms to keep off the sun or protect from a breeze while on the go!

Diaper Bag

To make sure I was prepared for any change in weather, I’d add a stuff sack with the following items to the regular contents of my bag.

  • Summer: sunglasses, cheap cotton sunhat, sunscreen, linen swaddling blanket, sweater
  • Fall: wool socks, leggings and a hat

 

If anyone has any other tips for this age (or time of year) I’d love to hear! Especially welcome are tips for being outside with baby when it’s scorching hot.  It doesn’t happen very often in Calgary so I often waved the white flag and retreated to my basement on hot days!

 

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!

How To: Wear your jackets while pregnant (Make My Belly Fit Review)

If you’re outdoorsy and anything like me, you probably have a large collection of technical jackets you carefully choose from for every outing and lovingly care for.  While I was pregnant, I was able to use my regular jackets until the last trimester which unfortunately coincided with winter.  Leaving jackets unzipped or wearing sweaters were ok in the city but wouldn’t cut it for doing anything active outdoors.  I looked into regular maternity jackets but they turned out to be expensive and mostly “fashion-style” jackets that were more appropriate for the city.

Stealing husbands’ jackets is most common solution I heard to this problem.  Unfortunately my husband only has one down jacket so using it wasn’t an option.  I was, however, able to borrow some of his hardshells and fleeces.

Hubby's fleece and down vest on permanent loan

Snowshoeing at Ptarmigan Cirque with hubby’s fleece and down vest on permanent loan

I was curious to try out Mountain Mama, which makes maternity activewear, but they don’t carry insulated winter jackets.  On a side note, I did buy one of their dresses (Isabelle Maternity Midi Dress) and loved it!  It turned out to be one of my favourite maternity outfits as the fabric was super soft, stretchy and seemed to fit well as I got bigger. (Note – I found the dress ran true to my pre-maternity size).  I’d love to try out more of their clothes, as activewear for use during pregnancy or while nursing is *so* hard to find.

Finally, I decided I on buying a jacket extender panel that I originally saw in a review on Adventures in Parenthood Project.  It’s called Make My Belly Fit and is a black softshell panel that you zip onto your jacket.  It has snaps on the front to allow you to make your jacket bigger or smaller on the top, bottom or both. You can also purchase a matching fleece panel to snap on the inside if it’s really cold out.  I bought both.  Below is a little review of the panel.

Enjoying the jacket panel on a cold day while snowshoeing at Bragg Creek

Enjoying the jacket panel on a cold day while snowshoeing at Bragg Creek

How does it attach to your jacket? Can you switch between jackets?

The zipper it comes with fit 3 of my jackets.  For the rest I would have had to buy a zipper adapter which I opted not to do as I figured I would be ok with the ones it did fit.  It’s worth checking if it will fit your partner’s jacket as they might want to use it for carrying the baby (see below).

How does it look?

Better than I thought it would! I thought it would look out of place but black matches pretty much everything and I got several compliments on it when I wore it with my Patagonia softshell.  Someone asked when Patagonia had started making maternity jackets (ha!).

Is it warm enough? Does it work?

YES! Even on cold days when I went snowshoeing and wore it with a down jacket, I was more than warm enough and didn’t need the fleece insert.  The panel blocked the wind very well and was water (snow) resistant. I liked that it zipped onto 3 of my jackets so I had some variety in what I could wear.  It was also long enough to zip up to the top of all my jackets.

Post-baby usage?

The bonus with this panel is it’s just as useful post-baby as pre-baby! Firstly, you don’t go back to your original size right away so you’ll still need a jacket that fits afterwards.  Secondly, it’s great for when you want to take a walk with your baby in a carrier.  For little winter babies, it’s so hard to know how to dress them to keep them warm outside.  With the panel, I could dress baby up in a fleece sleeper, stick her in my Boba carrier with a hat, and carry her under my jacket so I knew she’d be warm and out of the wind (I used the fleece insert when I did this).  Baby dressing guesswork: gone!  The panel would be useful until baby is big enough that his/her legs reach below the hem of your jacket.  I’d guess this would be around 4-5 months though I never got to this point as the weather had warmed up by then and I didn’t need to wear a jacket.

Hope this helps anyone looking to stay active when pregnant & with their babies!  If anyone else knows of any other great activewear for use before or after baby I’d love to hear!

Here are some other reviews to check out: