So you're ready to get back to the things you love while introducing your sweet little one to the wonders of nature. But how long do you have to wait? And what should you expect from the experience? And, oh my gosh, how will things be different, and what crazy new things will you need to pack?
What We'll Cover
Planning a camping trip with a brand new member of your family may feel stressful, but it shouldn't be, and it is completely doable. Here are some of the absolute best pieces of information when it comes to camping with a baby.
Is It Possible to Camp with a Baby?
Camping with a baby is definitely an option. You may need to lower your expectations a bit and add a few items to your packing list, but all-in-all, camping with a baby is a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your new little one.
How Early Can You Go Camping With a Baby?
You can begin camping as soon as you feel comfortable and ready. Every parent and every child is different, so work on your own timelines. You can go camping as early with baby as you would like.
For most parents though, at least six weeks old seems to be best. The first six weeks of your child's life will be filled with many wellness appointments for mama and child, lots of visitors, a learning curve, especially if mama is breastfeeding, and a ton of unexpected hormones. Many people want to sit in their brand new baby bubble at home and soak up the precious moments of this new soul.
If you choose to begin camping around six weeks, keep in mind that this is right around the time that P.U.R.P.L.E. crying rears its ugly head. This can pose a new challenge, but then again, what better way to deal with a stressful situation than in the oh-so-peaceful great outdoors?
Sunscreen is not safe for babies who are six months or younger, so keep this in mind too. Winter camping is easier, summer camping may be trickier, but it is still possible.
What to Consider When Going on a Camping trip With a Baby/Toddler
If you want to go camping with a baby, you're going to need an extended packing list, a touch more patience, and even more planning. While it's possible to successfully fly by the seat of your pants while camping solo or with a group, a baby has a whole other list of needs and gear you'll need to accommodate. Your camping with a baby checklist may feel a bit tedious, but taking the time to plan in advance will make your trip go much smoother and you will be grateful for it.
More specifically, you're going to need a nutrition plan, weather and age-appropriate gear for your baby, diapers, a carrier, somewhere for the baby to sleep, and a way to contain your little one while you set up and tear down camp, and cook your meals. You also need flexible plans and understanding friends, especially if you aren't camping solo. Let's dive into that.
I believe that nursing is by far the easiest way to camp with (and feed) a baby. Of course, breastfeeding is time-consuming, tedious, and even painful for some mothers. So while it is never truly "easy" or "free", it is a relatively simple solution. Make sure you have plenty of water, snacks, and a comfortable chair for nursing nearby. Babywearing is a great solution for mothers who want to hike while camping. Try using a cloth wrap because it is comfortable for you and your baby, quite secure, and easy for baby to discreetly nurse and nap within.
If you choose to breastfeed via a pump, you'll need to bring a manual pump or a cordless one with extra batteries. If you have a traditional style pump you'll need to be near a source of electricity for it to work. You'll also need to find a way to sanitize and safely store breastmilk, which can be a hassle, especially since refrigerated breastmilk lasts twenty-four hours, and unrefrigerated only lasts four hours at room temperature.
Formula feeding is also difficult because you'll need to sanitize the bottles, heat the bottle to an acceptable temperature, and also mix the formula. The formula is only good for two hours at room temperature, or twenty-four hours while refrigerated.
Bring appropriate clothing for your climate and the season.
Remember that babies have much thinner skin than adults, so they burn easily, overheat quicker than we do, and can also feel colder than we do. In general, your baby should wear one more layer of clothing than you do to feel comfortable. In general, babies cannot regulate their body temperatures well, so they will need a lot of clothing changes throughout the day to stay comfortable.
You will likely need a hat, gloves, socks, and a jacket or padded swaddle to keep your baby warm overnight. During the day, dress baby in a sunhat, and breathable clothes. Stay in a shaded area whenever possible, and monitor their temperature and behavior at all times. Never throw a blanket over the basinet, stroller, or playpen because it actually traps in the heat.
Whether you diaper your baby in cloth diapers or disposables, you'll need to bring a wet bag to pack the dirty diapers inside to hold you over until you can wash them or throw them out.
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For me, cloth diapering was a much easier option. I only packed twenty diapers and thirty cloth wipes, and then washed them with hot soapy water once a day. I didn't have to pack much, and I never had to worry about running out. I have exclusively cloth-diapered my three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son (for a long time, simultaneously) with Buttons diapers. In my more than three years of experience with them, my babies have had less than ten blowouts in total, which is impressive, to say the least.
If you want to swim with your baby, just don't add an insert to the cover, you already have a stash of swim diapers ready to go now. Handy!
Of course, disposable diapers are a valid option, but they do require a bit more space and planning. Buying diapers on subscription from Amazon means on-time deliveries and up to a ten percent discount.
Please confirm the size before purchasing. Inapproriate size may lead to leakage issue or can cause rashes"
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If you want to swim with baby, you can purchase reusable cloth diaper covers, or snag up some of these disposable swim diapers.
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A Place For Baby to Sleep
If you choose to bedshare with your baby, please ditch the sleeping bag and adhere to the Safe Sleep Seven. For bedsharing mamas, you'll need to keep the tent at a comfortable temperature (even before bedding is introduced), make sure you're sleeping on a firm surface, such as directly on the ground, and not on an air mattress or thick piece of foam.
For mamas who will cosleep in the same space but not share a bed, you'll need to pack a little more gear for baby. A pack n' play works, but so do bassinets, portable cribs, and some approved safe-sleep baskets.
You cannot use blankets or pillows on your little one during their first year of life, so you'll instead need to utilize several smart layers of clothing (preferably wool or fleece) if it's winter or a thin, breathable cotton onesie for summer.
A Place for Baby to Play While You're Busy
Something that most new parents forget is how much you need both hands while camping. Setting up and breaking down camp usually requires both hands, but so does cooking over the fire, doing your business, and cleaning up around camp, especially after cooking.
The old saying goes "nine months in, nine months on". Babies constantly want and need to be held. They were just in a womb for almost ten months, and so it's natural and normal for them to feel their safest and most comfortable close to you. If you want to babywear, make sure you have the gear to wear baby on your front and back. For most activities you'll want to have baby on your chest, but for a few, especially cooking, baby will need to be safely on your back.
My favorite wrap is from KeaBabies, because it is so flexible, soft, and versatile. It doesn't take up much space, you can use it on your front or back, and you can even fit a baby on one side and a toddler on the other (I have done this many, many times). If you're looking for a carrier that clips on rather than ties on, look no further than the Ergobaby Omni 360 Carrier.
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If you want the option to safely put your baby down, then I strongly recommend a Pack N' Play or a pop-up play yard.
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Have Flexible Plans
It's so important for you to remember that there isn't a timeline you need to adhere to, it's okay to be slow, and it's okay to change your plans to accommodate this big life change.
Camp near your home so it's not a big deal if you forget something or need to go home early. If your baby becomes upset, you'll be grateful for the short travel time home, or to the pediatrician.
It's okay to have an itinerary but be willing to change things or drop it if needed.
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