Camping with a baby
Some adventures can turn into real disasters.

We used to love camping.  Every chance we got we would head to the Drakensberg, our little car groaning with the weight of tents and cooler boxes. Then along came the children.

When my son was two, we were brave enough to try again. We padlocked the tent at night so he couldn’t undo the zip and escape while we slept. He loved it, and we became regular campers again, pitching the tent in the garden if we couldn’t manage a weekend away. 

The day of our first annual school camp out dawned when I was 7 months pregnant with our second baby and my son was in grade 1. Off we went to the school field filled with enthusiasm. The lack of toilets was a bit of a surprise and it was probably the most uncomfortable night of my life. On the Monday I had a gynae check up. I complained about the pain in my hips, and on explaining I had been camping with no mattress (we’d left it at home in error), the doctor laughed so much he ran out to tell the receptionist the story. 

Ever the brave, once baby arrived, we decided to go camping again, in winter, in the Cape, and take our dog with us (we had been late with his vaccinations and the kennel wouldn’t take him). The baby was crawling. 

I Googled information on camping with babies and saw that breastfeeding, co-sleeping families who baby-wear don’t need to lug any special equipment with them, (as we don’t have much baby paraphernalia at home anyway, I sort of knew this already), so I thought we were all set and could do this thing! Off we set singing happy songs…

We have air mattresses, so I thought it best to have baby on her soft changing mat next to me rather than on the single or double mattress co-sleeping, in case it wasn’t safe (I assumed an air mattress would be much like a water bed – a co-sleeping no-no).  I’m sure this is what prompted what we think was our baby’s first word. She sat up on the changing mat (which was on the floor don’t worry), pointed at my mattress and yelled “dere, dere” (there, there). 

Other dogs at the camp site happily trotted along with their families, with a sniff sniff here, and a sniff sniff there. Not our dog. As only Jack Russells can, he decided he owned the camp site, and attacked every St. Bernard and Great Dane wandering past.  We had to have him on a leash constantly after that (and profuse apologies to other families with their well behaved dogs).

My baby got very clingy all of a sudden, so much so that I was unable to put her down to shower all weekend (imagine the pong of me) and when she started wanting to breastfeed nearly continuously we realised she was getting sick – with her first cold – so while wanting to feed continuously, she couldn’t breathe while feeding. 

From there on, I had baby in a wrap on me, feeding, putting snot on me and crying, and I was holding the dog on a leash. Going to the ablution block to wee and brush my teeth was a logistical nightmare. Sleep was not happening at all as I had to sit upright all night propped on our bags with baby against me and the dog on my feet. 

My husband tried to help by taking turns with our baby, but she was sick for the first time ever, probably quite frightened by it, and only wanted me – and I couldn’t lie down on the blow up mattress as I was terrified of squashing her. 

Our camp site was packed before the sun rose the next day and our grumpy family went home. We’ll never be late with our dog’s vaccinations again, but now that our daughter is two, we think we might take another camping trip – but with other mattresses. 

What adventures have you gone on with your baby that has not turned out quite as you expected?

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