My husband was recently out and about and spotted another dad on a bike ride with his kids. This fellow had a tandem attachment to pull his kid’s bike behind him, and behind his kid’s bike he had ALSO hitched a trailer to pull wee sibling. Kudos to you, sir. **Note, this is not recommended by Burley!**
While I’m not sure I’m quite that hardcore (I can feel my thighs burning just thinking about that setup…), I’m still all about doing what it takes to get outdoors with your kiddos. But, whether you’re hiking or biking, getting back at it after bringing a babe into this world can be tough. Here are just a few tips to help you get adventure rolling after a new baby:
Mama Knows Best
What I really should say here is, “Mama’s body knows best.” Your body just spent nine months growing a tiny (or not so tiny) human being, and pushed it out WHOLE into this world—no assembly required. Do it a favor and listen to what it’s telling you now.
Perform a Self-Check
Before you leap for the trails, do a head-to-toe self-check. When was the last time you slept more than 45 consecutive minutes? Combine sleep-deprivation with the constant feeding, soothing, and pooping (I mean the baby, not you) and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion. The most important thing you can do after childbirth is rest, so if you’re body is telling you to snatch some more zzz’s, keep your butt out of the saddle and your head on a pillow.
How’s your uterus? Answer: Overworked and in need of a vacation. Even if you had an uncomplicated delivery, your uterus will take weeks to heal. If you dealt with a C-section or episiotomy, healing all those tissues will take longer. Since we’re already good friends, I’ll just come right out and say it: BE KIND TO YOUR LADY PARTS. Getting smushed onto a bike seat is less than delightful on the best day, much less after the nuclear bomb that was just dropped down there. You might be able to do some strolling immediately after returning from the hospital, but may want to save biking for a later date. Take it slow and remember that every woman is different, which is why it is important to be in tune with your own body. Those trails aren’t going anywhere.
Do Some Light Exercises
If you’re not yet ready, but are ready to be ready, try starting with some light exercises that can help to prep you for more rigorous activity. Ask your midwife or OBGYN to recommend gentle stretches or pelvic floor exercises that will get your body ready to roll again.
(Don’t) Reach for the Stars!
Not to be a joy-kill, but you need to start small, mama.
Lower Your Expectations
While we may all dream of jumping right back in the saddle and bagging 20 miles before naptime, it’s much more likely that your first time back out you’ll trudge home after a mile-and-a-half with leaky boobs and poop in your hair. Set small goals in the beginning, and slowly work your way back to where you were pre-baby. If you’re not ready to hitch up that bike trailer, stick to strolling. (See our reviews of the Burley Encore X and Burley D’Lite bike trailers which both convert to jogging strollers with their conversion kit.) If you’re not ready to push that stroller 10 miles, start with 1.
You shouldn’t set excessive expectations for yourself, and nor should you set high expectations for your new babe. As much as we outdoor moms look forward to blissfully sharing our love of nature with our children, she just may not take to adventuring right away. She’s still getting used to life outside the womb, much less bumping along in the stroller on a sunny day.
Don’t fret. Expect for there to be crying on the trail. Expect for there to be bad days where you just have to scrap it halfway through and head home. Stick with it, and give her a chance to get used to the new experience. The best thing you can do is to simply make getting outdoors a part of your family’s “normal” and soon your little one will get the hang of it.
Plan for Success
Be sure to select an appropriate trail for your first few adventures with babe. You never know when the dreaded blowout will strike, and when wipes just won’t cut it and you NEED a bathtub, you’re going to want to be close to home. Choose a flat, easy trail with consistent cell phone service. Think about the terrain. Burley’s Baby Snuggler accessory gives extra padding and support to babes as little as 4ish months old, but you’ll still want to pick a trail that will give a nice smooth ride as he gets used to his new stroller. (This may mean you stick to the paved trail through the park, or an easy stroll through your neighborhood rather than hitting dirt track right away.)
Keep it short, and turn around before you get tired. If you’re doing an out-and-back, don’t keep going for 10 miles only to realize you’re too pooped to make those 10 miles back to the trailhead. Take some breaks. Plan to pull your babe out at the halfway point for a feeding or to let her sit in the grass for a bit. If you’re biking with a one-year old or toddler, give him some time out of the trailer to connect with nature and explore his surroundings.
Be flexible. This is tough for me with all of my itinerary-obsessed checklist-oriented OCD tendencies. It’s also why I cherish my husband’s fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, whoops-I-forgot-diapers-that’s-ok-use-my-tshirt adaptable nature. There are simply too many variables involved when adventuring with a new babe. Yes, we can set goals. Yes, we can plan everything to a T. Yes, we have to be willing to toss those goals and plans into the garbage when the weather doesn’t cooperate or baby won’t sleep or toddler is whiny. Welcome to motherhood.
Channel Your Inner Girl Scout
Read: Be Prepared. You’ve mapped the perfect trail and you’ve checked the weather report. What else do you need to do to get this adventure rolling?
Have the Right Gear
This month on the blog, we’ve reviewed three Burley bike trailers (the budget-friendly Bee, the mid-range Encore X, and the decked-out D’Lite). As mentioned, both the Encore and the D’Lite models are compatible with the jogging stroller conversion kit and the Baby Snuggler which give you more options to get rolling even sooner. Once you have the right gear to bring your little one along, invest in gear that will keep mama happy too. The most important thing to focus on is the area that’s going to be taking the biggest beating: if you’re hiking or jogging that will be your feet, if you’re biking that will be your backside. Make sure your hiking or running shoes are in good shape. If you haven’t already, buy yourself some padded riding shorts. Your bum will thank you.
Bring All the Things
Minimalism is really popular right now. So is that A&E show, Hoarders. When heading out on an adventure with small children, I recommend you channel the latter. One of the biggest things I love about the Burley trailers is their spacious cargo area. You do not have to skimp when you are rolling with one of these dudes.
Currently packed into my Burley Bee this very moment: a 9”x 9”x 12” soft cooler packed with snacks, a spare change of clothes, rain suit, and rain boots for my toddler, a rain jacket for me, a waterproof picnic blanket, a toy shovel, a ball, a monster truck, a wet bag and box of wipes, a family first-aid kit, two headlamps, a camera, and a pack of stick-on mustaches (don’t ask). And IT’S NOT EVEN FULL. This doesn’t count the four interior pockets in the cabin (that can hold kiddo’s water bottle, snacks, binoculars, etc.) and the spare seat that we aren’t using.
Kids need a lot of stuff. New babies need even more. And don’t forget about yourself. Make sure you bring plenty of water to stay hydrated (especially if you’re breastfeeding) and enough food to stay energized. Bring bottle or boob for babe. For adventuring with kids, snacks are your golden ticket. Do you know how many snack items I can fit into that 9”x 9”x 12” cooler? Enough for a three-day journey through the Sahara, that’s how many. And I’m not sad about it. And neither will your child be. Keep the snacks flowing and you will find the fast-track to adventure success.
See our list above for ideas of what else to bring. Make sure you have a first-aid kit and a GPS or compass if you’ll be out on the trail. Bring spare clothes or additional layers appropriate for the season or weather conditions. Bring extra diapers and wipes for baby. If you’ve got the space, bring everything! You won’t regret having it and not using it, but you sure will regret if you run out of snacks and have a hangry toddler on your hands the whole way back to the house. Don’t limit yourself!
Use the Buddy System
Another important tenet of the Girl Scouts: don’t go it alone! Get your spouse or girlfriend to head out with you, especially if you’re unsure about getting back out there or if you have multiple kiddos to wrangle. Even if you’re feeling confident and well-prepared, adventuring is always more fun with friends, so call up a buddy and hit those trails.
Just Do It!
There are only so many nuggets of wisdom and insider tips you can try to absorb before you simply have to get out there and do it. Once you get back into the swing of things, your mind and body will thank you for not giving up on adventure. Your kids will thank you for pushing through the less-than-ideal weather, the gear malfunctions, the grumpiness, the blowouts, and the meltdowns to get them outdoors and connect them to nature. As with all things parenting, you’ve got to take it one day at a time. You’ve got this, mama!
Emily is a full-time working mama and wife raised in the Ouachita Mountains and currently navigating life in northern Missouri as she finishes up her PhD in chemistry. Over the years, adventure has become a part of her lifestyle, leading her and her husband Rocky into outdoor activities like hiking, biking, scuba diving, camping, fly fishing, and now parenting—their biggest adventure yet! Now Emily is applying her adventurous spirit into getting her family outside no matter the season to instill that same love of nature and exploration in their two-year-old son, and connecting with other families to inspire them to do the same. Find them on Instagram @hiking.home
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