‘You must be crazy!’ That pretty much describes people’s responses to our announcement that we were hitting the road again, only eight weeks after the birth of our fourth child, Joshua.
So how do you make camping with a newborn a positive experience? Personal experience has taught me preparation is the key to any enjoyable holiday.
I had every intention of breastfeeding, thus eliminating the need for sterilising bottles, but Joshua wasn’t putting on enough weight so he went on the bottle before we left. As I was still feeding him during the night, I purchased extra bottles so I would only need to clean and sterilise bottles once a day, if necessary. Six bottles meant I always had one or two extra bottles at hand without stressing about running out.
A $3 box from the Reject Shop served as a sterilisation container and a good quality thermos is ideal for warming up bottles when you’re on the road. Just before we left I discovered a small tube of travel hand sanitizer at the local camping shop – the perfect way to clean your hands when you don’t have quick access to a tap and soap.
Little Joshua slept in the Phil and Teds bassinet; not only is it small and portable but it is also easier to keep baby warm. I sometimes used a swaddle bag as well to ensure he stayed warm.
Chris managed to find the space in the car to bring a foldable rocker, which we used a lot – Joshua was so comfortable that he would often fall asleep in it.
Camping with four kids is quite the challenge, mostly in terms of packing. Our Toyota Prado is an eight-seater but once you load it up with two adults, three kids, a baby, a car fridge and a variety of odd items, it’s pretty full. There was definitely no room for a pram but this challenge was easily overcome by purchasing a Baby Bjorn baby carrier. These come in a variety of models but I recommend the one with back support as it enables you to carry your baby for extended periods of time without hurting your back. I picked one up on eBay for $35 instead of paying $200 for a new carrier.
I started using the carrier at home to ensure Joshua would be used to it and sleep in it. During our six-week trip we went on many bush walks – some short, some long – and I was able to enjoy every single one with Joshua bumping happily along – mostly unaware of the beautiful places we found ourselves in. More often than not he would go to sleep, as content as a joey in mum’s pouch.
A suitable sun hat is extremely important for a newborn so make sure you find a hat which protects your little one’s face adequately. Special sunscreen is recommended, though we had to be careful as Joshua has childhood eczema. My preference is to dress a newborn in a jumpsuit to minimise sun exposure.
Giving baby a bath when camping in national parks can be quite a challenge but we made do with a large box and a bag of cotton balls. A friend had given us a small ‘beauty’ kit, which includes a baby brush, comb, nail clippers and scissors – perfect for camping.
Six weeks of camping went by way too fast and little Joshua had just about grown out of his bassinet. He will not remember the trip but the other kids will – they had a ball on their first adventure with their baby brother.