Shanti Hodges has been an inspiration to thousands across the United States, and it started with her wanting friends in a new city! She invited three new friends on a hike with her newborn and their children. By the end of the month, the group grew to nearly 20 people. She saw the group growing rapidly and decided to do something about it. Hodges had witnessed groups such as these fall apart after a few months and wanted to make sure this would never happen for the new parents she had grown to be friends with. She quickly named the group Hike it Baby, and soon after she started their first newsletter!
Hike it Baby — where parents can enjoy nature
Within three years, the group has become a tremendous success. Hike it Baby has more than 180,000 participating families, with over 300 branches spanning across the United States. The group features over 4,000 different trails for families to meet at and hike together. Though there are many trails to explore, the group reminds people that the group's purpose is to build a community, not just get a workout. This is where you are able to find your people — a support system for parents going through the same new struggles and happiness of parenthood. With the movement growing, Hodges is trying to find as many trails as possible to keep from overcrowding current trails. She states, “ Nature itself is disrupted when we go into it.” Keeping groups small makes the experience more intimate for parents and their children.
Benefits of hiking with baby
Hiking is also a beneficial time for mom and baby. Hodges assumed she would go through postpartum depression after having her baby, but she found hiking helped keep her focused and moving forward. Hiking releases endorphins, and the activity soon became like therapy. It allowed Hodges and her baby to bond and become closer, and gave her more energy to get through the day. Research has also found that time outside is good for babies — fresh air promotes early language development and healthy sleep patterns.
How to prepare
Hodges offers tips for first timers as well as for experienced adventurers on her website. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Modify the hike — keep your family’s ability in mind and adjust the length/intensity of the hike to meet your needs.
- Be prepared — don't forget to pack diapers!
- Pack healthy snacks, small toys, or something to keep the infants and children entertained on breaks.
- Most importantly, hike with friends in the beginning. Keep safety a priority — friends will be able to help if there are any hiccups the first couple times out on the trail.
Hiking and being outdoors and beneficial for everyone involved. It brings parents closer to nature and their newborn. Bringing older siblings along to have them feel included is great for building a stronger family as well. Look to invite new families or old friends along to have a tighter support system for one another. There are so many benefits to immersing yourself in nature, and the opportunity to bond with your family is one of the best benefits of all.