Taking your newborn outside for the first time can be an exciting and momentous occasion. If you’ve been told that the baby needs to stay indoors for the first month of life, you may have already been feeling claustrophobic just thinking about being trapped in the house with a newborn. Go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief because, despite what your mother-in-law, grandma, or any well-meaning person may tell you, the idea that newborn babies can’t go outside for a certain number of weeks after being born is false. There’s no research to support that claim, and it’s actually good for both you and baby to get a bit of fresh air. If your baby is born prematurely or is immunocompromised, you may be advised by your doctor to limit your outdoor time to walks or places away from people. Otherwise, you can go outside as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. Of course, like anything, there are a few caveats and things to consider first.
1. AVOID CROWDS
When your sweet, little bundle of joy is born, you'll be itching to show him off to the world. It’s a part of parenthood. Before you become a parent, you may roll your eyes at the influx of baby photos on your social media feed. “Why does [insert name of acquaintance] constantly post pictures of her baby?" you may grumble to a mutual friend. In time, you will learn to eat those words because you will find that it’s simply impossible not to share your excitement about your newborn. You will do exactly everything that you previously found annoying in other parents, and that’s okay. It’s a lesson in humility.
Taking your baby out and about is equally as irresistible. First, it’s an opportunity to finally dress your little peanut in that adorable outfit you’ve been waiting to use. Second, few things are as gratifying as strangers oohing and aahing over your baby. You know your baby is cute, but it’s nice to have other people acknowledge it, too. But before you pull out that Mickey Mouse onesie and book those Disneyland tickets, press pause.
Your newborn’s immune system is brand new, and the younger he is, the less developed his immune system is. Keep your little one away from crowds, especially indoors, since you don’t know who might be sick and contagious. Although we love the compliments, we don’t want strangers, however well-intentioned, to touch. Wearing your baby in a sling or wrap is good for discouraging physical contact, or a polite “please don’t touch” is also effective. If you’re taking little one out to meet friends and/or family, enforce one simple rule: everyone must first wash their hands. It’s an easy step that keeps unwanted germs away from your vulnerable baby. See our “Leaving the House with a Newborn During Sick Season” blog post for more tips.
2. DRESS BABY FOR THE WEATHER
Babies are great at being adorable in every outfit, but not so great at regulating their body temperatures. In cold temperatures, they lose heat rapidly, almost four times as quickly as an adult. On the flip side, they are also much more prone to overheating. Because they can’t adjust well to temperature changes, it’s our duty to make sure they’re dressed appropriately and comfortably.
If the temperature (wind chill counts, too!) is below freezing, use common sense and stay indoors. Quick back and forth trips from the car are probably okay when necessary, but it’s best to limit your baby’s exposure to the outside temperature. Gauge your baby’s comfort by your own. If you’re wearing thermal underwear, a sweater, a parka, and you’re still freezing, it’s way too cold for baby. If you live in a hot climate and the temperature is hot enough to fry eggs on your dashboard, it’s time to stay indoors with the AC cranked. However, if the weather is nice enough to warrant a walk outdoors, a good rule of thumb for dressing your baby is to use layers. Layers are key because they allow you to add or remove pieces of clothing as you see fit, since the temperature may fluctuate.
If the weather is on the warmer side, start off with a short sleeve bodysuit. This is a perfect base layer for all weather, since you can always add a sweater, pants, socks, etc. Consider dressing your baby in one made from bamboo, which is a superior fabric because of its breathability and temperature-regulating properties. If your little one suffers from eczema, dryness from cold and moisture from heat can exacerbate flare-ups. Bamboo fabric is soft and absorbent, which makes it perfect for keeping delicate, sensitive skin comfortable and dry. If the weather is cold, go ahead and dress your baby in a lightweight, bamboo romper or long sleeve bodysuit as a base layer. From there, add as many layers as necessary, using however many layers you’re wearing as a guide.
3. KEEP OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT
One of the things you’ll marvel about your baby is his perfect, smooth skin. Although that fresh, new skin is irresistibly smooth, it’s also very delicate and very sensitive to sun exposure. It absorbs UV rays more quickly and burns in much shorter time than ours, which is not only painful for baby, but also increases his lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. Scary stuff, we know.
Before your baby is six months old, the best course of action is to avoid direct sunlight rather than applying sunscreen. Take care to shield baby from the sun by using shade covers and protective sunwear, such as brimmed hats and baby sunglasses. If the temperature permits, dress him in thin, lightweight clothing that fully covers his skin. There’s no need to panic and cover your baby with an umbrella at all times, but it is prudent to keep the risks in mind, so you don’t leave your little one in the sun for an extended period of time. Our blog post, “Summertime with Baby” contains more helpful tips for protecting your little one outdoors.
4. BE PREPARED
You know that beautiful, chic, leather diaper bag you registered for? Go get it right now and count how many pockets it has. Pockets are about to be your very best friend. One of the many wonders about a new baby is how many things one, tiny human can possibly need in a 1-hour window (we’ll give you a hint: it’s a lot). Even if you’re going out for a quick stroll around the neighborhood, there’s still a list of things you’ll want to pack in that bag, and we’re here to help you out.
-Diapers. Yes, plural. Newborns aren’t proficient at much, but soiling diapers in record time is definitely on the list.
-Baby wipes. Not only are these necessary for diaper changes, they’re incredibly handy for any and all situations. Need to clean a tabletop? Wipe. Dirty hands? Wipe. Spit-up in your hair? Wipe.
-Foldable changing pad. Because the last thing you’ll ever want to do is change your baby’s diaper in the backseat of your car without a protective barrier. Just trust us on this.
-Diaper cream. “Is this really necessary?” you may be asking yourself. Just slather that cream on during the diaper change because you’ll be kicking yourself if you see that angry, red rash on your sweet baby’s skin.
-An extra outfit, or two. Nothing, and we repeat, nothing is worse than being unprepared for a blowout in public.
-Plastic bag. If you’re not near a trash can, you’ll have to carry that dirty diaper all the way home. And remember those soiled clothes? That’s what the bag is really for. You'll thank us later.
-Receiving blanket. You’ll likely have received a ton of these for your baby shower. Luckily, you really can’t have too many of these. They’re great to use as a blanket, nursing cover, stroller shade, you name it.
-Pacifier. Inevitably, you will forget to bring a pacifier at least once. You will take great care to never forget again. Pack more than one in that diaper bag.
-Hand sanitizer. Baby wipes are great, but they don’t disinfect because they’re meant to be gentle on delicate skin. Bring hand sanitizer for the times you actually need to sanitize.
Gather all those items, pack them in the many pockets (the more pockets something has, the better, right?) of your diaper bag, and you're all geared up to go.
We hope this post was helpful in making you feel prepared for you and your baby’s first outing together! As exciting as it is, the first trip outside with a newborn can also be incredibly daunting. Keep these tips in mind, be confident in your ability to handle the occasion, and everything will be smooth sailing!