Sonia and Menzo have been taking their little explorer Bethany into the bush since she was tiny. She bagged her first peak at nine weeks old! Sonia tells us some of the lessons she has learnt along the way.
How do you choose your hikes? Well, we did have to tone it down. It took till Bethany was closer to twelve months old before we took her out on a multi-night tramp. We were used to picking huts with about a dozen visitors a year but now we were pretty much picking the more popular trails, as we knew these would be better maintained. And, there are so many places to go that return visits aren’t high on the priority list yet!
When Bethany was younger it was easier to keep hiking. When she was little she just slept and because she loves sleeping in the carrier we didn’t have to stop as much or for as long. When she got older she wanted to explore for herself so we started having longer breaks - so that she could enjoy the scenery and feel it in her own toes!
The hardest bit was definitely when she was getting quite big to be on the front, but was still not big enough to go in the tramping carrier. When you’ve got a baby on your front it’s quite hard to see your toes! Taking it at Bethany’s pace has meant she’s been happy, even if I’m exhausted!
How did she sleep? Better than at home! She loves the carrier and sleeping in it. So during the day, we didn’t have any issues. And at night Bethany spent about the first 10 months of her life waking up every two hours or less but when she would stir, and before anyone even noticed anything, I could feed her back to sleep.
Where did she sleep? In my sleeping bag. We squeeze up. She’s warm too - win win! Usually if at a DoC hut we’ll take a bottom bunk and I try keep her on the wall side when she is squeezed into my sleeping bag.
What about nappies? Ah, the magical important question that everyone always asks. Well - what do people in developing nations do? And what did our ancestors do? The answer is Elimination Communication - except our ancestors didn’t have a fancy name for it, as for them, it was just what they did. Pretty much, from about seven months old, Bethany has slept without a nappy on - and she has been doing at least the occasional pee in the potty from five months old. But, we did for the first 12 months always take a back up. And besides - with cloth - if the weather is nice, you can always hang it up to dry - even on the outside of your pack!
What does Bethany eat? The first six months of hiking was pretty straightforward as I was breastfeeding. Once solids were introduced, we had to make sure some of our snacks were more baby friendly - I’m not sure I want to see my daughter high on gummy lollies! She loves sultanas. We took fresh apples and capsicums. For meals, she just shared off my plate, as she does at home.
Any particular tramping outfits? Again, similar to what we would do for ourselves. Merino, and lots of it. We also have a few fleece and polyprop layers for her - mainly from opportunity shops or handmade. Pretty much mini tramping clothes and gosh does she look cute in them! We got given a pair of soft shell pants too and they are perfect for when it starts bucketing down. The tramping pack has a great rain cover but it doesn’t cover the ends of her feet.
How do you entertain Bethany? Another question which surprised me the first time. This has never been an issue! Think about how much there is to see, take in, and explore from a baby’s perspective! All the trees, birds, clouds - everything is amazing to them. Bethany has entertained herself singing (well, trying to hum) songs, pointing out objects, trying to name colours, just watching peacefully, chasing birds at huts, trying to climb over tree stumps, splashing in puddles, watching other people at huts… seriously, if you don’t know how to entertain a baby, then go hiking. It’s so much easier!
Is your pack really heavy? Well, yes. But it’s a small price to pay to be able to head out into nature with our little family. Currently, mine and hubby’s packs are around 25kg each. But one day, Bethany will grow up, and be walking on her own, and we will miss the days of everything being so new and exciting to her, and showing her this whole backyard we have to play in!
Sonia Barrish is a passionate back-country tramper and also owns Back to the Wild where she sells her range of hand crafted natural, organic and ethical skin products which are ideal for protecting little ones from sun burn and insect bites while tramping.