During the first few weeks with a newborn, loading everything up and venturing out for a cup of coffee can seem impossible. What if the baby needs to eat? What if she poops? You’re too sleep-deprived anyway — isn’t it easier to just stay home?
There are several benefits to getting out of the house, though. As soon as your physical recovery allows, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 20-30 minutes of daily activity to rebuild muscle and combat postpartum mood disorders. It is a way of reconnecting with the “real world” and exercising your new self-identity as a parent. In addition, many parents find babies are more relaxed when outdoors, even as newborns.
So how do you get out of the house with a newborn?
FIRST, FIGURE OUT HOW YOU’LL TRANSPORT THE BABY.
If you’re driving, obviously you’ll use the car seat. But once you get to your destination, does it make sense to carry the car seat or would it be easier to wear your baby in a sling or carrier? Some parents choose to bring a couple of options until they have a bit more experience.
SECOND, ORGANIZE YOUR GEAR.
If you feel that you have what you need — diapers, wipes, a spare set of clothes, burp cloths, blanket, pacifier or bottles (if applicable) — you’ll feel more confident in case things don’t go smoothly. Many items can do double duty; for example, a muslin swaddle blanket can serve as a shade over the car seat, a nursing cover, a burp cloth, and even a changing pad.
THIRD, CASE THE JOINT.
When you get where you’re going — whether it is Target, a new parent support group meeting, or the neighborhood coffee shop — take a minute to figure out where you can retreat if you or your baby needs to take a break. Is there a place where you would feel comfortable nursing or bottlefeeding? Where is the best spot to change a diaper? With a plan in mind, you can relax and enjoy your outing.
FOURTH, RELY ON THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS.
Everyone who has ever had a new baby — and many who have not — have empathy for new parents. Try not to anticipate frustration; they want to see you succeed! If you need to abandon your full grocery cart to flee back to the car, no one will think twice!
When you go out, where can you go with an infant? During winter months, many pediatricians advise against taking newborns to indoor public places to prevent RSV or flu infection. Check with your physician about any reason your baby shouldn’t be out. Generally speaking, however, babies can go wherever you would regularly go.
Get out there and enjoy!
Betsy is passionate about providing the care new mothers need in their postpartum experience — whether their needs are emotional support or clean laundry. Her own struggle with postpartum mood disorder after the birth of her firstborn informs her work. For her own health and the well-being of other mothers, she fostered an informal network of new parents to answer questions and support each other. Now that her two children are in school, she is devoting more time to this care as a professional Postpartum Doula. Check out more of her work here.