Hello, fresh air and sunshine! Exiting the hospital with your new baby can be a magical moment. Unfortunately, it may also leave you with a sense of panic as you realize that your little one is now entering into the real world.
You may have heard from a friend or family member that newborns shouldn’t be outside for the first couple of months of their lives. Is this true? Should you really keep your baby inside for the first 6 to 8 weeks after birth?
If your anxiety is rising just thinking about this, don’t worry!
We understand that being a new parent can be overwhelming, so we’ve gone through the research to help answer all your questions about taking your newborn out and about for the first time.
Most pediatric health experts agree that babies can head outside right away, as long as you use basic safety precautions. (More on those to come, so keep calm and read on!)
Generally speaking, there’s no need to stay inside with your little one for the first 1 or 2 months of baby’s life if you both feel up to getting out. In fact, some fresh air and sunshine can benefit you both, thanks to vitamin D and mood-boosting benefits.
One exception to keep in mind, though, is that some doctors prefer you wait a bit before taking your little one into crowded spaces where they may be exposed to high levels of germs — especially during COVID-19 surges.
It is true that your newborn’s immune system is still developing and may struggle to fight off infections.
There are precautions you can take, though — like hand washing and physical distancing — to minimize the chance of your little one developing an illness.
For most infants, taking typical safety precautions while outside is sufficient to keep them safe.
In rare cases where your child has a health condition that makes their immune system particularly susceptible to germs, your doctor may advise you to take extra precautions. These can include staying at home during periods of specific concern.
If you’re ready to take your little one outside, you’ll want to make sure to follow appropriate safety measures. These include:
Dress them in weather-appropriate clothing
Double-check baby’s outfit to make sure it’s weather appropriate. You’ll probably also want to have a spare outfit or blanket packed, in case of an emergency change or if extra layers are needed.
A general rule of thumb is to dress your baby for the weather and then add one extra layer. You’ll want to check to make sure they’re comfortable throughout the outing as well.
Have a sun-protection plan
A little sunshine can be nice, but baby skin burns easier, so you’ll want to make sure that it’s covered with clothing and a sun hat or hidden in the shade.
Because infants are at a greater risk of sunscreen side effects,
Crowded places like malls, airplanes, or pools mean that there’s more chances for germs to spread.
Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many experts encourage parents to avoid these places with their newborns.
If possible, it’s also best to avoid places like the grocery store and indoor restaurants where ventilation may be poor and you might have trouble physical distancing from other people.
Wash your hands — and make sure others do, too
Ensure that anyone who touches your baby has washed their hands. No one showing any symptoms of illness should come in contact with your newborn.
You may even wish to teach young siblings to touch only baby’s toes or back and not their hands or face. This may help reduce the risk of spreading germs.
It might be hard to say no when well-meaning family and friends want to visit baby, but it’s good to limit who is allowed around your newborn.
Again, because of COVID-19, many experts are suggesting restricting visitors around you and your newborn until the pandemic improves.
Use a baby carrier
Babies can be irresistible! But wearing baby in a baby carrier rather than using a stroller can keep your little one close and help prevent other people from touching (or kissing!) them.
There are some times when you’ll want to think twice before loading baby into their car seat or stroller. You may wish to stay inside your home if:
- Extreme weather conditions are occurring. Mail carriers may brave wind, snow, sleet, and hail, but your newborn should avoid extreme temperatures and being outside in bad air quality whenever possible.
- Your child has a medical condition. If your newborn has special medical needs that leave them particularly susceptible to germs, you’ll want to consult with their doctor before taking them out and about.
- It’s peak sunlight hours. The middle of the day can be an especially hard time to find shade and protect your baby’s skin. For this reason, you may wish to avoid excessive time outside when the sun is at its strongest.
If you do need to go outside with baby for any reason, especially in warmer weather and for longer periods of time, be sure to bring plenty of breast milk or formula to keep them hydrated.
Most doctors agree that there’s no need to wait until your baby is 1 or 2 months old to take them out and about. However, you also shouldn’t feel pressure to do it before you’re ready.
Newborn babies can seem so delicate, you might want to put them inside a bubble of protection (or at least never let them see sunlight).
The truth is some sun protection, weather-appropriate clothing, and distance from crowds will probably be enough to keep them safe.
If you have any questions about taking your newborn outside or if your infant has special medical circumstances to consider, you should never hesitate to speak with your child’s pediatrician.