I remember backpacking pregnant with my first baby. With a pack on my back and a bump on my front I hiked all over Alaska imagining what it would be like to take my little baby along on these adventures. I pictured myself snuggling with my daughter in a field of lupine with the sun warming us from above. Little butterflies would light on her chubby little hands while moose calves gently nibbled on fresh grasses. I imagined breastfeeding her like I’d seen so many other animals do before in the wild.
Four kids later, I have a little different view of breastfeeding in the wild. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1Buy a synthetic nursing shirt. It just isn’t worth it to risk your entire midriff being eaten by mosquitoes. I like keeping my belly warm too. Don’t have the cash for a fancy nursing shirt? Then just cut a couple slits (you know where) and you are good to go. Just don’t forget you are wearing your homemade shirt when you take your sweat shirt off in a public space. I know this by experience. So, on second thought, just buy the shirt. Check out www.mountain-mama.com
2.Some baby carriers are more conducive to nursing on the fly than others. Slings and wraps are generally the easiest, but some women can nurse in Baby Bjorns and Ergos as well. Just depends on where the gals hang if you know what I mean.
3.My kids all liked to nurse all night long in tents. I do mean ALL night long. So I always slept with my babies (even the twins) in my bag. A Bag Doubler really made this possible by extending the width of my bag at the top.
4.Nursing in a PFD (life vest) is virtually impossible. So either be prepared for lots of screaming or plan on pulling over to shore often.
5.While nursing my twins, I was burning close to 2,000 calories each day. Add to that a couple thousand calories worth of hiking and I had license to eat anything I wanted—and lose weight. (at one point I actually considered pumping forever as a weight loss plan, but for practical purposes decided against it) Lesson learned, pack some calorie dense food.
6.Nursing in the wild in the winter is whole other topic and not for the faint of heart. All four of my kids were born in the winter so I have lots to say about avoiding frostbite on your nipples and other keys to success.
7.While I never had my butterflies and lupine nursing experience, I have spent countless hours with babies at my breast marveling at the wonder of us mammals. So in honor of world breastfeeding month, I tip my hat to:
a.All the kangaroos who tandem nurse their newborn and older joeys. (did you know that one teat makes newborn joey milk while the other produces “toddler” joey milk?)
b.The dolphins with their cool zipper tongues to seal out seawater while they suckle.
c.The bears who sleep the first few months of their cub’s lives. (I have to admit I’ve had times when this sounded like SUCH a great idea)
d.To the whales who make well over 100 gallons of milk each day for their babies. (can you say “Holy Cow” ?)
e.To the camels who are able to maintain a full milk supply even when very dehydrated, and the poor camels who “volunteered” for this research. Did you know you can buy camel milk chocolate?
f.And of course, to the countless human mamas who nurse their babies and toddlers everyday despite a thousand and one obstacles. You are all the best!