This week, I took a 4 week old and a 3 year old to the zoo…with no stroller! The National Zoo in Washington, DC is part of the Smithsonian Museums, and is a great zoo that’s actually free to get into. (It still always strikes me as funny to see people going for their morning jog through the zoo when we go!) It’s a pretty large and spread out zoo, and the whole thing goes up (or down, depending on how you come in) a gentle slope.
We decided to do the trip stroller-free. We only own one stroller that we never use, and we would have had to use the carseat/travel system setup to use it with the 4 week old. Not ideal in our current hot weather. While we could have rented a stroller for around $10 at the zoo, we opted not to.
I packed a ring sling and a Boba Air (I have big 4 week old!) to use with the baby and it worked great! I wore the ring sling in the morning and switched to the Boba after a couple hours.The 3yo was free to run from exhibit to exhibit and we didn’t have to worry about pushing around a heavy load. We packed light in one shoulder bag (still room for diapers, drinks, light snacks, sunscreen etc) and my husband carried that while I carried the baby.
Last year, pre-baby, we took a zoo trip with our then-2-year-old and used a SSC with her. She walked in the morning, then after lunch I put her up on my back to go through the rest of the exhibits and gave her a rest.
Here are some benefits to babywearing at the zoo:
- Crowds! Babywearing allows for easier navigation in crowds, and also makes many babies feel more secure in strange places with strange animals.
- Many of the buildings/indoor exhibits do not allow strollers. This means that you have to haul anything you have stored in the stroller inside, leave someone outside with the stroller, or trust that nobody will take it! Also means that any stroller-sleeping members of your group will have to be woken up or someone will need to wait outside with them.
- Easier to feed an infant. Whether bottle or breastfeeding, you don’t have to stop and unhook a small infant to feed them. You can just bottle feed or nurse directly in the carrier wherever you are!
- Gets kids at your height. I would have loved to wear my 3yo in an SSC this year, but wasn’t quite feeling up to it with a newborn as well, and my husband didn’t want to babywear. This reminded me of the benefit of getting kids at your eye level. Though zoos do their best to make things visible to tiny eyes, often fences, foliage, or signage is lower down and blocking their field of view. Lots of times we had to lift her up in order to see what we were seeing. Babywearing gets them at your eye level so you don’t have to do that!
- Toddlers walk SLOW. And don’t pay attention to where they are going. And complain a lot. Another reason I missed wearing my 3yo this year! We were constantly having to ask her to keep up or tell her to pay attention and look forward when she was walking so she didn’t walk directly into someone or something. By popping kiddo up on your back, you speed your trip up and decrease the nagging and whining percentages significantly!