Health in Action: Portland’s Hike it Baby

Northwest Community Wednesday, August 6, 2014 Written by

Our Health in Action series profiles people in the community who are living Actively Northwest. Follow along each week as we profile new people who are committed to living active, healthy lives through fitness and food.

Who knew that a group of new moms and dads could be your best hiking friends? Shanti Hodges wanted to combine her love for her new baby boy with her love for the outdoors—but she needed company. She found a handful of new parents with the same intention, and Hike it Baby was formed.

Hike it Baby group hike
Shanti’s mission is simple: get parents outside at least once a week for a walk with their new baby. It can be a stroll around the neighborhood, a walk to the park or even a walk to a coffee shop—“hike” doesn’t necessarily mean a burly trail. The important thing is for moms and dads to get outside and do something that they love with their families.

Read on for more on Portland’s Hike it Baby and how you can start a group in your own neighborhood.

ANW: What is Hike it Baby?

Shanti: Hike it Baby is a group dedicated to getting families outside. We create a safe and easy environment primarily for moms (but also for dads) to get on the trails with their babies before they are ready for more intense workouts and activity. Our motto? Change your world one little hike at a time.

We offer classes like Emergency Trail Smarts, certified CPR for infants and toddlers, Herb Hikes and Badass Trail Babywearing, where we teach the basics like how to carry and nurse your baby on the trail.

We have also started organizing fun events like group camping trips!

Hike it Baby and nurse baby on the trail
ANW: How can someone start a group in their area?

Shanti: It’s simple. Let us know you’re interested, and we’ll set up your local Facebook group, build a page on our website and print business cards. We can also connect you with local new-parents groups to get the word out!

ANW: Why is it important for parents to take their children outdoors at a young age?

Shanti: Research shows that early brain development is nurtured with more time spent in nature. Also, my husband and I just wanted to expose our son to nature as soon as possible—we both spent a lot of time camping and being outdoors as children. And the best trips we took together before becoming parents have been our camping, hiking and biking adventure trips, so we didn’t want to lose those experiences.

ANW: What resources would you recommend for new parents who want to hike with their babies?

Shanti: That’s just it—there aren’t many! There are plenty of resources for people with bigger kids, but not for newborns and toddlers. One of our goals is to build a databank of hikes around the country so that new parents can find great outdoor hikes and camping trips that are friendly for ages zero to three. There’s this notion that life has to stop when you have a baby, but we want to debunk that myth and offer the ultimate baby adventure guide.

ANW: What are your best tips for hiking with kids?

Hike it Baby Silver FallsShanti: Think about these three things when hiking with newborns and babies: weather (sun, rain and wind), bugs and water!

1. A thin muslin cloth is great for little ones. It covers all the bases! It can protect against sun if your baby is in a carrier or stroller, it can serve as a bug shield, and if the weather turns it can be a blanket or a wind or rain cover.

2. Pick up a natural bug repellant that is safe for your baby. I also recommend using a thin bug netting to put over your carrier.

3. We add straws to all of our water bottles so we can dribble water into our baby’s mouth on hot hikes. Also, be ready to nurse by wearing a shirt that zips and allows for easy access.

Ultimately you want to start small. A hike doesn’t have to be an epic journey—consider urban strolls on the waterfront or a park walk. Stepping out into nature with your baby for just one hour will make all the difference in their mental state—and yours.

Learn more about Hike it Baby and attend a group hike by visiting and joining their Facebook group. You can also follow along the Hike it Baby adventures on Twitter and Instagram!

Photos courtesy of Hike it Baby.