How to stay healthy (and sane) with a new baby

 An essential truth of parenting: All of the sappiest parenting cliches are true. The one that most hits home right now, as my precious baby boy’s first birthday grows smaller in the rearview mirror: It goes by quickly.
Really and truly, it feels as though only a few weeks have passed since his six-month birthday. Before any more time slips away, I want to give praise to a few of the groups, activities and resources that have made the time more joyful and companionable.

Hike It Baby

As my husband’s paternity leave came to a close last summer, I found myself frantically searching for baby-appropriate outings to keep us occupied, socialized and sane. “There’s a group called ‘Hike it Baby,'” I told my husband with glee. “Can you believe how perfect that is?” It’s just what it sounds like: Parents hiking with babies and toddlers, sometimes at a toddler’s pace, other times at an adults-wearing-babies-and-toddlers pace. It’s been a great way to make friends, as there’s some serious bonding that happens when someone helps you calm a melting-down newborn in the middle of the woods.

 

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Our very first Hike it Baby outing. It’s hard to believe he was ever this tiny!

I always imagined I’d hike with H, but our outings to the places we’d hiked previously—longer, steeper treks an hour or more away from home—don’t even seem worth the effort these days. Hike it Baby has taught me that you don’t need to ascend a peak or drive far away to feel the restorative effects of the outdoors. I’ve learned all sorts of new treks within a 10-minute drive of my front door, with gentle enough terrain that my now-toddler (sniff, sniff) can stroll with ease. Now, the only trick is getting him to wear shoes …

Parent Boot Camp

One morning when H was two months old, I couldn’t do anything to soothe him. He wasn’t hungry, didn’t have a diaper situation, didn’t want to nap—he seemingly just wanted to cry. “Let’s go cry at the Y,” I told him. We went to the Saratoga Springs YMCA‘s Parent Boot Camp class, which I’d previously worried might be too loud and chaotic, what with the loud music, the toddlers running around and riding tricycles and the older kids climbing up the walls (sometimes literally). We went—and he fell asleep in his stroller! As he grew older, he loved staying awake and watching the big kids run around, and now, he scoots around the room on his butt, on the hunt for basketballs to push around. His mornings actually seem a little bit less happy when he doesn’t get that stimulation.
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He likes to try to push mama’s weights around the floor.

And me! Not only do I get a great workout without having to put H in the Y’s daycare; I get a village of other parents trying their best to stay healthy and strong while raising tiny, adorable, exhausting little people. I’ve gotten some of the best nuggets of parenting wisdom while running laps around the gym and talking about teething or nap transitions or whatever stage we’re in. And I get the wonderful, necessary feeling that we’re all in this parenting thing together.
By the way, the name “Cry at the Y” stuck. These days, we’re more likely to call it “Boom Boom Room”—as in, “I think he’s cranky because he didn’t hear his Boom Boom Room music today.”

Talking a walk

This is so simple, I almost don’t want to include it. And yet, it is so magical, I feel like I have to. We have been taking long, restorative walks since one week after H got home, and it remains the go-to option for soothing him when he’s teething, sick or generally feeling out of sorts. Just as he misses the stimulation of the Y when we miss our boot-camp class, it seems like he misses the fresh air when we don’t get a healthy dose of it early in the day. Is it more tiring for me than sitting him down in front of a screen? Yes. Does it leave us *both* feeling like someone pressed the “reset” button by the time we come home? Also yes.
If you’re currently raising tiny, adorable, exhausting people (it’s the best kind of tired, but man, am I tired at the end of every day!), I’d love to hear the groups and activities that make up your world. And if you’re looking for tips for getting dinner on the table during *any* busy season of life, check out my food-writer friend Whitney’s recent post on the topic—her recipe for nights when the sky is falling looks delicious!
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