The first few days of your baby’s life will almost certainly be 100% indoors. Whether the birth occurs in a hospital, birthing center, or at home, as a new mother you’ll be recovering from labor and getting to know your new baby. Your body and emotions will be going through a multitude of changes. In addition, you’ll be feeding and changing diapers every couple of hours and, if you’re fortunate, you may even be able to sneak in a few quick naps.
Inevitably, however, as the first few days (or weeks) go by, one of two things will happen: a) you’ll have to go out in public to attend to errands, work, and/or family obligations, or b) you’ll choose to go out, get fresh air, and begin interacting with the outside world.
In either case, most new parents feel that their baby’s first outing is a memorable combination of excitement, pride, and stress.
The right time
There is no standard “right time” to take a baby out for the first time. It is vital, however, to point out that your little one’s immune system is not fully functional yet and that makes them more susceptible to infections and weather changes. In fact, some pediatricians and some cultures specify a 40-day or up to a 3-month period before going out in public. The timing of the first outing depends on each family, each baby, and their own particular situations.
Getting ready for the big day
Whatever the timing of your baby’s first day out is, the following recommendations are always practical:
Have a plan: If you’re a first-time parent, it’s time to accept the fact that the times for spontaneous excursions, running errands, shopping, or socializing are gone, at least for a while. It’s key to plan your outings with your little one and, as scouts say, be prepared.
Pack carefully: Depending on the amount of time you’ll be away from home, you should at least have the following supplies in the diaper bag:
- 2 or more diapers
- Wipes, a changing pad, and a hand-sanitizer for you
- A full change of clothes for your baby, just in case an accident happens
- A shawl or cover for breastfeeding privacy
- A towel or cloth to protect your clothes when burping
Take it easy: While you might feel like you’re ready to go, your body is still adjusting to the post-pregnancy state, especially if you have had a cesarean section, multiple births, or have special health conditions. Try to keep your first outing alone short and sweet.
Dress smart: You’ll probably be dying to show off your little one’s new outfits and maybe you’re ready to wear your own regular street clothes after months of maternity wear. The first outing is probably the time to be more practical than fashionable. Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, spit-up, breast leaks, and diaper changes can wreak havoc on your look.
Keep it short: Ideally, do not plan anything that will keep your child away from the house for more than 2-3 hours for the first trip. If you have a choice, try to build up the time away from home little by little.
Be friendly, but firm about touching: Babies are adorable, especially yours! It’s common for strangers to want to admire, touch, kiss, or even hold your little one. Be appreciative of the compliments and attention, but remind them that for health reasons it’s best to keep older children and adults from close contact in the earliest months of infancy.
The need for planning also applies to your little one’s transportation. You’ll probably be using one or a combination of the following during that first outing: walking with your baby in a carrier, pushing a stroller, driving/riding in a private automobile or using public transportation. It may go without saying, but don’t forget that you may need sun or cold protection for your baby’s comfort and health.
Here are some tips for each:
Baby carriers or wraps: Baby carriers or wraps are popular due to their convenience and comfort. Make sure that your carrier is meant to carry newborns. Always carry a newborn (up to 5 months) in an inward-facing position, making sure that your baby’s head, neck, and back are adequately supported. It’s best to practice at home before venturing out.
Strollers: Strollers have been the traditional standard for babies for more than a century. Make sure that you choose a stroller that provides a stable ride. For your little one’s earliest outing, you’ll want your stroller to have a seat that allows them to recline fully or a structure that is designed to allow the infant seat to snap into place on it.
Private car: If your baby’s first outing is in a private car or cab, a backward-facing car seat is a must. Make sure that their head is supported in the seat.
Public transportation: If their first outing is on a bus or subway, a carrier or wrap is the safest and most convenient option. Your hands will be free to play and maneuver your way in and out. Take note that many public transportation systems do not allow strollers to roll in and remember that folding a stroller while holding a newborn is not an easy or particularly safe task. So do your research before attempting to board public transportation with a stroller.
Weather conditions: One of the main dangers for newborns outside is the sun. Try to keep your baby in the shade at all times. If you’re using a stroller you may cover it with clothes, making sure the air can get through. If the day is too sunny it’s not advisable to take your baby out. Also, consider that sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months.
One of many “firsts”
With all this information, the first outing might seem a bit intimidating, but this is just one of many “firsts” that will become a breeze with a little practice. Experts agree that the fresh air, a new scenery, the sounds, and smells are not only good for your baby, but they are also key for a mother’s recovery and return to normalcy after her pregnancy. So, enjoy your first outing and be sure to take pictures. This is a day to remember!