This week’s blog post is a first — a community contributed blog post. Returning to nature after having a baby can be very intimidating and overwhelming, but also feel very healing and calming. We have asked the moms of our Explorer Families to share their experience, from good to bad, as well as any tips they have for other moms wanting to return to nature postpartum. Here is what our Explorer Families had to say:
"What was your experience like when you returned to nature postpartum?"
For both my babies, I had planned c-section, so I was worried about my mobility post-partum. Plus, I had both Canadian November babies. Not an ideal combination to go back in nature/adventuring. I didn’t put too much pressure in myself, but I tried to go on small neighboorhood walk as much as I can (when I was able to walk properly for more than just going to the restroom). Walking close to home was a first step. I was lucky to have a nature park walking distance from my home, so even if I wasn’t far in nature, I still felt like I was in nature.
Also, I carried my babies from day 1 in a carrier and a wraper. It made going outside and in nature much more easier. But it still took me a few months before doing a real hike.
Before having my son, I had so many people tell me that my hiking and outdoor adventures were over now that I was having a baby. But it felt really important for me to at least try to get back outside and do my favorite activities with my baby after he was born. After giving birth it took me about a week or two to be able to take short walks outside with him. After that, I just tried to get outside as much as I could because I felt like it really helped my mental health and recovery. We started with stroller walks and walks with him in a carrier on my chest, and I just went slow and only went as far as I was comfortable. At 6 weeks postpartum my midwife cleared me for hiking and I did my first “real” hike with my son on my chest! It was 2 miles round trip up to an overlook where we could see a glacier, and I was so incredibly excited to be able to carry my son up there and give him that experience! A few weeks later I went on a baby-free hike with a friend. It wasn’t a hard trail, but I was so tired and wobbly and off balance and actually fell going downhill at one point. That was when I realized that my body was definitley not the same, and that it was going to take me way more time to fully recover than I thought. Luckily that’s right when winter started, so I spent my first winter postpartum just taking shorter hikes and outings with my son while my body recovered and I got more confident with hiking with a baby. It was definitely intimidating to see how much extra prep work and how much extra gear went into hiking with a baby, but it was also so nice to be able to hike while he slept on my chest.
By the following summer I was excited to get back to regular hiking, but at the beginning of the summer my body was still slow and sometimes uncomfortable on hikes. It was hard carrying my son and the extra weight of our gear on my shoulders, and I had to really embrace doing shorter and easier hikes that my body could handle. I also learned that I had a new anxiety about doing steeper mountains while carrying my son. I was afraid of falling in areas that hadn’t ever scared me before, and hiking in rain/snow/wind really stressed me out. I immediately learned that I couldn’t just push through sketchy stuff or bad weather anymore – I really had to think about the safety of my child more than my wishes to hike on a certain day or on a certain mountain. I had to start saying “no” to hiking trails or in weather that I wasn’t comfortable with and make decisions that were the best for my little family. Overall, it took me about a year to fully feel recovered from giving birth and feel like my “old self” again on hikes. Even though it took longer than I thought, I loved having that time to ease into hiking with my son, learn from my mistakes, and figure out the best gear choices. And I wish I could go back in time and tell my newly postpartum self that I would eventually be able to get back to the things that I love – but that it will just take some time!
With my first, I went back to teaching dance two weeks after giving birth, so I was hitting the trails immediately after we got home from the hospital. I was very nervous I wouldn’t be able to make it through my teaching days, so I started off with neighborhood walks, beach strolls and small gravel paths. I built myself stamina back up fairly quickly by immediately getting out there. I got the comment alot that I was overdoing it, but I had to return to work to provide for my family. I’m so glad I ignored all the comments, cause I was safely able to return to work since I had taken the time to re-engage with my body.
With my second son, I was able to slow down more, due to the nature of giving birth during the beginning of the pandemic. My teaching hours were drastically cut, so I was able to spend time focusing on enjoying the outdoors more instead of “training”. I did still return to work four days after giving birth, but it was via zoom, so it took a lot of pressure off my body. However, with a toddler already, sitting inside was not really an option. We hit the easy trails about two weeks after. My husband would have our eldest in our hiking backpack and I had our youngest in the ergo.
Honestly as much as I wanted to just sit on the couch and sleep during this recovery time, the outdoors really help regulate a lot of my hormones and get me through some pretty dark times trying to navigate a two kids in the middle of a pandemic were my job was on the line on the daily. I was able to get some fresh air, a change of scenery and I didn’t feel like I completely missed my eldest’s first trails solo being with his younger brother. I have so many special memories together bonding in nature with both of my boys as newborns and I believe it set a precedence for their love of the outdoors.
My husband and I moved to Alberta from Michigan right before the pandemic hit, so when we decided to start our family here, we knew there might be a chance that the border wouldn’t be open by the time our baby made her debut. I gave birth to Mia in May 2021, and (as we slightly suspected) the border was still closed, leaving us to begin new parenthood with no family around to help. Although our village here was very small, the outdoors provided us a safe space to be together and we wanted to introduce that to Mia as soon as possible.
I was fortunate to have a healthy delivery and healed quickly after giving birth. Our first outdoor experience with Mia was sitting outside on our deck in the first warm days of summer, followed by a drive out to the mountains at two weeks postpartum for a walk by the river in the town of Canmore, and lunch from a food truck pop up downtown. It was a glorious feeling being in the mountains with the little babe I hiked those mountains with while she was inside my womb.
We then started hiking with her in our Ergobaby front carrier, gradually progressing from easy, low elevation hikes, to finally summiting her first mountain earthside at six weeks old. Although she slept on most of these hikes, the connection I had carrying her while on the trail was unlike anything I had ever experienced. We also booked two camping trips to car camp that summer with Mia. Some thought we were a bit ambitious, but (just like with hiking) we wanted to continue our lifestyle, so we pivoted a bit and adjusted our expectations. Our first camping trip was just one night away and closer to home. We learned A LOT from this trip (what to pack, how I’d pump, etc.) and it set us up for success on our three-night camping trip to Jasper National Park.
I honestly wouldn’t change anything about the way I integrated back into nature after giving birth. It has been such a positive experience, and I’ve had so many special moments with Mia that I will cherish forever. New parents remember this: it’s all trial and error, take it one step at a time, and be open-minded to learning new things along the way.
While I was pregnant, I was very worried that I would lose my sense of adventure and love for nature after my twins were born. After they were born, I decided to join some local hiking groups with parents to see how other people continued to hike and adventure with kids and the biggest trend I saw was: get the right gear and just go! Our (my husband and myself) first “hikes” were just exploring a local park, having a picnic and getting used to the kid carrier packs. After we got the hang of it, I tried to pick “easy” hikes that we had done previously. Since we both had to carry babies, there is no trading off when one of us gets tired so we tried to be reasonable in our expectations. There was a lot of “what do we REALLY need to bring?” each time we packed.
By the end of the summer, we learned to tamper our expectations and pack much lighter than we had previously. I also realized that it was a win to get out on the trail, to the trailhead, with everyone in one piece whereas prior to kids I was set on getting to the top of the mountain, no matter what. Expectations have changed postpartum, but I also realized that every time I got out into nature, I felt like MYSELF again and happiest, which was the biggest win for me. After struggling with some PPD, the main things that helped me get back into my “groove” was doing what I loved with my newest adventure babies!
I felt sick most of my pregnancy, the last months I could barely even walk between the rooms in my house. I would close my eye visualising beautiful day outdoors with my newborn, believing that after giving birth my body will soon return to “normal”.
After giving birth, I return to nature “hard core”. I went for my first backpacking trip with my child at 6 weeks PP. I needed so badly to find a little piece of my old self in the mountains, which has always been my recharging place.
Being in nature was calming. I was surely terribly tired from the sleepless nights, but I was happy. Slowly, I realised I wasn’t looking for my old self, but I was looking for a new way of being: how to be in my recharging place, outdoors, while taking care for my child? Not only everyday out was a new experiment/discovery on how to care for my child, it was also a memorable bounding moment, and a slow process through which I learned to let go of my old self to embrace motherhood. The moment I let go clinging on my old identity was the moment I actually started loving being a mom. I didn’t feel alone anymore: my child and I together, we were (and still are) a team! I call this approach to going outdoors as a team (all team member’s wellbeing being essential for the success of the hike) “expedition parenting”.
Emotionally, the outdoors brought me that calming and restoring environment I needed for my rebirth.
Physically, pushing myself so hard and not respecting my healing times, was a very very bad idea. I ignored my body’s signs thinking that it will heal anyway with time, but I was wrong. Three + years PP, my whole core is still compromised: still peeing when coughing, regularly suffering from strong back pain.
I am now looking to start a process with a pelvic floor specialist to strengthen my core, so essential for hiking!
I did my first hike 21 days after PP. During delivery i had a 3rd degree tear and hemorrhoids, so the first week was a bit painful for me. Around the 3rd week, my husband and I decided to do an easy hike with our 3 week old (arethusa cirque) to see how I do going up and down on a trail. My husband took the hiking backpack and our baby in the carrier so that I can focus on mysef and go at my own pace. I was definitely slower than usual, which was expected. Going uphill wasnt as bad as I would have imagined but I did take alot of breaks and made sure I drank a lot of water. Going back down was another story. When I took big steps down I could feel a bit of pain but thankfully my husband was supportive and I had hiking poles and I just took my time. Overall it was a great first hike and my only bad experience was when we arrived to the trail I forgot the diaper bag at home, so i cried in the car and felt horrible and felt like I was a bad mom.
It took me 10 years of infertility to have my son, so I never quite imagined what post-partum would be like, just that I would have a baby! After a traumatic birth experience – it felt like I have every complication in the book. It was never-ending visits to the Emergency Room, Urgent Care, Lactation Specialist, Midwife, Pediatric PT, Breast Health Center. I didn’t have time or energy to think about any fun or outdoor adventures.
At about 1-month post-partum we started walking around the block and worked my way up to a few laps. After that, we headed to the local park with plenty of benches to rest. We didn’t do our first hike or camping trip until I was well past 6-month post-partum. I had to work with multiple doctors and health coaches to get my stamina back. 2 years later and I can carry a 30 pounds toddler up a mountain!
My best advice is to be gentle with yourself and have lots of grace. Start really small – sit on the back porch small- and build your way up! Don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s motherhood journey and enjoy time outside with your baby anyway you can.
I started with stroller walks around our neighborhood the day after we got home from the hospital. We were walking 3-4 blocks very slowly because hello I just had a baby! Truthfully, my husband and I didn’t know any different, and that it’s uncommon to go outside that soon with a newborn. I just remember getting home from the hospital and thinking “Ok now what do we do with a newborn all day?” And that’s when we decided to head out for a walk. After a week we started walking our usual trail (all flat) because we have two dogs who need exercise. It was an adjustment to change/feed baby right before we left our house, drive 10-15 min to the trail then possibly feed/change baby if needed before our walk, and repeat once we got back to the car. It was also liberating, and something I looked forward to doing daily.
We had our baby February 2020, and shortly after everything indoors closed, we were unable to meet with family/friends to introduce our newborn baby, so walking this trail and seeing familiar faces as we passed was one way we were able to share our “pride and joy” to the world when everything else was locked down. My biggest piece of advice for new moms wanting to get back outside and into their adventures is to start small, and know that it won’t always be perfect. We’ve all forgotten to pack extra diapers/clothes, had poop/spit up on us, and had a crying baby on the trail. Find your community (in person or online) who supports you with all the ups and downs in motherhood in the outdoors.
With both of my girls, we were outside the day we came home from the hospital. Staying inside just wasn’t an option for me. I needed to know I could be outside with my daughter from a mental health and recovery stand point. As first-time parents, it started with short walks in the wrap or ergobaby around neighborhood and quickly built up to longer adventures as we became more comfortable. Newborns live in 2-3 hour increments so we would just time our days out accordingly, knowing we’d also need to be flexible in the moment too. It’s also important to note that I have a very present husband who saw my need to be outside and helped me get there (I’d encourage having that conversation with your partner before baby arrives so the expectation is set early on). I quickly got used to nursing (and then pumping when I had to start EP) in the car while we were out and that progressed to nursing on the go. This allowed us to extend our time outside. Now my daughter loves the outdoors and being outside is part of her normal routine.
Tips & Words of Advice From The Moms
1. Change your expectations of what it means to get outside postpartum! I don’t mean “lower” them as in “get ready to be disappointed” – change them to better fit your new hiking reality. That might mean going on shorter or easier hikes, hikes that are closer to home in case you need to bail quickly, or just take walks where you push your child in a stroller instead if that feels more comfortable for your body. And know that these changes are only temporary and you will eventually be able to do longer and harder trails with your child (or kid free!) again soon.
2. Use this time to really enjoy smaller adventures. I love a long hike, but it was really nice to just slow down and enjoy shorter and easier hikes with my son. I tried a bunch of hikes I had never done before and found some new favorites that I felt comfortable doing with my son!
3. Keep a bag near the door with all the gear you will need to leave the house, and restock it regularly. I had a large gym bag filled with snacks, diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, hiking supplies, a hiking carrier, layers, and extra clothes. That way it was slightly easier to leave the house with a baby! I thought leaving the house was the hardest part of any adventure (and still do) so prepping for that made getting outside feel a bit more manageable.
4. Find other moms to hike with. While I was pregnant I reached out to a mom who hikes with her kids a lot, and it was awesome hiking with her while I was pregnant and newly postpartum because she totally understood what I was going through and my need to go slower and easier while I recovered. Mom friends are also great for learning about what to pack on a hike, how to layer, and how to navigate being a new mom!
5. Buy used baby gear! You can find tons of good quality and barely used baby gear that is super cheap. Check Facebook Marketplace, stores like Once Upon A Child, and apps like Mercari, Poshmark, and Kidizen. Or if your neighborhood has a Buy Nothing group on Facebook, join that to get lots of free outdoor gear! My son has gotten base layers, mittens, and even a bike seat through our local Buy Nothing group!
6. And I know this might not be possible for everyone, but I’d encourage new moms to take some kid-free time to do the outdoor hobbies that they love. It made me feel a little more like myself again and helped my mental health so much.
1. You know your body. End of discussion. What one person tells you or what another person felt doesn’t matter, this is YOUR body.
2. Trust your gut, if you feel like something doesn’t feel right, stop. I made my husband stop many times on the trail so just be safe.
3. Test out any carriers at home first. Wear it to do the dishes, clean the house, fold the laundry. You’ll find the rhythm faster this way.
4. Can’t get the baby to sleep, go outside. Just walk around the block. Even if they cry the whole time, at least you got fresh air and maybe saw the sun.
5. Find your village. Whether it be a family member, friend or even Facebook group. Find the people who SUPPORT you, not bring you down.
6. Just go outside, I promise it will help. Even five minutes.
1. Shift Your Expectation: Your first “hikes” might be walks around the neighborhood or downtown going out to lunch. Your definition of “summit” might not be the actual top of a mountain but a hike around a lake. Remember that any time spent reconnecting with nature and connecting with your baby is such a rewarding experience and one that you’ll remember the rest of your life.
2. Plan Ahead: Know where you’re going to venture out to and how long you’ll be gone, so you know how often you have to feed your baby. Bring extras of everything just in case! I remember one time Mia blew out her diaper right when we got to the trailhead. I was so thankful I had a spare outfit for her! Don’t be afraid to practice packing for hikes and walks closer to home so you get in the habit of having it all with you for adventures farther away.
3. Give Yourself Grace: You just had a baby (YOU ARE A SUPERHERO), but your body might work a little differently than it did before. Remember to rest when your body needs rest and always applaud yourself for every outdoor activity you do. Getting back into the outdoors will take baby steps, but each one of those steps is so important for your mental, physical and emotional health.
- Just go! Trying to find the “best” time to go to meet your kids’ needs can be difficult and may be unachievable, so the biggest hurdle can just be getting out of the front door
- Pack the night before and don’t forget to think of yourself after packing everyone else’s needs (I always ended up forgetting one of my items instead of my husband or babies’)
- Lower your expectations and enjoy the journey – It will be a different experience than without babies, but that’s okay and part of the journey is overcoming the obstacles like: where/what do I feed the baby, what happens if there’s a blowout, what if they get cranky or cry, etc. I found that things usually were better than I expected, and if there was a mishap on the trail, it could usually be fixed with something at least temporarily until the hike was finished
- Get the gear that works best for your family – Having the right pack made all the difference to us. My husband didn’t feel like the soft carrier was the right fit for him and I felt like it threw off my center of gravity with little storage so we invested in the Osprey packs that have storage, sunshade, and more support for the child and the adult which made adventuring a lot more comfortable for all of us
- Join local and online groups for support to see where people are hiking, how they choose gear, make new friends that have similar interests, etc. I have found so much support postpartum and even found a twin hiking family in my area that understand the same challenges that we have been through! It was just the right amount of push I need to initially break the fear/overwhelmed feeling and get back to where I belong— nature!
- Feeling mentally ready to go doesn’t really mean you are physically ready to go.
- Feeling physically ready to go doesn’t really mean you are mentally ready to go.
- Focus on bonding and tuning with your child first, dedicating him full attention (leave the cell phone in another room!!!). It will make being outdoor together easier.
- Consult with a pelvic floor specialist if your aim is to return hiking after giving birth. Apparently in many countries this visit is not given for granted!
- In the first months PP and as long as you are breastfeeding, the hormone relaxant will affect your ligaments! Beware not to stress your knees too much!
- If your hiking shoes do not fit anymore, buy a new one: you could get permanent bigger feet during pregnancy! Get shoes with a sole with a good grip!!
- I found the following publication extremely useful:
Goom et al. (2019). Returning to running postnatal – guidelines for medical, health and fitness professional managing this population.
- Let your significant other, friend or whoever your with carry the baby and other belongings as this will allow you to focus on your body and comfort level while hiking or going out to nature . It lets you focus on you and you’ll know what you are capable of doing at the moment
- Feed your baby before your start your hike/go explore nature that way you don’t have to stress about finding a place to feed them
- Depending when you go, I found ( I know not that appealing) to wear an adult diaper because you just don’t know if you will bleed or how much you will bleed
- Don’t forget the diaper bag or just a few diapers and change of clothes… like me
- Go at your own pace, don’t feel bad that you are slow, whoever you are with will completely understand. Just remember you gave birth to your baby and it takes a while for your body to heal
- You are just as important as your baby. If you need to be outside, some simple modifications to the plan, along with some practice, can make being outside enjoyable for the whole family
- In the first 6 weeks before you’re cleared, ask your partner or a friend to carry baby so you can just concentrate on listening to your body
- Don’t let people intimidate you or scare you from doing what you need for your baby. If you need to feed your baby, feed your baby! Whether that’s in public or the comfort of your car, you do what’s right for you and baby.
- Same rule applies for crying. Don’t panic if baby cries. Babies cry and it is just part of life. More than likely the people around you understand that too.
- Get your partner involved. If they know the process of getting ready, it becomes a team effort.
- Try to start early in baby’s life. I know there is a lot going on and a lot to learn but by getting the courage to go outside early and making it a part of your routine, it’ll just get easier and easier to be outside. You can do it mama!!
Thank-you for reading this week’s community-contributed blog post. Happy adventuring and don’t forget to tag @KidsWhoExplore #KidsWhoExplore #KWE on your adevntures for a chance to be featured on Instagram!