First, tell me about Hike It Baby! What is its mission?
Hike it Baby a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting families to one another and getting them outside with a focus on children from birth to school age. Their purpose is to provide support to get families in nature as soon as they feel ready and raise a generation to love the outdoors.
How was Hike It Baby founded as an organization?
Hike it Baby started in July of 2013, when Founder Shanti Hodges invited a few other new families to join her for a hike. In the first few months these were casual hikes among friends. As the number of families participating grew, it became apparent that the desire to get outside was much more than Shanti expected. Through the help of an ever increasing group of hosts and volunteers, Hike it Baby grew from a small group of parents to a large community of families.
How did you get involved in Hike It Baby?
I first heard about it on a local Facebook parenting group. I was excited to hear about a group that would allow us to get outside and move around, and form relationships with other parents and caretakers with the same interests. I hosted hikes for a year and a half before becoming a Branch Ambassador. Now I help manage the local branch along with the other Cincinnati Branch Ambassador, Rachel Lubbers.
What was your pregnancy and birth experience like personally?
I had a relatively easy pregnancy. I experienced the normal discomforts, but stayed active. I loved prenatal yoga at Shine, swimming, and hiking while pregnant. My birth was relatively uncomplicated.
Did Hike It Baby play a role in your postpartum recovery period?
For me, like for many people, the postpartum period is a bit of a shock. I know enough moms to understand that it was going to be jarring, but, like anything else in life, you have to experience it. The social aspect was hard. I felt like I couldn’t have many in-depth conversations anymore; I was scatterbrained, stressed, and thinking of the next thing that needed to happen. When I went on a hike, my baby fell right asleep. I learned how to nurse in the carrier. I was able to calm down, be present during the hikes, and really enjoy talking with other parents and caregivers. And as we all know, babies are energy sponges, and a happy mom usually means everyone else is happier as well.
What are some of the most positive things you have seen come out of your experience with Hike It Baby?
I have enjoyed some great friendships that came out of our walks and hikes. I have learned so much from my conversations with more experienced parents.
It has definitely pushed us to do things that I would have never done before getting involved in this community. A two mile hike with a 2 year old? Sure! Throw some snacks (who am I kidding, throw A LOT of snacks), a dipe and water in the car and we are off. My daughter has always calmed down outside and loved nature and I feel that we are in this together. I would have never gotten involved if it wasn’t for her, and if she didn’t love being outside. So it’s our thing, not just my thing.
One of my favorite positive things that has come out of my experience with Hike it Baby is probably my understanding of self care while parenting. I can be with my kid while still having the experiences that calm and ground me. I can connect with people on the trail, and my daughter gets what she needs at the same time. Hiking with Hike it Baby has been an act of self care.
What are the hikes like?
They can look like just about anything! Hosts specify whether the hikes are kid-paced or adult-paced. They can be on stroller friendly paved trails or off-road. You can host a park-and-play or picnic as well. They can be a quick little trail that leads to a creek for splashing, an urban walk where you get coffee and walk through a neighborhood, or something more remote at a state or national park. No hiker is left behind, and we support each other if someone needs to stop and feed their baby or adjust a carrier.
How long are the hikes generally, and what kind of variety do you have?
Most hikes are about 1-3 miles. Dayton has been hosting Tough Mama hikes that are 6-7 miles! We have done hikes as short as a quarter mile. Great for little legs. People host a wide variety of hikes since the needs of a parent of a little baby who wants to get their heart rate up on a hilly hike, and someone with a couple kids on foot, are so different.
What age range is Hike It Baby geared toward?
Birth to school age.
What are other ways that members stay involved in Hike It Baby, aside from the regular hikes?
If you’re not able to attend hikes, you can still get great information about getting outside with your kids through the blog or asking about which parks to visit on the local branch Facebook page. One of my favorite ways to be involved is the Hike it Baby 30 challenges. You sign up to challenge yourself to get your kids outside for 30 miles of hiking or walks in a month, or 30 minutes of outside time 3 times a week. I love the national Facebook groups from these challenges- they are so inspiring! There’s a January challenge and you’ll see parents from the Alaska branch cross country skiing with their kids in sleds in the middle of January! If they can get out in January, we can too!
How can people find out more about Hike It Baby, and joining?
Readers can go to the national Hike it Baby website at www.hikeitbaby.com. Our local branch has an active Facebook page.