The very thought of taking a tiny baby camping might seem crazy to the new parent – fighting through a sleep-deprived brain-fog, battling to get out the door before noon and wondering where the hell your life went. There are definite advantages, however: up to a certain age, babies are not mobile and can very easily be kept in one place; the exposure to lots of fresh air is likely to lead to better sleep; food is easily portable as is baby (although if you are new to it, it won’t feel that way yet!). So here are some helpful tips to enjoy rather than endure:
Of course this is point number 1! Sleep is the holy grail for parents of babies so how on earth do you achieve it when camping?! Well, first of all, if you have any sort of routine established, then keep to it. Now is not the time for big changes or giving sleep training a shot. Remember you have neighbours within close earshot and whilst most will be overwhelmingly understanding of crying babies, your aim is to get them settled asap. Do talk to your neighbours to get a little rapport and build understanding.
So, you will need to recreate your baby’s usual sleeping arrangements as closely as possible:
- Comfort – The base of your travel cot should feel similar to theirs at home. I found the base of ours to be harder than the one at home so took a mattress with us.
- Temperature – think carefully about the TOG on baby sleeping bags and bring additional blankets (remember they need the same as us plus one more blanket).
- Smells – camping will smell unfamiliar. Keep a blanket (not freshly washed) from home, teddies, silkies, etc. to help surround them with the smell of home.
- Instant access – In the night, you need to be able to access baby quickly and easily through one zip rather than several, so consider sleeping arrangements carefully.
If baby does cry in the night, you need to do whatever it takes to soothe them as quickly as possible. If they are very young and need feeding, breastfeeding is a doddle as it’s ready to go. Bottle feeding might need a little planning ahead given the different circumstances – consider setting an alarm to give you a head start in boiling up before baby awakes.
- Location, location, location
Think carefully about how far you want to drive. It might be worth a one-night stay just a short drive away for the first attempt to help build confidence. Our first holiday with our then 16-week-old baby initially involved a 5-hour journey that increased to 10 hours following 3 separate road hold-ups…this was not living the dream!
You will pack too much.
Just try not to break your car.
Think need and comfort first – food and food prep, range of clothes for range of weather, bedding, approx. 10,000 wipes, etc, then think about what sort of things you want to do and therefore what else you need to bring: Hanging about the campsite? Then consider creating shade and shelter. Moving around a lot? Then think whether you need either or both a carrier and a pram/pushchair.
You won’t have much room for toys and to be honest this is a good thing; you don’t need to try and recreate your nursery at home. A few comforting and entertaining toys are all that’s needed as you will be out and about anyway.
Babies are fabulous for making you feel that you have precisely no handle on life. So, you need to create the illusion of some semblance of control by organising your camp. The never-ending cycle of feeding, cleaning, changing, napping all continue whilst on holiday so try and set up the different areas with your equipment within easy reach. Anything you realise is surplus to requirements, pack away in your car to reduce clutter.
With little babies, boob and/or bottle is all you need. If they are on solids, it really depends on your preferences – whether you are giving them finger food and they therefore eat what you eat (just do make sure meat is thoroughly cooked); or pureed/mashed food – you could bring some of your own from home (depending on the length of your stay and storage facilities), make some there or be a shameful parent and buy a jar. Obviously I’m joking – feed your baby, don’t feel guilty!
Do think about where they’re going to sit – a clamp-on style of chair is easier to transport than a full high chair; or easier still sit them on a rug and crack on!
- First Aid
Well, the baby will eat some dirt, and if you’re anywhere near a beach, plenty of sand. In fact, our beautiful boy simply wouldn’t stop shovelling it in, cried and screamed then tried to stuff more in! Didn’t cause colic, just an exfoliating nappy later. So, don’t panic too much. Just make sure you have provisions to get a wound clean, keep it clean and for goodness sake don’t forget that magical elixir, Calpol!
Nasty mummy stopping him eating sand.
One of the unavoidable facts of camping is that you’ll have to accept some deviations from your normal schedule. Don’t sweat about this – roll with it. And try to get on with parenting without worrying about what other people think. When you can do these things, you have a chance of starting to relax and actually having fun. So, do some of the things you want to do – go for a wander, swim in the sea, bury your partner in sand (and run away if they’ve annoyed you), chuck a frisbee about and…talk to each other (you might not have done this for a while, so it could take some practice.) And be flexible – some things that start out as a problem might actually end up being the really fun memories – bath in a bucket anyone?
Honestly, it will all be fine – be brave and try it!