The sun is shining. You have put away your woolies and moved officially into open toed shoes and sundresses. And, you are excited to get your tent or camper out of storage and hit your favourite park for camping.
You can already hear the wind in the trees. You’re body relaxes just thinking about it. But, there is just one problem:
You’re having a baby any day now!
Can you still go camping with a newborn this summer or will you have to miss this entire season?
As with most questions about having babies and raising tiny humans, the answer isn’t as cut and dried as yes or no.
Camping Before Baby
If you are expecting a baby in the next month, camping might be a great idea.
Usually camping relaxes people and being relaxed before baby arrives is a good thing!
Before heading out you will want to think about a few things.
What is your Bishop Score? If you have a high Bishop Score you won’t want to go far from home. Read our Bishop Score primer to find out if your baby is likely to be born sooner or later.
How far from your preferred place of delivery are you travelling? 1 hour or 2 hours is not terribly far, especially if you go into early labour. You may find yourself, however, trapped in a car or truck for a couple of hours while having strong cramps that get stronger as time passes. Can you do that?
What is your back up birth place? Figure out where the maternity hospitals are on your route. Every once in a while a person goes into labour and instead of it taking 8, 12 or 24 hours to have a baby it takes a couple of hours. Things could move very fast and you need to be prepared to go directly to a hospital equipped for deliveries.
Camping With Baby
Newborn babies are crazily portable. They kind of just lay around all day so they need very little in terms of gear. That can make camping with a newborn really appealing.
Something to consider before making plans to camp after baby: how is baby being fed? If you said breastfeeding, you’re in luck! You don’t actually need anything at all to breastfeed a baby. Well, except breasts.
Unfortunately, sometimes there are challenges with breastfeeding. Before deciding to head a few hours into the woods, make sure your breastfeeding challenges, if you have any, are sorted. Your relaxing trip into nature will not be relaxing with a hungry wailing baby who is having trouble transferring breast milk. And sore breasts and nipples are a real downer for a person trying to chill out.
Using formula, pumping and using supplementation tools like tubes, nipple shields and bottles introduces a new level of complication. The sanitation and cold storage at campsites is unreliable. Bottles, accessories and pump parts all need to be regularly washed in hot, soapy water and regularly sanitized to prevent sickness in babies. You may have a fridge in a camper but think hard about possible electrical problems that could compromise baby’s food supply when you are far from on call electricians.
We didn’t even talk about diapers yet. Babies pee and poop a lot. Make sure you have enough of your preferred diapers to get through your trip. And bring a couple of those mint scented garbage bags to collect diaper waste into. You will need to properly dispose of soiled diapers. Do not put them down the vault toilet! I don’t care how eco-friendly they are!
Bring a soft carrier like a wrap, sling or mei tai with you to cuddle your baby lots while also being hands free. Also bring a mosquito net for over a bassinet or a screened in travel bed for babies. You don’t need much gear for little babies but these two things in particular will make camping with a newborn easier.
Recovering At Camp
The one thing almost noone ever tells new mothers about as they prepare to have a baby is the postpartum bleeding. You are going to get a period from hell for 4-6 weeks (average) after the birth of your baby. It’s called Lochia and it’s no joke.
Make sure you have lots and lots of big fat pads with you if you are bleeding. You will go through them. Be aware that there is nursing induced flooding that happens in the first couple of weeks as your breastfeeding helps your uterus contract to its pre-pregnancy size.
Did you have any kind of repair? Still having postpartum bleeding? Sanitation is always an issue when camping. Normally it’s fine to not bathe for a few days or even a few weeks, especially if you can swim every day or two. But postpartum recovery means you won’t be able to swim if you are still experiencing postpartum bleeding. And you won’t be able to have public showers.
To put things into perspective consider that you will have a placenta sized wound on the inside of your uterus. It is trying to heal and it’s vulnerable to infection. If you do go camping during this recovery period, focus on resting. Just relax and take care of your baby. Hiking and physical activity, including long periods standing prepping meals and cleaning up, will be hard on your body. If you see bright red bleeding suddenly start up you will know you’ve been overdoing it.
Oh, yeah, remember the mint scented garbage bags? These are especially important for your sanitary napkins (nothing inside the vagina like tampons and cups until after your normal cycle has returned later in the year) and discouraging animals. You won’t want the bears to spoil your first season camping with a newborn.
Our Final Recommendation
We recommend waiting about 1 month after you have a baby to return to camping. By this time your postpartum bleeding will be finished or very close to being finished, you and your baby will be past most initial breastfeeding challenges, and your baby will still be small and cuddly enough to be content in your arms or laying in a shady, quiet spot.
If in doubt talk to your doctor or your midwife.
If you are still not quite sure if you should go camping with a newborn, ask a medical professional who knows you and how you are doing. They are the final word on whether things are medically safe.
We hope you have a wonderful summer!