How to hike while breastfeeding on trail

  1. Share
0 0

In August 1990, a declaration was signed to promote World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1-7) to encourage moms to breastfeed and improve their and their baby’s health and well-being. With all the benefits that come with breastfeeding, the decision to nurse also brings many challenges – including the many obstacles that come with nursing on trail. But don’t let that keep you from hitting the trails with baby. To help you overcome some of the fears you might have about breastfeeding on trail, we’ve gathered some firsthand tips from our Hike it Baby families to help you breastfeed on the go trailside.

Practice makes perfect

It takes some practice playing with your SSC carrier to drop baby down lower so they can latch and you are still comfortable. I keep the waist the same and loosen straps and just keep adjusting baby so that he can latch. Nursing camis work best because you have one shirt under your SSC hip belt. Try to make sure the shirt over your cami is not under the belt. It’s not the end of the world but it takes a little longer having to pull it out to get it up. I often pause until I get him lactched and then I can keep going. It’s easier to readjust after they unlatch while on the go. Practice before you go out on the trail (or store). It helps with your confidence when they are hangry. – Keira, Lexington Branch How to hike while breastfeeding on trail by Vong Hamilton for Hike it Baby

In a front carry SSC, wearing layers and practicing loosening the shoulder straps to lower the baby is key! Nursing tanks with a shirt over makes it easy to lift the top shirt and still have a covering on your stomach. It also prevents baby from sticking to you (I have sweaty kids) while hiking. With a little practice, I was able to very discreetly feed my son on the trail or out in public and keep going. – Suzanna, Akron Branch

Use gear that works for you

I really love hiking with a short woven wrap because it makes it really easy to move baby from back to front or hip to nurse and keep on moving. For toddlers who want to walk on their own feet but may still want to nurse, a ring sling is awesome. They pack down small and it's super fast to get kid up and then back down when they're ready. – Courtney, Charleston/Lowcountry Branch

For me, layers are great. My favorite combo on the trail is a synthetic nursing tank top with a zip jacket or button-down shirt. Not having to pull my clothes up or down in weird ways allows me to get baby to latch quickly and usually I don't have to stop and remove my pack, etc. Sarah, Albuquerque Branch

Learning to nurse in a carrier was one of the most freeing skills I ever acquired as a parent. I could simply loosen the straps on my SSC carrier to give my baby access and she would contentedly nurse as I walked along. In fact, she got so used to nursing in the carrier that she would grab for the carrier, even when home to tell me she wanted to nurse! The carrier hood also served as a good cover for those times I wanted to be more discreet. It worked so well that I once had a Monk (we were visiting a monastery) come up and pat my daughter on the head when she was nursing, thinking she was simply snuggling! Rachel, Charleston/Low Country Branch

How to hike while breastfeeding on trail by Vong Hamilton for Hike it Baby

I loved how so often you couldn’t even tell I was nursing, like in this photo. – Rachel

Minimize breastfeeding stress on trail

If you’re nervous or shy about nursing in public or on the trail, find another mama to nurse with! It's a huge confidence booster when there are 2+ of you sitting together feeding your babies. It definitely helped me the first couple times nursing in public without a cover. – Sandy, South King County Branch

My advice is to make it awesome. Find the best possible spot with the best possible view and own it. Make it something to look forward to. – Kathryn

I personally don't like nursing in a carrier while walking/hiking because my kids would gag or choke if I was moving. I LOVE the "no hiker left behind" mantra of HiB because I never feel awkward asking to take a nursing break. Luckily, both my kids are fast eaters, so it's never a long stop. My advice: if you're not comfortable hiking while nursing, don't feel bad about asking to stop! – Colleen


What are some ways you’ve successfully nursed on trail that weren’t mentioned here? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments below.

Read more:

Photos by Jessica Human and Andrea Leoncavallo, as well as courtesy of Kiera Wickliffe and Rachel Adams.   


OutGrown is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to create a world where everyone can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of spending time outside. We are focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their first steps outside. We believe all families have the right to connect with nature, benefit from spending time outdoors and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature. Since its grassroots inception in 2013, OutGrown is a growing community of 280,000 families and over 300 volunteer Branch Ambassadors. More information on all of our programs can be found at 



We hope you enjoyed reading this article from OutGrown. We’re working hard to provide our community with content and resources that inform, inspire, and entertain you.

But content is not free. It’s built on the hard work and dedication of writers, editors, and volunteers. We make an investment in developing premium content to make it easier for families with young children to connect with nature and each other. We do not ask this lightly, but if you can, please make a contribution and help us extend our reach.

Community tags

This content has 0 tags that match your profile.


To leave a comment, login or sign up.

Related Content

How to thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail with a baby
Deciding to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) didn't happen overnight for us. We had been dreaming of thru-hiking for almost 10 years; we just never imagined that the best time in life to do so would be after we had our first baby, Ellie. From the time our daughter was two months old, we started hiking regularly as a family. But hiking wasn't anything new for me and Derrick. In fact, the outdoors had been the center of our entire adult education and career. This meant it probably didn’t come as a surprise to those around us when we announced that we had decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail with Ellie on a six-month backpacking trip. Preparing to thru-hike with a baby Derrick and I both graduated college with a degree in Outdoor Leadership, then took the same career path guiding hiking trips for families in the southeast and backpacking trips for inner-city youth. Not only did we have prior backpacking experience, but a large amount of that experience involved taking care of others while out on the trail. This was definitely a key component for us to thru-hike with a one-year-old. Backpacking skills were second nature to us. Other than walking, we were able to focus on Ellie and her needs rather than on how to backpack. We were also medically trained for wilderness emergencies as Wilderness First Responders. When we decided we were going to thru-hike with Ellie, the first thing we did was scour the internet for resources on how to distance hike with a baby. To our surprise, there was very little information. We pieced together what we could and made up the rest as best as possible. We knew we had a pretty tight time frame in which this would be possible. Packing baby supplies for the trail We wanted to wait until Ellie could sit up so she could sit in the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 backpack. And we wanted to complete the trail by the time she gained too much independence to be carried in a pack for multiple hours every day. Not to mention before she gained too much physical weight, too. We left when Ellie was 12 months and finished when she was 18 months, which was a perfect window of time. After deciding on a time frame, we honed in on her nutrition, diaper and clothing needs. Ellie was breastfed the entire thru-hike, which helped meet her nutritional needs perfectly. In addition, she would eat little bites of our food, which were freeze-dried and pre-packed in advance. A few things to note when journeying so far with a baby: We didn't pack any separate food for her. Diapers were a constant battle, and we still don't have a great solution! The wet and humid Appalachian Trail climate meant cloth diapers were nixed immediately, but we also aren't a fan of disposable diapers. We mostly used Diapers, which have a composting insert in a cloth cover. We had the option of burying the inserts, but preferred to pack them out instead. Ellie's clothes were minimal, but we made sure she had enough to stay warm at any point during the seasons. Then other than a toddler toothbrush, that's all we had for Ellie. Her toys were sticks and rocks, and some of her first words were "backpack" and "blaze."   Tips for thru-hiking with a baby Now that we’re back home, we’re so thankful we got to take Ellie with us on our AT thru-hike and wouldn't have it any other way. The reward of spending that quality time with her on the trail was undeniably one of the most remarkable experiences of our lifetime. But I’m not going to lie, it was hard! Long-distance hiking with your baby is possible—and even enjoyable—but it's not necessary to do a thru-hike in order to have an adventure with your baby. While it certainly isn't necessary to have the same resume as we did to long-distance hike with a baby, there are some key components that are important. Here are our top five tips to successfully distance hike with a baby: Become a pro in the skill prior to adding a baby in the mix. If you already have kids, this will be a little more challenging, but not impossible! Many backcountry skills, such as cooking, filtering water and pitching a tent, can all be practiced at home. However, we definitely recommend practicing those skills in the backcountry until you're comfortable with them before bringing baby. Be flexible. Ellie's needs were more important than the trip's agenda. This was especially true when it came to inclement weather. While Derrick and I probably would keep hiking through rain and snow on our own, we waited out the bad weather in town with Ellie. Invest in ultralight equipment. A baby is a pretty lofty luxury item! It was important to us to efficiently walk quickly while Ellie napped in the pack, and efficiency is definitely impacted by pack weight. While Ellie may have been an average 20 lbs on the trail, we cut down in every other way possible. From our sleeping bag to our tent, we made sure we had the lightest gear for our needs. We were thankful for every ounce we got to drop! Acquire Wilderness medicine experience. We highly recommend a Wilderness First Responder course. While it is lengthy and costly, the skills you learn will give you a priceless peace of mind to be able to respond to a medical emergency in the backcountry if needed. Make the transition from home to tent as seamless as possible. Ellie slept in our bed longer than anticipated because she'd be sleeping between us in the tent. We knew we would be tenting near other hikers, so we made sure we had a way to soothe Ellie should she get upset. For Ellie, this was nursing her. If she awoke upset in the middle of the night, I could calm her by nursing her immediately. Also, we constantly were wearing her around the house, out to errands, and, of course, hiking on the trail. She got accustomed to being worn all the time everywhere. These three things made our transition to the tent seamless. Have you thru-hiked with a baby? Please share with us in the comments below any tips you may have. Read More: Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with a Baby How one mom turned trail time into nap time Nature babies: Why having young kids in nature is so important for their health Often in the Hike it Baby community, the question is asked what “adventurous” means when you are a parent. And the answer is different for all of us. For some, it’s climbing a mountain with a frame carrier fully loaded or doing a huge backpacking overnighter with a new little. For others, it’s ditching the stroller for the first time and trying a dirt trail, or just letting the kids spend leisure time climbing rocks and jumping in puddles. There are so many levels of “adventure” when you have little kids, and we wanted to share stories of families who have redefined adventure on their terms. We hope it inspires you to get out and have adventures YOUR way too. Bekah, Derrick and Ellie live in Roanoke, VA, and are ambassadors for Hike it Baby. They hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in 2017 over a six-month period, doing what’s called a “flip hike.” They started at a midpoint on the trail, hiked the southern portion and came back to that same point to hike the northern portion. Two sections put together to make the full 2,190 miles.      
How to prevent clogged ducts on trail
Clogged ducts is a phrase no breastfeeding parent wants to hear – especially when it becomes a chronic issue. It can put a damper on your outdoor adventures if not cared for properly. Complete and regular removal of milk is the best solution, and there are other steps you can take on the trail. First and foremost, learn the signs of mastitis and take them seriously. It is a common condition that can be easily treated if caught early. Without proper care, it can lead to an abscess and other complications that can result in hospitalization and emergency surgery. Talk to a lactation consultant if your clogged ducts are due to an oversupply. They can offer solutions to decrease or manage your supply properly. How to prevent clogged ducts on trail Below are some general tips for the trail to prevent or relieve mastitis. Nurse or pump often. Just because you're on trail, doesn't mean you have to skip feedings or sessions. Ditch the underwire bra; this is a major culprit for repeated clogged ducts. Make sure your bra/clothes is not rubbing too much on your chest. Always keep baby in an upright and secure position, even while feeding. If you're carrying your baby in a wrap, make sure it's properly tightened. After feeding baby, always re-tighten the wrap and reposition baby close enough to kiss the top of their head easily. Carries with waist belts are a good option to bring weight off your chest. If your child is old enough and you feel comfortable trying, opt for a back carry when not feeding. Avoid torso passes that place the weight mainly on your upper torso. Avoid shoulder passes/straps that go directly over your breasts. Opt for a stroller or have someone else wear if you are too uncomfortable. How to wear a wrap for comfort Picking a woven wrap that is on the softer, cushier side could reduce the chance of fabric irritating against your breasts. Bijou Wear is a baby carrier brand known for their supportive and newborn- to toddler-friendly woven wraps. You can choose from a variety of materials, colors and patterns to find the perfect wrap for your needs. Here are some options for woven wrap carries that can help reduce irritating a clogged duct: Front wrap cross carry – This beginner carry is both easy to master and is supportive for babies of all ages. It can be easily adjusted to nurse baby – even while walking on the trail. There are no straps or passes directly over your breast – just your baby. And baby has easy access to nurse on demand to clear out any clogs. This carry is the best utilitarian option to keep ducts healthy. Poppins hip or front carry – Don’t let this fancy-looking carry fool you; it is supportive and comfortable. It's a one-shoulder carry, but it can stand up to any hike as long as you take your time to tighten properly before you head out. It is traditionally done as a hip carry, which is a good option for an older baby who might be big enough to block your view in front. It can also be shifted to the front to support a smaller baby snuggled on your chest. Either option has no fabric directly over your breasts, so your baby has easy access to your breasts to nurse. Coolest hip or front carry – This is another carry that can be shifted to the hip for a bigger baby or to the front to support a newborn. This carry is secured with a slip knot, which requires some practice to master, but will make adjusting baby for breastfeeding a breeze! Again, there's no fabric directly over your breasts to irritate your ducts. Ruck back carry – Even though it is physically impossible to breastfeed a baby in a back carry, it is still a great option for duct health. In this carry, there is no fabric or baby on your chest, so there is no irritation or pressure on your breasts. And baby snuggled safely on your back will make it easier to wander down the trail. Just make sure you stop to feed baby as needed. And, there is always the option to have someone else carry baby. It can still be a happy hike, especially if you need a break while you heal from a clogged duct. That woven wrap will be waiting for you as soon as you feel better. What are your remedies for mastitis on the trail or for everyday prevention? Please share with us in the comments below. Read more: Babies on trail: 4 ways to feed your baby on a hike 9 Tips for soothing a cranky baby on the trail This post is sponsored by Bijou. Photos courtesy of Bijou; featured photo by Arika Bauer.