Walking with a young baby

Nicky describes how her walks as a new mum are different to those pre-baby

I live in South London with my husband and my daughter. We have great access to loads of green spaces and lovely walks. And if I want to go a bit further afield, I can hop on a train down to Surrey, Sussex, or Kent. Before I had my daughter, walking was a big part of my life. We were always exploring new routes and going off the beaten track. The walks were quite challenging, but we'd always make sure there was a nice pub involved too!  


Walking after the birth of my daughter 

Getting back into walking after I had my daughter was important to me.  Partly for my physical wellbeing but also, when you are a new mum, you spend quite a lot of time indoors caring for your baby. So just getting outside even for half an hour a day became something important to me, even in the first few days after she was born.  I wasn't physically ready to do really challenging walks, but I started going out with the pram to my local country park or green spaces. It was just great of get out there and have some fresh air.  It’s good to have a bit of a change of scenery, listen to the birds and just soak up nature. 

But my walks have changed since I had my baby. That’s partly due to the recovery period after you have a baby.  That wasn’t something that I had spent a lot of time thinking about before I had her.  I didn't really consider that I wouldn't be able to immediately go out for long walks, or even a short walk. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to do the walks that my husband and I did before we had our baby because the terrain was sometimes quite challenging. And I knew we would probably have to use a sling or a carrier rather than a pram. But I hadn’t considered that some of my local walks would be quite inaccessible to me with the pram so that was quite a surprise. 

female walker with a baby carrier holding a baby.

Paths that are inaccessible with a pram 

I live near a country park and before I had my baby, I would frequently go for a walk or run around there. It’s a nature reserve with loads of trails and it was something that I really wanted to be able to share with my baby.  But what I discovered with the pram, was that this park has become incredibly inaccessible to me because the paths are so badly maintained.  They flood in different areas, so I often get stuck in the mud.  Trees will fall and whereas in the past I would just be able to climb over a tree and continue my walk, I can't do that with a pram.  So I've often got stuck in the park and now I don't even bother taking the pram with me.  I just put the baby in the carrier and put my walking boots on and march to the park.  It’s a shame because sometimes it would be nice to have a break from having her on me. 

When my husband and I were looking for more accessible walks after we had the baby, we saw that the adjacent borough has quite a lot of accessible woodland walks. We both thought that would be suitable for us with the pram. But we found quite a lot of challenges like gates that weren't big enough or a stile that was almost impossible to get over. And you imagine it would be hard to manage by yourself but even with two people, it can be a challenge as well. So now that means the main way we can go for a walk – even on a short local walk - is with the baby carrier, not with the pram. 

But using a baby carrier comes with its own challenges as a mother.   It's quite a lot to wear your baby initially, especially when you're recovering from giving birth. There's only a certain amount of time that you can really walk with the sling. And it would be nice to just have a pram so you can just push it along. But even when I've been out on walks with the sling, it can be quite difficult for me to kind of climb over things. We were walking in Bromley a couple of weeks ago, and there were some fallen trees after a storm. It was hard for me to navigate the obstacles whilst carrying the baby.   And with the pushchair it would have just been impossible to pass. 

There are some lovely walks in the Addington Hills which is another place I go walking. I always knew that would be completely inaccessible with a pram as there are steps and the trails get flooded. So, I've been going there with the baby in the sling.  But you have to be so careful that you're not going to slip on uneven surfaces, especially when going down a steep descent as you’re carrying such a precious cargo.   Maybe I’ll gain more confidence as I gain more experience for now it's something that I really must think about. 


Experiencing nature with my baby

Walking is something that's important for my mental health. For me it's also important that my baby can experience nature. When we go out on walks, I like to describe the trees and the sky and the sounds that she's hearing. I like to be able to engage with her and to expose her to nature in these green spaces. So having more accessible green spaces where I can take her is something that's important to me. I'm really looking forward to when she’s bigger and she's able to face forward in the sling, so she can see exactly what I see.  

Since having my baby I’ve met lots of other new mums and as they aren’t so into walking as I am their walks tend to be out with their pram.  It’s made me realise why young families might find it easier to go for walks in places like National Trust properties or places where it feels safer to walk and easier to navigate because it’s hard to work out where you can go and walk.  And getting off the beaten track can be a real confidence challenge.   


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