"With a baby, it works wonderfully"
Going on an outdoor trek with your baby? Many people are sceptical. VICKI MARX, founder and director of MAMALILA, the Franconian specialist for babywearing, is herself a mother of two and therefore says from experience: the first year of life is the perfect time to go trekking with a child. She explains why - and what to look out for - in an interview with outdoor.markt.
outdoor.markt: Ms Marx, what kind of outdoor tours did you go on with your two children when they were babies?
Vicki Marx: I sort of started my motherhood with out-door. My daughter only slept well in a sling, so I went for a walk for an hour every midday - often with a friend, which was like time out for me. When my daughter was a few months old, we often went hiking - here in Franconian Switzerland, on holiday in the Voge-sen. I also simply continued my Lake Garda holidays - with tent and bike. Together with a group of friends, we could easily take turns looking after the children and cycling. Life on the campsite was great for our children - as babies, but also as toddlers. My daughter even took her first steps there, there were always people around, lots of fun, and that spurred her on. These were all wonderful experiences.
Babies have many needs, which can often take you by surprise. They might need to be changed, they may start fussing. And you also have to carry a lot of things with you. Many people express such concerns about outdoor tours with babies. What do you say to these concerns?
The interesting thing is: you are right - children have many needs that they cannot put off and often cry when they are not met. But when I put my child in a carrier, 50 percent of the child's needs are already fulfilled in the first year of life - namely closeness, contact with familiar people, stimulation through participation in everyday life, the possibility to withdraw without being alone. And if I breastfeed - which of course gives the mother an advantage - then another 40 per cent of the child's needs are fulfilled without any great effort on my part. That means that from my experience and that of many parents who carry their children, childcare is very easy when I carry my child and have it with me. And a child whose needs are met is calm and content and doesn't fuss at all. This is more likely to happen when I'm at home and want to put my child down because I have to do the housework or something else myself, maybe I'm stressed myself, and then the crying starts. Even the stroller is no guarantee that the child won't complain - the carrier usually is.
From your point of view, what is the " benefit " of a tour with a baby: for the adults, but also for the baby itself?
First of all, I see a huge benefit for the adults: I can pursue my hobbies, have a good time, see friends, and all that is possible with a baby. Because once the child is here, I can't just leave him or her to go on an expedition - especially in the first year, the mother is the main person around the clock. So the time out with the baby has to be organised. For the baby itself, of course, it is not the beautiful view or the great nature that is relevant, but the closeness to caregivers and a relaxed caregiver who is doing well is super important, because the baby picks up on all the moods. And that results from the excursion.
There are different ways of carrying babies. With mamalila, you offer babywearing jackets that allow the child, who is carried on the front or the back in a carrier, to slip under the jacket. What do parents have to look out for in terms of clothing and equipment when they go on an outdoor tour with their baby?
The right equipment is of course super important, especially as a baby is much more sensitive than an adult. Suitable headgear is a must, against the sun in summer and against wind, rain or cold in cooler weather. Sun protection is extremely important, especially in the mountains. It is best if all parts of the body are covered by clothing. In the stretcher, we're only talking about arms and legs anyway, so special sun-protective clothing with UV protection is a good idea. And finally, the temperature: as a baby cannot yet regulate its temperature as well as adults, it needs to be supported here. On very hot days it is simply too warm in the carrier, as the body heat of the person carrying the baby also comes into play. In this case, it is better to spend time at a lake instead of going on a hiking tour. But especially in autumn and spring, but also in winter, a hike is wonderful. The best tip is breathable and temperature-balancing clothing, such as wool or wool-silk, which can often be bought as bodies or jumpsuits. If the weather is cooler or rain is threatening, the baby must of course be protected accordingly - and that's what mamalila is for, because I can simply take the worn child under my babywearing jacket and it is protected from wind and rain. Because you have to remember: the wearer moves, the baby doesn't and therefore needs good protection.
Which activities are suitable? For example, what characteristics should a hiking trail have in order to be suitable?
There are many outdoor activities that are suitable with a child, but it is essential to adapt to the new rhythm. On the one hand, the level of activity must be adjusted - also in the interest of the mother after the birth. It's better to take it slower, with more breaks, and not to try to break any records. And, at least in the beginning, also cut back. Later, nothing will stand in the way of a longer outing - the baby only needs its needs met, such as sleeping, eating, being changed and being close to you. As the child grows, the need for activity increases, so the first year with the baby is best for longer tours. Afterwards, much more attention needs to be paid to the child and the length of the tour will be shorter. The second very important aspect is safety: no dangerous paths, for example with unsecured drop-offs, no climbing trails, good path conditions and also no sports with a high risk of falling, such as skiing. What works well is therefore hiking, Nordic walking, snowshoeing, cycling - if the child is a little older and only in a bicycle trailer! But you can also take a baby with you for climbing. The child stays on the ground, of course. The prerequisite is that the carer is not on safety duty and that the surroundings are not steep. Camping is also wonderful with babies, with due attention to the heat.
There is certainly a difference between travelling as a couple - with your partner or boyfriend/girlfriend - and travelling alone. Is alone with a baby even possible?
Absolutely, travelling alone with a baby is wonderful! The baby is carried in the carrier, plus a small backpack with nappy-changing items and a change of clothes for the baby. In principle, these are not heavy. And if you are still breastfeeding, you have everything with you. However, if you want to take bottles, jars, etc. with you, you will have a bit more to carry. Here I would look for lightweight containers. If you carry your child in the front, you have room on your back for the rucksack. We with Mama-lila, for example, also have jackets with a very generous pocket in the baby insert, in which the nappies and spare clothes can be stowed - then I don't need a rucksack for example if I want to carry the child on my back. Especially in the first year, that's usually enough. Later, when the child can sit in the “child carrier” from the age of one and a half, it offers storage options. For me, however, the disadvantage of the child carrier is that it has a high dead weight and that the child's weight is far away from the person carrying them. This is a tipping point that I have to compensate for. This doesn't happen in a baby carrier, so as a woman I preferred the baby carrier for larger children or for longer tours.
In your experience, are there more and more parents who "take the plunge"?
Yes, absolutely! We observe that young parents in particular are becoming more and more relaxed and want to bridge the gap between "their" life and life with a child. The times when having a child meant "my life is changing completely" are over. Young people want to get out, enjoy their time with a child, but still pursue their interests. And once you have experienced how easy it is to satisfy a baby's needs, if you meet its natural needs - and that includes carrying, especially in the first year of life - then you don't want to do without it! And when I carry my baby, I can move without barriers and have both hands free - a huge advantage over the stroller.
How well is the outdoor trade prepared for parents with babies? Are there enough good products for all the requirements of a tour with a baby?
I still see a lot of catching up to do - from my point of view, the outdoor trade completely ignores the first year of life or the first one and a half years of a family with a baby. For the outdoor business, family life doesn't start until the baby is in the child carrier - but by then I have completely missed the first one and a half years, which I think are perfect for an outdoor family life. And it would be nice if outdoor customers could find what they are looking for at " their" retailer during this important phase of life, when they have to make a lot of purchases.
Why is the outdoor trade not well positioned for this topic?
I think there is a lack of experience. The outdoor trade shifts this phase of life to the pregnancy shops and ignores the fact that many of its - young, outdoor-minded - customers will start families at some point and won't find anything for their active lives in the normal baby shops, because they don't know the special needs for an outdoor lifestyle. Functionality, for example, plays no role at all in baby shops, but is extremely important for excursions with babies.
In conclusion, what can you say about the outdoor experience with children who are already a little older?
When the children get older, it becomes more complicated, because then many needs have to be reconciled. Mobility is then significantly restricted, but this does not have to dampen the outdoor experience. You need to be more considerate of the children's needs - for a baby, it doesn't matter where my tour takes me, but for a two-year-old, the destination might be a wildlife park or a great playground, a stream where you can play. And you should give the children more time to discover. So make the most of the first year of your baby's life, when you can still move around relatively freely. Let yourself go at a slow pace and then discover the world through the eyes of a child.