I’m happy with my body and proud of its incredible ability to grow and birth my two kids
I’ve always loved hiking and outdoor adventure and when I had kids I was adamant about continuing to get out. As a new parent, I was initially flummoxed about how to get outdoors. It’s hard finding the time between all the feeds, nappy changes and naps (and having 5 minutes to myself just to rest with a cuppa). At first, preparing all the kit feels like a faf – it seems like you need to take the kitchen sink out when you have a baby! You need clothes, changes, first aid, weather-related kit and food (for you and baby). It’s tempting to think it’s easier to stay at home where you have everything to hand! But once you’ve done it a couple of times it’s easy and isn’t actually much different from packing a normal changing bag.
Even once you’ve got the time and kit it can feel daunting getting outside with a tiny vulnerable baby. Despite being a previously active, adventurous woman, I was suddenly nervous about things happening to me and my baby when I was out. But I started with small local walks, and before long I felt confident to get out for longer, wilder walks.
There’s a lot of pressure to do stimulating activities or groups for your baby, but less emphasis on doing things for yourself.
We’re brilliant at making ourselves feel guilty for wanting to do cool non-mumsy or directly baby-related activities. I love a good singalong class but also wanted to use my mat leave to achieve something for myself.
It’s like it’s selfish to have interests of your own! A lot of postnatal health media or services are also often overtly or subtly focused on ‘getting your baby body back’. I’m happy with my body and proud of its incredible ability to grow and birth my two kids, so I was really adamant about not joining sports activities that were strictly about ‘bouncing back’. I didn’t want to have to do heavy cardio or especially tiring exertion when I was already sleep-deprived. I wanted something gentle and walking fitted the bill.
I struggled finding any parent and baby walking groups to get out with so stated organising short, local walks with my friends. We had so much fun and quickly realised that hiking with our babies was totally possible, so started going further afield and out for longer. We all loved it so much that I decided to start inviting other parents along, and before long we had a big group of parents getting out weekly together.
When I had my second daughter in January 2020 I wanted to keep walking with friends, but then lockdown hit and I suddenly felt really isolated. Having a newborn and a toddler to look after with no support network around was so hard.
My mental health really suffered and getting out walking everyday with my girls was what kept me going.
We loved exploring new parts of our favourite old parks, my toddler loved running about, and the baby slept in her pushchair or baby carrier.
After our daily exercise I felt so much more relaxed, and like I had achieved something good in the day. As lockdown started to ease, I spoke with other new parents in the park and realised that in the absence of other baby groups or support networks, we were all really needing human connection. I decided to organise walks again (but socially distanced this time!) so that parents could meet each other and feel a sense of freedom after having been cooped up for so long – I started inviting other mums along and they all loved the idea!
I reignited Blaze Trails, a free national initiative that supports parents to set up their own parent and baby walking groups. Anyone can sign up, and we now have 8 regional groups where we run regular baby-carrying and pushchair walks in NW London and the Chilterns, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Kent, Berkshire, Hampshire and Jersey. We have new Blaize Trails groups starting up each week, so I’m excited to help more parents get outdoors with their baby.
My dream is that there is a Blaze Trails baby walking group in every town or region across the UK so that parents and carers everywhere feel empowered to get outdoors with their babies.
Every new parent I speak to says they want to join in, or wish they had a group in their area – I think it’s because walking is free, almost universally accessible and you can make it what you want…short and sweet local walks, or epic all day hikes. The babies love it too – they adore being out in nature, looking around, and they always sleep well afterwards!