It’s never too early to begin developing a fondness for nature. Even if you haven’t yet developed a fondness for solid food, ambulating or sleeping through the night. (I’m talking to you, newly born babies of the world.)
Getting outside also has tremendous benefits for the parents of brand-new babies, whose daily routines are often centered on feedings, changings and oh-so-blessed nap times. There’s the fresh air, the body moving, the interacting with other adults. Getting outside just feels good.
And to help new parents get out of the house and onto the trails (and to meet other new parents, too), there’s a free hiking group called Hike it Baby.
Hike it Baby is a national effort to encourage parents to get outside with their babies – and there’s now a local chapter in Cumberland County.
Next hike: Saturday, Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. at Gilsland Farms, Falmouth. See the event on Facebook.
Melissa Hammond of Windham launched the local chapter this past November when she was on maternity leave with her newborn son, Asher.
“I was looking for a way to meet other new parents that were age appropriate for my newborn, which almost immediately eliminates most activities,” she said. “I also really wanted to get a little bit of exercise and get Asher outside more as I was really feeling stuck and anxious.”
She found the Hike it Baby website and started leading hikes every week or so. The hikes are free and anyone is welcome to lead. (Check out the facebook group for upcoming hikes or to reach out to Hammond about leading a future hike. And if you’d like a start a chapter in another area, check out hikeitbaby.com)
Of course, going on an outdoor excursion – even a brief one – with a baby in tow requires some finagling. There’s the baby’s schedule to consider (if baby usually sleeps until 11 and he’s fed right after, there might be a window of opportunity from 12 to 12:30). There’s the bag that must be packed with all the potential necessities – diapers, binkies, wipes, blankets, bottles, extra clothes, not to mention hat, mittens and sunscreen, depending on the weather. And then there’s the worry: Will baby sleep? Cry the whole time? What if we’re 10 minutes into the hike and baby needs to eat? Or we need to leave?
Having a group of new parents to get outside with (parents who get that babies cry, even on hikes, and that babies need to be fed, sometimes at inopportune times. Parents that know how preparing for a walk can take upwards of 30 minutes and that you might not feel comfortable getting more than 10 minutes away from the car, just in case), well that can make all the difference.
“Getting outside with your baby and children has numerous benefits – emotional well-being for mom, baby and spirit,” said Hammond. “I have been diagnosed with postpartum depression/anxiety and getting outside with my baby close to me really helps lift my spirits and makes me feel so much better. Talking with other new moms about sleep, eating, daycare woes, and everything else is so cathartic, and doing that outside while walking with our babes is even better. ”
Hike it Baby is open to parents of new babies, whose ages are counted in weeks and months, as well as toddlers and older kids who might be contentedly pulled in a sled for five minutes and then want to amble along on their own, stopping every few minutes to investigate a tree or a twig or a fellow toddler (new friend!). There’s a “no hiker left behind” policy, too, meaning hiking together is more important than establishing a new baby-led land speed record.
After the hikes, there’s often a chance to socialize at a local coffee shop, too, where parents can continue talking, sharing stories, and commiserating while babies are fed and toddlers do all they can to not sit still.
But it’s also okay to peel off and head home if baby isn’t having it or if nap time is imminent.
Other parents get it.
“Living in Maine is such a gift, and I really want to make sure my son takes advantage of the outdoors,” said Hammond. “Hiking and walking in outdoor spaces is a great way to foster that love of nature!”
Hike it Baby
ALSO: Royal River Conservation Trust Rain or Shine Club
In Yarmouth, check out the Rain or Shine Club for easy, kid-friendly treks every Thursday from 10 to 11 a.m., rain or shine, at the Royal River Conservation Trust.