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!

 

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Staying active outside: 3-6 month old spring babies

If you haven’t already read the last two parts of this series on staying active outside, you can read them here Pregnancy, 0-3 month old winter babies (Update – check out the next part of this series, 6-9 month olds)

As 3 months came and went, I started to notice that things were getting easier.  Definitely not easy but easier. It’s like when you’ve gone hiking often enough that it becomes second nature to get your bag packed in a minute or two without much thought. Our days and nights were also starting to fall into a rhythm and physically, I was feeling much better. Here are some of the activities we did along with how I made them work.  Some aren’t “technically” outdoor activities but they involve being active and getting out of the house which can be a win some days, whether you have a baby or not :)

Activities

Walking

Walks still made up the majority of my outings during this time period.  There is nothing better to improve the spirits than being outside and moving.  Spring made things a little tricky as it’s still very snowy/icy/wet/muddy in the mountains and on non-paved pathways in the city.  Thankfully there are many parks with paved paths that I frequented.  Walks in the city are pretty straightforward so the only (small) decision I had to make was whether to use a carrier or stroller.  Generally if the weather looked cool or windy I would use a carrier under my jacket as I found it easiest to regulate baby temperature.  If I had any concerns about the path being slippery or icy, I’d bring the Chariot.  Other than those situations, I’d try my best to play baby psychic and guess which would go over best.  This often meant bringing the Chariot with a carrier stuffed in the storage space “just in case”.

Hiking

As spring rolled into summer, trails in the mountains dried up and we went for our first family hikes! The first few outings were a bit of trial and error but here are a few tips that we found helpful:

  • Decide how long you’ll be hiking for. Before you head out, make sure you’ve used your carrier or Chariot and know how long your baby will happily hike in them.  For us it was about 2 hrs in either.
  • Choose a hike close to home.  This isn’t a must but I found it a lot less stressful when our first hikes weren’t all day events.  Save hikes that are further for when you have your system dialled and want to add another variable into the equation (ie. driving time).
  • Don’t worry about packing the kitchen sink.  Or at least don’t worry about it as long as you have a partner to haul said sink around!  You can always extra items/layers in the car at the trailhead.  It does take some trial and error to figure out what your baby (and you!) will be most comfortable in.  The more I hiked the better I got at packing less and bringing the right items.
  • Have the right mindset.  We called these hikes “exploratory missions”.  The goal was to make it out there, test our packing system/departure time/hike suitability and note any adjustments we’d need to make for next time. I think this is also called “setting the bar low” ;)
  • Bring hiking poles.  I can’t stress enough how awesome hiking poles are when you’re carrying a baby.  Not only do they help with stability, but they’re a godsend when you can’t see your feet.

If you’re in Calgary, one area I highly recommend for hiking is the Elbow Falls region of Kananaskis.  It’s actually quite close to the city and there are a ton of short trails with good viewpoints.  It provides a nice alternative to driving out to Kananaskis Lakes or Canmore/Banff.

Hiking the Fullerton Loop with the little lady

Hiking the Fullerton Loop with the little lady

Climbing

The appearance of some routine in our evenings made it easier for me to schedule a time to leave the house and go climb.  It wasn’t always easy to get out but I always enjoyed it in the end.  It was a nice mental break to socialize, and get in a little exercise at the same time.  I tried to go once a week and just climbed as hard as I felt like going each time.

Running

I had signed up to run the Rocky Mountain Soap Company 5k Stroller jog when baby was 5 months old so I knew I’d have to do some training if I wanted to run it.  I started with doing a run/walk for 20 min by myself every second or third day.  As I felt better with my runs, I added in pushing the Chariot.  Overall I was very relaxed about running and often missed days if my body felt off.  I also switched to walking anytime things started to hurt.

Right after running our first race!

Right after running our first race!

Mom & Baby classes

I took a Mom & Baby fitness class on a whim, not really expecting to like it.  It turned out to be one of my favourite activities and I’d highly recommend taking one.  I liked being able to bring E with me and the instructor was very knowledgeable about different exercises or stretches that were best for a recovering body.  Walking only provides so much exercise so it was nice to have some variety.

Gear

Carriers

This stage presented a few problems with using carriers.  My stretchy carrier that I loved up until now felt a little too stretchy to use with a heavier baby.  Yet E was still too small to sit in the Boba with her legs out the side (she was never a fan of being in it in the infant position).  It was an awkward month or so of not fitting either very well.  Still, we persevered and I used one or the other with varying degrees of success.  Amelia of Tales of a Mountain Mama has an excellent post about these “gap months” and reviewed some carriers that can help solve the problem.  Once E outgrew this phase, the Boba was my preferred carrier.

Strollers

On days when carriers just weren’t working, I made use of our Chariot which turned into a favourite! It handled spring slush and puddles very well and was an instant snooze machine.  We used it with the infant sling.  It was great to have the Chariot around as E disliked being in her carseat (attached to the BOB stroller) when we went on walks but was too small to sit up in the BOB on her own.

Yes, I am strolling down the middle of the road! If you're in Calgary, a fun spring outing is to cycle/stroll/run down any closed road in Kananaskis before the winter gates open.  This is past Elbow Falls but you can also do this at Highwood Pass.

Yes, I am strolling down the middle of the road! If you’re in Calgary, a fun spring outing is to cycle/stroll/run down any closed road in Kananaskis before the winter gates open. This is past Elbow Falls but you can also go to Highwood Pass.

Clothes for baby

For Chariot walks, I’d dress baby in a cotton or fleece sleeper and bring along blankets.  I tried using a fleece bunting but Chariots can heat up very quickly in the sun when the shades are closed making it was easier to add/remove blankets than deal with taking off a bunting.

When using a carrier, if it was warm out I’d keep baby in a fleece or cotton sleeper depending on the temperature.  If it was cooler, I’d use my Make My Belly Fit panel. If little feet are long enough to hang out the bottom of the jacket a pair of wool booties do the trick to keep them warm.

A warm hat and sun hat are also key to have around whether you’re using a stroller or carrier.

Clothes for you

I still used my  Make My Belly Fit panel quite a bit during this stage.

Diaper Bag/Extras

The more we got out the more I noticed myself gravitating to using a backpack as a diaper bag.  One less item in my hands when juggling a baby was always welcome.  And of course it was a good excuse to buy another backpack!

In addition to all my regular diaper bag items, I always kept a pair of booties, a warm hat and a fleece blanket in the bag in case it was colder than I expected when on walks.

Logistics

During the 3-6 month age range, E fell into a routine of 3 naps a day. After her first nap, we’d have a little play time and then head out for the day.  Usually she was good about taking a few cat naps wherever we were (car, walking, etc). I’d try to time things so that her third nap of the day happened at home.  For us, this provided a nice balance of having some down time at home as well as an outing.  It also meant I’d have some time in the morning to get ready and in the afternoon to unpack and relax.

This isn’t to say we always followed the above.  Sometimes it was only practical to have one nap at home (or none!).  If we wanted to go to the mountains, which is a full day trip, we’d time the drive out and the drive back with her first and last nap.

Here is a really good post on from Bring the Kids about how naptime isn’t sacred for their family.  The post (and comments!) are worth a read.  I’ve found that dealing with naps is always a challenge as once you find something that works, they enter a new phase and you’re back to square one.

If anyone has any tips on how they handled naps I’d love to hear!