I am all for breastfeeding in public, but there was a time when I was nervous about nursing on the trail. I think a large part of it was logistical: not having nursing-friendly hiking attire, not knowing if there would be a bench or other suitable seat, wondering how I could nurse in the carrier inside my coat while it was still cold, etc. But there was definitely part of me that was nervous simply because I hadn’t needed to do it yet and it would be new and Huckleberry would be screaming, and could I figure it all out on the spot?
I am the kind of person who likes to know as much as possible in advance. I am a planner, a researcher, a scope-it-out-before-you-go sort of person. And that’s not the easiest to do with something like nursing on the trail. I knew that it was possible to nurse while babywearing in the Onya Baby Outback, and I live in my Glamour Mom nursing tanks (on and off the trail), so I conceded to just roll with it.
Up until Huckleberry was 3 months old, he tended to sleep for the entire walk or hike regardless of whether he had just eaten or not. And I would make an effort to feed him in the car just before or just after an outing. So nursing on the trail was not a real concern. The day after his 3-month birthday, however, he started wailing ten minutes into a walk and it was too cold to unzip my coat, it was go time! I was wearing him in the Onya Baby carrier, with the straps crossed, it was perfect. I loosened one strap and shifted him to the side, unzipped my sweater, unclipped the nursing tank, and he latched like a champ. Phew! And just like that, I became a Nursing Maman on the Trail!
Since then, I have nursed Huckleberry on a bench, on a boulder, at a picnic table, on the ground, while using a baby carrier as a nursing pillow, and more! I actually prefer to nurse him outside on the trail. We are both much more calm, and he seems to latch better, feed longer and remain a little more alert while feeding, therefore not falling asleep halfway through and needing more shortly after.
Based on my experience of only 4 months of nursing on the trail, here are 6 tips that I can offer you:
1. Wear accessible layers. You may have a nursing bra or tank on, but is the shirt on top of that accessible? If you are planning to nurse Babe in the carrier, you don’t be able to easily pull your shirt up. Wear something that zips halfway down, has a V-neck, or is designed for nursing.
2. Know your carrier. Is it possible to nurse without taking your little one out of the carrier? How is that done? Most carriers offer instructions for nursing while babywearing, and it is a good idea to check those before heading out on the trail. Otherwise, I’m sure you can just wing it. I love nursing in my Onya Baby Outback and there’s even an instructional video for how to do that. And I discovered that the seat in the MiaMily HIPSTER acts as the perfect nursing pillow!
3. Find a seat. Nursing on the trail is a great way to take a little break yourself. Yes, you can nurse and hike at the same time, and that’s not the worst idea when it’s cold out, but it’s more relaxing to sit down. Is there a bench nearby? A boulder? A soft, mossy patch? A tree to lean against?
4. Take your time. And you should plan to be out a little longer when you’re trekking with a little one, anyway. Don’t rush the feeding. Breathe in nature, relax, let your trail baby enjoy his or her al fresco meal. Perhaps even take this opportunity to have a little snack yourself.
5. Bring an accessory. There are a few little things that can make nursing on the trail a little more convenient, and a lot more enjoyable. My Ékolubi nursing & babywearing necklace and NursElet nursing bracelet are small simple lifesavers that can be worn instead of packed for an outdoor adventure.
6. Think safety. Speaking from experience, please don’t nurse and hike on a slippery or rugged trail. Do try to choose a safe location to sit down. Also, after baring your breasts in the backcountry, do check for ticks and other such nuisances that may be hitching a ride. I found a tick crawling around in my bra once, it hadn’t bitten me and luckily hadn’t found its way onto Huckleberry.