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My family and I are going camping in a couple of weeks and were wondering if anyone had any tips or just precautions we should take. I have been camping only a couple of times in my life; however, my husband is pretty experienced.

We are planning to go with my mother, sister, myself, my husband, and our 11 month daughter. So far she seems to love outdoors. She loves her daily stroller rides outside and going on the swing, etc. She learned to walk a few weeks ago, and is getting better and better at walking outdoors as well (uneven ground is a bit of a challenge).

I still nurse her twice a day (morning and evening). She doesn't take formula or anything from a bottle. She eats table food / same thing as we do. She doesn't take a pacifier.

As a non-swimmer, I am really concerned about how the beach will be. What are some things we can do to ensure water safety for her? Are there any recommendations on a life jacket? Anything else we should get?

Thanks

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As for the swimming, you don't need to be concerned as long as you plan to be holding her the whole time. Because of that, a life jacket would probably not be useful, except to maybe take some weight off your arms. We've always just gone with floating rings they can sit in for the pool, but that might not be practical in the ocean. –  NickC Jun 26 '11 at 20:52
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I would suggest moving the beach/swimming portion of your post to another question. It's a bit of a tangent from asking about camping, even though the swim just happens to be part of a camping trip. –  Robert Cartaino Jun 26 '11 at 20:55
    
We were camping with my younger brother when he was small. There is really nothing special to think about as compared to being outside in nature in general as I can remember, except that some camping places have pretty crappy toilets and may not have baby-changing stations. The sea is like a bathtub that moves, never take your eyes away from the baby. Have fun! –  Lennart Regebro Jun 27 '11 at 10:31
    
Just as a PSA: make sure the area you're camping in doesn't have any Hogweed near it (giant or otherwise). My son (3) has just had a run-in with it out here in DK (it's all over Europe and in parts of the US/Canada now too) - and it's a nasty plant. –  Darwy Jul 11 '11 at 21:16

7 Answers 7

We have taken our kids camping since they were born, and are just about to go again with a 6 week old baby. I'd always just advise to keep an eye on them; you know what your kid is like, how they are behaving, and if they appear not to be acting normal, then I'd be looking at why.

Tips would be to keep them in shade and give them lots of fluids. We have never had issues with them using these maxims. Someone had said, ensure you have them liberally coated with sun screen.

Just don't be scared. You know your children, so you'll know if they are acting against 'their' norm, and that's when you should be alarmed. we use a natural repellent and our kids usually become feral staying out until very late cycling and messing about with other kids. Camping is just plain wholesome fun for kids. Go for it.

EDIT

We took our two week old to the beach last week and it was a wonderful success. We all had a great day and are now looking forward to camping in August in Portugal, Spain and France when she will be 6 weeks old. As I said before, as long as you take precautions as to heat and the associated risks to heat, you'll be fine. My wife is breastfeeding and we have a nice umbrella for her to sit under while she does it. On the Atlantic coast, so there was a lovely breeze.

Take baby wipes and a good supply of fresh water, and something to take your rubbish away with you (you'll collect quite a bit). Take a few beach blankets in case you want to change one. We also have a lovely reflective beach tent for the baby. You should also be aware that in the shade, with a stiff breeze, the baby can get cold too.

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+1 for "[take] something to take your rubbish away with you". Important advice! –  Beofett Jul 11 '11 at 11:59
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Thank you to everyone for their answers. We just came back from our camping trip and I'd like to offer some additional insight while it is still fresh in my mind.

  • Playpen. We could not have done this trip without a playpen. She slept in the playpen for her naps and at night in our tent. We moved the playpen out for one of her naps as it was a very hot day and she was having trouble sleeping in the tent. We put a couple of her toys from her crib in her playpen.
  • Stroller. We deeply regret not taking our jogging stroller and instead opting for a small $20 stroller for the trip. We were trying to save space in the car. A decent stroller is necessary if you plan to use it at all- the wheels need to be rugged enough to go on sand and gravel. We did take the baby carrier with us, but on hot days she would sweat too much in it. If you don't plan to use the stroller much (we use it a lot on everyday basis - walks, using it to put her to sleep), take a jogging stroller or don't bother at all.
  • Lots of clothes. We let her play as much as she wanted to in dirt on the campsite and in sand on the beach. Just gave her a beach set/scoops and she was a happy camper. For clothes, you want a hat, full-sleeve clothing for evening (mosquitoes) with full-length pants, sweaters for cooler early mornings/nights, short-sleeve clothing for day time + trackpants/windpants if you want to let her play in dirt (don't get as dirty). The trackpants were really, really useful on her because...she got really dirty. We used sandals with a thick sole on her. She loves wearing shoes and those were the only thick-soled shoes we found. On blankets: We had some very cold nights - one night we put TWO sleepers on her + onesie. Carry a couple of thin & thick blankets.
  • Few toys. She really didn't need many toys. We only had the small beach set for her, and some toys from her crib. The dirt/sand entertained her for hours and hours. If she wasn't playing that, she was fascinated by the chipmunks or just fire/flames in general.
  • Food. For food, we took her baby food (baby cereal, purees, etc.) with us. However, we only used the baby cereal. For every other meal, it was just table food (she has 8 teeth). Always carry bottles of water with you to keep the baby hydrated - she will drink way more water than normal. Keep some of her favorite foods (crackers/etc.) for cranky moments. If you let your child play in dirt/sand, be prepared for them to...eat it. It's not necessarily bad for them but you do have to teach them to not do so, as well as watching for putting stones/etc. in their mouths. I wouldn't bother taking bibs. She gets so much dirtier with dirt, etc. that food all over her makes little difference.
  • Baby folding chair. We actually found one last minute - had no plans to get it otherwise. The one we got had a nice recline to it and was sort of "scooped" her in. She couldn't get in or get out of it herself BUT she loved being in it when we were all sitting by the fire. Of course, one of us could've just put her in our lap but she really, really enjoyed being in it when she was tired and everyone else was just sitting around. Try it out in a store and see if your infant likes being in it. Ours was all smiles :)
  • Fire safety was an issue for us. She kept trying to "catch the flames" despite knowing that it was hot. Never got close or anything, but she was relentless in trying to get close to the flame. This is obvious, but be sure that you don't turn your back to her for her around a flame - even if she is a few feet away. They start walking fast, and all that needs to happen is for them to trip into the fire pit. No accidents or anything to report here, but I was always scared!
  • Screenhouse. No one at our campsite used a bug repellant. In the evening, we were all wearing full sleeves and would be in the dining tent playing games etc. It was a decent $40 investment for us. Our daughter would be in bed by 10-10:30, so she wasn't out too much anyway when the mosquitoes were. We didn't see any bug bites on her and she never scratched herself anywhere.
  • Showers. Our daughter hated the public showers. It's probably because she has only ever had baths and is just not used to "water raining" on her, but she would cry the whole time while we were rinsing her. It was somewhat necessary to give her one after playing so much in dirt/sand and flinging it all over herself (hair, neck, etc.)...but she was miserable. I have no suggestions for this, except make it as short as possible. We didn't use any soap on her for our camping trip. Just a rinse. She had a nice bath when we came home though.
  • Diapers. We changed her in our tent - wasn't a problem. As mentioned earlier, she had a more bowel movements than usual which gave her a bit of redness. Sand/dirt also has a way of getting in your crotch. So just change her often and make sure she is completely dry. We didn't really give her diaper-free time like we do at home (didn't want pee in our tent). We also were using disposables vs. the normal cloth diapers we use so her bum was a little irritated. Don't get lazy with the balm!

Our roughest day was when it was very hot and humid outside. She was having a lot of trouble sleeping - was 4-5 hours past her nap time. Eventually we had to just drive with her in the car with the air conditioner. She was asleep within a few minutes. We drove for a bit more and then placed her in her playpen. She slept for 3 hours (usually it is 1-2).

Also, if your infant usually doesn't wake up by 6am - be prepared for birds to wake your infant up. They are noisy. I'd also avoid weekend camping - we had the best time from Wed-Fri when it was mostly families around. Over the weekend, you get groups of friends who tend to stay up late an make lots of noise well past midnight. Someone was also going at it with illegal fireworks. If your infant is a light sleeper, this could be troublesome.

For the beach, there wasn't much different:

  • Life jacket. Duh. If she was wearing a bathing suit, she was also wearing a life jacket.
  • Towels. We used 2-3 baby towels. One to dry her off with, and one to wrap her up in until she was arm.
  • Giant umbrella. We didn't use any sunscreen on her, we just put her in UV bathing suits and had her sit in shade when playing with sand. We ran into no problems; however, neither my husband or I have ever had a sunburn.
  • Food for sea gulls :). She kept running after them and being super-excited about them. We threw some baby crackers at the sea gulls to bring 'em closer to our daughter (not too close). Our daughter kept trying to chase them. And then she sat down to pick up her cracker from the sand and proceeded to eat it. sigh

Our daughter absolutely loved the water. She was marching to it. It was a bit uncomfortable for her once it got too wavy, but otherwise she absolutely loved it. We didn't take her too deep - she could always stand in it. Always had at least two adults watching her, with at least one in arms reach. I had trouble holding her in water as I am 6 months pregnant - be sure you can handle the baby and lift her easily when you're in a standing/sitting position in the water.

Don't forget to take a hat to the beach. It's very sunny and some days she didn't want to play in the water - only wanted to play with the sand.

We were also able to take our daughter canoeing. This was slightly tricky as I have only canoed a couple of times in my life, so couldn't really steer. I also couldn't just hold her - my belly gets in the way when I am seated. Our daughter doesn't sit still either - so we were pretty afraid that the canoe was going to tip (it didn't). Just be sure you discuss with everyone on what to do if the canoe tips etc. I was concerned about what a 6 month pregnant non-swimmer should do if she sees her daughter in the water: how I should jump out of the canoe, get back in the canoe, etc. Anyway - our daughter really didn't enjoy the canoe trip. She wanted to be touching the water - not boating over it. My husband would occasionally hold her across his lap to her play with water.

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Thanks for the valuable first-hand feedback! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 29 '11 at 21:03

We really enjoyed camping with our children when they were babies and toddlers. Nursing made life much easier because there was no need for bottle gear.

The type of camping will determine the type and amount of gear you bring. Though it's simple to camp just as you are, there are a few things that made our camping experience much more enjoyable:

  • playpen - Bringing this when we were car-camping was the BEST decision ever! Our tent was big enough to hold a playpen, so this is where they slept. In the day, we would bring it outside for naps. For them, it was a comfort from home, a known, and made getting to sleep very easy. For us, it was a way to keep them contained during meal prep and it had a net which helped keep the bugs out. This did not come when we were canoe tripping, but was missed.
  • a hat - very important for sun and bug protection
  • bug net - (complete luxury) This fit over their hat. For very thick bugs, it was a big relief.
  • long sleeve shirt and pants - again for bug protection. Sometimes we applied bug repellant to their clothes; much preferable than to their skin.
  • sunscreen
  • bug repellant
  • "after-bite" - also a luxury, but provided quick relief from itching. Little ones don't know to keep bugs off them and can get bitten much more severely. Also, they can have more severe reactions (swelling).
  • socks and shoes rather than sandals - We either let them go barefoot or gave them complete foot protection. Sandals, especially for new walkers, can get caught on things and lead to more toe injuries.
  • a book - This helped when we needed some quiet time.

if water:

  • a lifejacket, not just a PFD (personal flotation device) - A lifejacket will turn someone onto their back, face out of the water, and is coloured red, orange, or yellow, for easy spotting (handy on land, too!). Though it's recommended to keep children within arms reach, one-on-one contact supervision is best in water.
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One concern I have about bring my baby in wooded areas is ticks. Babycenter.com has a great article about ticks, Lyme disease, and ways to use repellent.

Since the baby is 11 mo and breastfed a bit with solids the rest of the time, I'd be sure to use proper food safety techniques--which you should be doing anyway for everyone else. While spoiled food is no laughing matter for anyone, anything that causes diarrhea and/or vomiting is particularly serious in small children.

I had a friend whose sister drowned while camping. Her mother had turned her back for one minute to help one of her other kids and the toddler got swept away by a very gentle current. The others who said infant/toddler drowning is very quiet are absolutely right. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to ensure that you are holding onto the baby if she goes into the water, and that the baby is wearing the proper gear to help keep her afloat.

I'd talk to both the baby's pediatrician and someone at a sporting goods store--preferably a good store and to someone who isn't just a local high school kid. I would insist that she wears this gear if she is anywhere near a source of water, and that someone is holding onto her somehow at all times. It is easy for others to laugh your concerns off, but trust me when I say that my friend's mother was horribly affected by her baby's death many, many years after it happened. If you plan on making camping a regular thing, I'd suggest something like toddler swimming classes; some info can be found here

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We camped a little with infants. I enjoyed it more than my wife did.

As for swimming, I have taught hundreds of kids how to swim and I take water safety very seriously. You should learn to swim and about water safety if you want to keep your child safe near the water. You should take precautions such as having yourself and your child properly wear certified life-jackets in boats, etc.

Stay near the lifeguards. Stay in arms reach of the child. You'll be able to keep the child safe in the shallows in calm water where the child can stand, even as a non-swimmer. Again, since you are a non-swimmer, if the waves are moderate, have the child use a standard youth life jacket with a tube or flap behind the head and half or more of the flotation on the front, so they will float to the back if anything goes wrong.

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+1 for encouraging the parent to learn to swim, and for suggesting a sensible baby life jacket! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 30 '11 at 8:18

taking our son camping at this age was one of the best things we did because we found it really relaxing - honestly. After a few days you realise that routines that seems all important at home, just don;t matter. But its as well to be aware of that before you start. Especially around sleep routines - light, noise being in the middle of things mean that night time sleep is likely to be reduced, so you'll probably end up with more naps - but that's fine, there's nothing to stop anyone having a nap when they need to.

As for the swimming there are flotation vests which are not lifejackets (we bought one called 'splashabout' obviously you still need to be right beside them but they give amazing water confidence.

have fun!

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I'd +1 this except for the floatation vest - IMHO those should only be used by persons who can swim... –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 30 '11 at 8:20

Nothing really special for camping that you don't already do when you go out. Just be extra vigilant about sunscreen and bug repellent. She can't tell you when it feels like it's starting to wear off. Also, most people find it a little difficult to let their child get that dirty. You just have to let it go for a little while.

As for beach safety, I prefer those inflatable rings with seats in the middle, or simply to hold her. Kids that age like to splash more than swim. They usually get knocked over by the waves, so don't even bother trying to have them walk in a bit unless you are in a very calm bay or something. Just always keep an eye on her, the same as you keep your eyes on the road while driving. Don't assume another adult is watching unless you've explicitly confirmed it. Some people like to have a physical token of some kind to pass around that designates them as the official kid watcher.

Drowning is surprisingly quiet, and children's instincts to panic work against them in a way that no amount of wearable safety equipment can be considered foolproof. I once turned around for a second while leading my son into a pool and his flotation device flipped completely upside down. I was literally in arm's reach and had no idea because it was so quiet until someone behind me yelled.

That being said, I don't mean to scare you. We've had lots of fun times at the beach with our children. Most important is to enjoy it.

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Can you use bug repellant on an infant? Especially one still nursing? In the US I've often seen warnings to not use the repellant on infants, which has made it hard for us to bring our youngest out for bike rides or let him outside at dusk when we gets lots of mosquitos. –  MichaelF Jun 27 '11 at 11:03
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@Michael, from what I've read, it's mostly an issue for children under 2 months old. With nursing I would imagine the bigger concern being not to get any on the mother's breast. –  Karl Bielefeldt Jun 27 '11 at 13:23
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Or anything that might go in the baby's mouth, for that matter. –  Karl Bielefeldt Jun 27 '11 at 15:05
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My doctor recommended the Avon skin-so-soft product as the only bug spray to use when they were under a year old. –  Amy Patterson Jul 6 '11 at 16:38

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