Gardening with Infants and Small Children

I just went outside and worked in the yard.  It was lovely. It was HOT. I sweated more than I have in months…have we mentioned that it was a really long winter up here in NH? I have been so excited and invigorated since the snow melted.  But, I found this year has been different as I started my yard work and gardening with a newborn and toddler/preschooler in tow.  And while I want to think it doesn’t change much, it totally stopped me in my tracks and made me reconsider a few things.

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Having a plan for the chores, yard work or gardening is awesome, and being flexible is even better.   On my first few trips outside working in the yard with a baby I was quickly reminded that gardening with an infant is tough, but not impossible.  As always, trust your instinct and know that every child is different.  And so is every mother.

A place for the baby

baby garden closing-the-gate

For me, an infant carrier is a must.  But you gotta put that baby somewhere and you can’t garden with your feet only.  My yard work started with raking, so hands free was the way to be, and a necessity!  Whether you Moby Wrap, Wrapsody, K’tan, Ergo, or BabyBjörn, wearing your baby helps them bond with you and maybe rocks them to sleep with your constant movement. Plus, your little one can receive all those healthy baby wearing benefits while you work.  If the idea of this makes you sweaty or claustrophobic (have you seen all that cloth on some of these?) then by all means try a bassinet, stroller or car seat scenario that works for you and for your baby’s age, weight, and overall safety.  Just make sure they aren’t on a slope or left in a pricker bush.  I advise that you keep your baby within sight and earshot at all times.

Hydrate

drinking-straw

If you are nursing, you need water nearby when breastfeeding, so bring a water bottle outside with you.  And as with any rigorous activity in summer heat, drink as much as you feel comfortable. If you are thirsty, it is often too late and that is a sign of dehydration.

And as with any outdoor activity in hot weather, hydration is a great idea for taking care of your body.

Limit skin exposure + sunscreen

all wearing appropriate sun hats and long sleeves!

Cover up!  I used to head out to the yard in shorts and tank top. But, I have gotten sunburned way too many times to play that game any more.  Recently, I have really been practicing all safety tips for myself as well as for my girls.  Babies and kids have super sensitive skin and should not be exposed to the sun for long.  Cover them up with sun hats, long sleeve light clothing, and sunglasses, or provide shades. And make sure to apply sunblock in any exposed areas (or areas that might become exposed during play).  Here are a lot of tips for children of all ages.  My little one even wears a sun hat while I have her in the Moby Wrap because that is the only part of her that is exposed!

Take Breaks

Allow yourself to take breaks to stretch, eat, drink, move differently, and put the baby down.  As excited as I got with raking the garden beds, a little chirping girl on my chest soon reminded me, every half hour, that I have to stop my project and feed her, change her or just rest.

Adjust your expectations. Be proud of yourself for whatever gets accomplished!

I went out again yesterday, ready to turn over an entire garden.  When we all finally got outside I managed to wrangle the almost three-year old into her shoes and sun hat, then danced back inside three times to visit the potty, eat, and get water for her watering can. My plan kept shifting focus and as I became frustrated about not getting anything done, my eldest danced around the blackberry bushes and sang me a song about the sunshine and the prickly bushes and all the things that we will grow in our garden.  So as I pulled the single handful of weeds out of the garden and tossed it into the wheelbarrow, I sighed and smiled, and followed my girl up the hill for some time on the swing.

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