How to Adventure While Pregnant and Postpartum

I might be stating the obvious, but I love getting outside! I also love being a mom. And…I’ve found that mixing the two together presents some unique challenges, particularly when trying figure out how to adventure while pregnant and postpartum. My husband and I have just welcomed our second child to our family, so I’m still in the middle of figuring this out!

During the third trimester, I faced some definite physical limitations. My joint stability and balance fell apart and getting a deep breath seemed impossible. I struggled especially with pelvic girdle pain, which is when the joints at the front and back of the pelvis are too mobile.

Now, during my “fourth trimester,” I’m sleep deprived, extra emotional, and dealing with abdominal separation. On top of that, infants feel so fragile and need so much extra care. It can seem impossible to get outside!

And yet these are times I need the physical and mental health benefits of being outside the most. I love how beautiful it always is, how it’s always changing season to season and sometimes even day to day, how quiet it is, how I relearn my body…this list could go on for a while. Being outside is a huge part of who I am as a person.

So how do we get outside during these challenging times? First, I’ve leaned on the advice from others! This post is chock-full of links to other amazing resources by TMM writers that I used with both my kids. One of my favorite posts, bouncing back to adventure after baby, is a hilarious combination of stories, practical advice, and cheerleading to make it happen.

And once I get out, I’ve had to accept ever-shifting limitations and strengths of my rapidly changing body, transition to more accommodating activities, and find clothing and gear that supported me throughout these stages.

Accepting Our Changing Bodies

It is HARD for me to accept that my body is busy doing other work while I’m pregnant and postpartum! I’ve definitely had moments of frustration that I couldn’t do all that I wanted to do. But I’ve also found that I can still have moments of joy outside even if I’m not doing exactly the same kinds of adventures.

A grinning couple carrying skis on their shoulders
First postpartum date with my husband! We tooled around on the bunny hill at our local hill all morning. This was both so much fun and also made me realize, as an ex-ski racer, exactly how far I had to go to get back in shape.

I’ve found a couple of things to be really helpful when I’m considering how to adventure while pregnant and postpartum.

  1. The most important thing for me has been to check my expectations. I need to remember be realistic about what I can do and give myself the grace to change my adventures. Check out this wonderful post that shares nine tips for giving yourself grace specifically in the postpartum period.
  2. Once I have my mindset in the right place, I can do a better job listening to my body. This means slowing down; moving more thoughtfully so I can protect my joints and stopping more often to check in with how I’m feeling. It’s super important to build strength slowly and not overdo it, which I’m very prone to doing! Check out our post about at-home fitness for outdoors moms for ideas, including some that are pregnancy and postpartum specific.
  3. I am not always great at asking for help, but if it means I can get out, then it’s worth doing. I did a lot of hiking with my two year old son during my second pregnancy, but during that last month I wasn’t comfortable carrying him in a baby backpack or on my shoulders. I only got outside when my husband or a friend who could go with us to help me carry him, or when someone watched him while I went on my own (and yes, that is allowed!).
  4. Choosing adventures that are close to home and have easy bail points has been a useful trick for me. This means that I can bail when my body (or my baby) tells me I need to call it.
  5. I bring all the extra stuff. It initially seemed counterintuitive to carry MORE stuff while I was already carrying a baby (either internally or externally), but staying hydrated and fed makes a huge difference for me. Having the appropriate layers to deal with the weather for both myself and my baby also means we can go on adventures longer than three minutes (most of the time!).

The first three ideas here fall into the advice category of “simple, easy to say, and hard to do,” I know. And they’re the kind of things that we all have to adapt to our own situations. But the last two? I can give you some more details about the types of adventures I went on and the gear I used!

Activity Ideas to Accommodate Pregnancy and Postpartum

Adventures on Foot

One of the first things my obstetrician reminded me of when I found out I was pregnant with my second was that I should probably limit my “fall risk” activities! We’re both backcountry skiers and mountain bikers, so the advice was definitely warranted. I’ve found that choosing activities that are slower versions of my favorites is a good way for me to get outside while staying safe and within the limits of my new body.

I spent a lot of time hiking and walking during both my pregnancies. (I call it a walk if I can take the stroller and a hike if I can’t.) My favorite place to go hiking this summer was a nature center a few minutes away from my house. The whole loop is about a mile and it was perfect for my two year old.

A very pregnant woman figures out how to adventure while pregnant while her toddler play in a puddle on the side of a hiking trail.
One week before I had my second child, my son and I went on one last hike together.

Once you’re postpartum, check out our post about safety tips for returning to hiking, which goes into detail about how your body recovers from pregnancy and how to get back to activity again. Our Ultimate Guide for Hiking with Baby is an incredible resource that shares what to pack, what to wear, and other baby-specific considerations. Have older kids who also want to come along, like I do right now? We have a post for hiking with toddlers too!

During the snowier parts of my pregnancy and postpartum, I took my backcountry skis out on the local nordic skiing trails. I either carried my son in my baby backpack or in our Burley trailer with the ski adapter kit. Now that I’m postpartum, this is still how I’m getting out on snow and I’m using a lot of advice from this post about hiking in cold weather with babies.

A toddler on skis holds onto a baby backpack with skins draped over it
Immediately after I found out I was pregnant, my son and I did a few more ski-ventures at our local cross country tracks, me on my backcountry skis and skins and him (mostly) in the backpack.

Another great option for getting outside in the winter is to use actual nordic skis, snowshoes or other traction devices. If you’re not sure about the whole hiking-while-it’s-cold idea, try these eleven tips for winter hiking for beginners to get you started.

Adventures Close By

As much as I love escaping into the mountains and getting as far into the backcountry as I can manage, that’s not super feasible while pregnant and postpartum. I found that the easier I could make my outside time, the better, and that meant staying close by.

My son and I spent a lot of time in our local botanic gardens, on the bike path by the river, in the park, and just in our yard. Sunshine is still just as good for me (and toddler giggles just as infectious) when I was in sight of our house as anywhere else!

Check out Urban Outdoor Adventures for some fun ways to get out in a city.

Two toddlers sit in a Burley bike trailer
Pulling my son and his friend in the Burley on the bike path was much more manageable during pregnancy than my normal mountain biking, at least until my belly got in the way of my knees!

Any meal can be a picnic on the porch – there were some days we ate all three outside. We drew with sidewalk chalk, picked blackberries from the bush in the backyard, chased the trash truck along its route, and picked a lot of dandelion puffs out of our grass. You can also read our post that has lots more ideas for outdoor play at home.

Gear That Can Make It Easier

This is a topic that’s been covered extensively in the TMM backlog, especially in this wonder of a post about hiking with baby gear. Seriously, you can just stop reading here and go dig into that post! But I’ve also shared my own stories and other posts that might be helpful.

What Mama Can Wear

Finding activewear that fits and works well on my pregnant or postpartum body can be a huge challenge! The most important considerations I’ve found have been managing temperature regulation and having good shoes.

Like most women I’ve talked to, I am an absolute furnace when I’m pregnant. This makes getting out in the summer hard! I go early in the mornings or later in the evenings to avoid the worst of the heat, and when I’m out I rely on my hat and a button down sun shirt I leave open to help keep me cool. (Check out all our favorite women’s hiking gear!) I also got away with wearing XL and XXL sizes of Target’s All In Motion brand for most of my pregnancy.

Once it cooled off, I still wanted to go outside. I relied heavily on the Wildelore All-Phases Fleece, which is designed for maternity, nursing, and beyond and I have thus far found that the fleece absolutely meets this very high bar. I love the fit, the quality, and the nursing access works super well. I wrote a full review if you’d like to know more about this awesome fleece!

A pregnant woman adjusts a toddler's hat on a play structure at a park
I wore my Wildelore fleece for all my fall pregnant adventures, even as we stayed close to the house.

I didn’t have to deal with full heavy winter at the end of either of my pregnancies, but if that’s in the cards for you you’ll definitely want to check out our review of Make My Belly Fit, which is a jacket extender that allows you to use your own jacket! And for more ideas, we have a list of top gear picks for active winter pregnancies!

My footwear has also been super important. Pregnant and postpartum me has super loose joints that need a lot more support, and I also appreciate extra traction that limits slips and falls while I’m carrying baby (both internally and externally). Buying shoes is almost as personal as buying bras, but here’s a list of TMM favorite hiking boots to give you some ideas.

As I mentioned, I typically do my winter “hikes” on my backcountry skis, but if you’re on foot you’ll also want to check out ice cleats for adults and kids. While I do use these hiking, I’ve also just used them to shovel my very unfortunately-placed driveway!

A woman and a toddler work on shoveling the berm out of their driveway
My driveway is both north-facing and shaded almost continuously by a pine tree. Sometimes shoveling is all the adventure we needed!

One last idea for support and balance are trekking poles, which continue to amaze me in terms of how much of a difference they make!

For Nursing or Pumping on Adventures

Mamas who choose to breastfeed their babies face a unique challenge while adventuring; we need the performance of adventure-ready clothes while still having access to the milk bar!

Bras, especially nursing bras, are incredibly important and also very personal since we’re all shaped so differently. One of our team members wrote up a review of a bunch of different nursing sports bras (Yes! They do exist!) to help you decide.

This winter, I’ve been combining the Iksplor nursing base layer, and the aforementioned Wildelore Fleece, (with a shell over top on windy days) for most of my adventures. I absolutely love them both.

Iksplor makes high quality merino wool base layers for kids and adults in tons of fun colors. They all have super long torsos so they stay tucked in, as well as long sleeves and thumbholes. I was a little unsure what size to get – being eight months pregnant makes using a size chart tricky – but the customer service rep gave me awesome advice and I’m so happy with mine. I’m basically living in it this winter.

What Baby Can Wear

I shall again refer you to the extensive and wonderful post about hiking with baby gear, which has examples for both hot and cold weather. For both of my babies I was dealing primarily with cold weather adventures, so that’s the experience I can share.

First, some cold weather basics! Really little babies generally have a harder time thermoregulating, so it’s a good idea to keep adventures short. But when you go, it’s important to give your baby at least one more layer than what you’re wearing because you’re moving and they’re not! Baby wearing can help counteract both of these issues because then baby can share your body heat.

When choosing layers, make sure all the layers fit comfortably; too tight can cut off circulation and too loose means lost heat. And to the best of your ability, avoid cotton! If cotton gets wet, it cools you down. Go for synthetic fabrics or wool instead.

I’m not fancy when getting my baby outside; we start with fleece onesie pajamas and go from there. If it’s very cold, I’ll also put her in a wool sweater before putting her in this REI down bunting. I pop a wool knit hat on top of her head and she’s ready to go!

An infant, asleep, wearing an REI down bunting
Little girl stays toasty warm in her down bunting!

Once she gets a little bigger, I’ll turn the feet of the bunting up and use these insulated baby booties from Reima to make sure her feet aren’t getting compressed by the feet of the bunting and thus too cold while I have her in my front carrier.

A woman wearing an infant in a front carrier and a backpack helps her toddler ski down the beginner hill
It was supposed to be Daddy’s turn to take our son skiing…instead I walked him down the hill while wearing our daughter and the backpack with all the extra clothes and snacks! Ski mom, hard mode.

A Note on Managing Baby’s Temperature

This was and has been my biggest worry with taking my two kids outside as infants. Babies simply aren’t that good at maintaining a good body temperature. How do I know if they’re too hot or too cold?

Well, most babies will tell you if they’re uncomfortable. Loudly.

In addition, there are a couple of signs to watch for even in infants that they’re too hot or cold. A baby who is too warm will be redder than normal all over and can get sweaty. Especially in the first three months, I tried to avoid getting my babies warm enough to be sweaty at all. And a baby who is too cold might have rosy cheeks or nose but can also turn paler than normal.

In cold weather, I also make sure to check the temperature of my baby’s hands and feet when we get back to the car, since those are the parts of the body that tend to get cold first. But since my hands are also cold, they’re not good for comparing temperature! Instead, I give those little hands and feet a kiss or pull open my jacket a little and tuck them against my collarbones, where I can get a more accurate feel. This has helped me calibrate how many layers I need for a given day, knowing the temperature and how long we’re planning on being out.

Transporting Baby

I’m a huge fan of stroller walks with my littles. When my baby girl is in her stroller, I can adjust her temperature with the number and type of blankets I put on top of her and then I don’t have to worry about the fit of her clothing quite as much!

I’ve been using this Evenflo double stroller since she was only days old so she can ride in her car seat and her older brother can get some wiggles out and still ride home. This stroller works great for the paved bike path or on walks around our neighborhood.

As soon as she has more neck control, I’ll also be able to use our Burley trailer either as more offroad-ready stroller or with the ski kit on the cross country tracks! These are definitely not the only options; check out our reviews of our favorite hiking strollers.

I have almost exclusively used my Omni 360 Ergo Baby carrier with my baby girl so far. My older son spent hours and hours in it when he was under a year old as well, whether we were at the grocery store or on an all-day hike. I did try a wrap-style carrier, but found it was very slippery over the shell fabric of the down bunting and it made me very nervous. I also think the Ergo Baby does a better job distributing my baby’s weight on my still-healing body. I pair it with this rain cover to make sure any weather isn’t an issue and we’re good to go.

Like strollers, we’ve looked at a lot of options for hiking carriers for babies and kids. The fit depend a lot on your body shape and size, and on what kinds of adventures you want to do, so it’s important to pick the one that works best for you!

What to Pack

Being in the third or fourth trimester means you have more needs to meet in order to be outside. When you’re planning on going for an adventure, a couple of things in a backpack can make a huge difference!

I always brought way more water than I thought I needed – yes, even during my third trimester when that meant I was peeing every half hour. Getting dehydrated meant three-day long headaches for me, which was definitely not worth it. I’ve also found I need more water than I anticipate now, while I’m postpartum.

And of course I need lots of snacks! I found it helpful throughout my whole pregnancy to make sure I had a good balance of macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) to keep my energy more stable. A lot of trail snacks are pretty high in carbs compared to fats and proteins, and that made me super shaky.

When you’re adventuring with your new baby, it’s also important to make sure you have everything you need for them too. Aside from the layers they’re wearing, it’s useful to have:

  • at least one extra set of clothes to deal with spit up and blow outs
  • burp cloth (which is useful for a lot more than just spit up!)
  • everything you need to change a diaper, including a plastic bag to pack out the dirty ones (check out this super thorough post on diapering in the outdoors)
  • if you’re feeding with formula: premeasured powder, water, and a bottle
  • pacifier if you use one

Of course, this list does get somewhat more complicated once you’ve moved past those first three months; then you’ll want to consider things like teethers and infant snacks.

Why Figure Out How to Adventure While Pregnant and Postpartum?

When I was in college, I gave up on getting invited out to New Years Eve parties (I was awkward beyond belief and only later realized how introverted I really am) and started doing New Years Day dawn hikes with my mom. I’ve done one almost every year since, some with my family, some by myself, some with friends.

Two years ago, when my son was three months old, I missed my first one. It was below zero and it was just too cold. Last year, I got out by myself on my backcountry skis, but I was a week late.

This year? My husband and I got my son, now two years old, and my then six-week-old daughter out and we watched the sunrise together. We didn’t walk far – I didn’t make it much past the parking lot – but we made it.

A woman, holding an infant, looks at her toddler standing in a parking lot overlooking a frozen lake while the sun rises

These kinds of adventures are incredibly special and important to me. And being able to still do them, to still maintain my sense of self even as I’m a mama, is a huge part of what keeps me sane. Even better is sharing these moments with my children.

My two children represent the biggest (and best!) upheavals of my life thus far, both in terms of my body and in terms of my lifestyle. When faced with challenges, one of my defaults is to get outside and get active.

And yet, the third and fourth trimesters are some of the most intense physical challenges I’ve ever dealt with. Learning how to adventure while pregnant and postpartum has helped me maintain my sense of self and both my physical and mental health.

This time around, being outside is also so good for my two-year-old son! He needs to burn off energy, explore, play, and get dirty just like he did before his sister arrived.

It can be so hard to get out on the adventure, and I have to continually remind myself that it’s ok to take it slowly. But the truth is, I’m a better mom outside.

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How to Adventure While Pregnant and Postpartum

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