In a perfect world... You're finally ready for that new pair of non-maternity jeans—oh, happy day!—so you'll simply visit the dressing room while the baby sleeps peacefully in his stroller.
The reality Bargain-hunting with an infant is totally doable, as long as you choose stores that feature a wide-open layout; with wide aisles, you won't get tangled in a rack of sweaters as you maneuver the stroller's wheels. And it's all the better if there are extra-spacious dressing rooms, where you can squeeze in a private nursing session or diaper change.
Our advice There's no need to be discouraged if your first attempts are less than fruitful (or even awful). Laura Jana, M.D., coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, says, "As you get to know your little one better, your shopping trips will go more smoothly." A tip for grocery stores: If a meltdown strikes before you've made it to the checkout aisle, ask a manager if he can refrigerate perishables and set your cart aside until you (or your partner) return later.
In a perfect world... You can give the baby a bottle, eat a meal that didn't come out of the microwave, and chat with grown-ups. Jackpot!
The reality The barrage of unfamiliar sounds and smells can turn even the calmest baby into one cranky little customer.
Our advice Schedule lunch or dinner for a time when Baby is usually rested and fed. It's always a smart idea to call the restaurant you have in mind and ask whether it's baby-friendly. Go before the crowd gets there, and take toys. Get a booth, if possible, and put Baby next to you in his car seat. If he acts up, you'll have to hold him, so order food you can easily eat with one hand. Then be prepared to ask for a doggie bag.
In a perfect world... The theater's dark; the baby will fall peacefully asleep, and you can lose yourself in the latest chick flick.
The reality You've heard that a vacuum cleaner can lull your baby into dreamland, but will he sleep through surround sound? Not so much—plus, it could cause real damage. "Any noise that registers 90 decibels or higher can hurt a child's hearing," says Brenda Nixon, author of The Birth to Five Book. In recent years, even children's movies have measured up to 130 decibels. Not to mention the decibel level your baby's crying can reach—and the irritation your fellow moviegoers will feel.
Our advice Wait for the DVD. If you're experiencing serious multiplex withdrawal, see whether a local cinema offers matinees for mothers and kids younger than 2. Often during these screenings, the sound is lowered and the lights remain on. Or hit a flick the next time Grandmom and Grandpop visit. That's what date night is for!
In a perfect world... You can celebrate your favorite cousin's nuptials and finally introduce the baby to her extended family. The invitation didn't exactly say "children welcome," but yours is an infant. (And a super adorable one at that!)
The reality The bride, groom, and guests may be less than thrilled by uninvited guests who don't only cry at weddings—they shriek!
Our advice If the invitation doesn't clearly say "and family," your child probably isn't included, and you'll need a sitter. Some couples are kind enough to offer guests free on-site babysitting, usually at the hotel or reception hall, so you can dash off to nurse or cuddle your infant in between the "Chicken Dance" and "Hot Hot Hot." Otherwise, the bride or groom may steer you toward other parents so you can share a sitter.
In a perfect world... As baby snoozes in a sling, you'll get that way overdue mani-pedi.
The reality It won't be as fun once you get a whiff of the toxic odors. The jury is still out on the effects of phthalates on babies, so steer clear of these chemicals found in some nail products.
Our advice "New mothers should certainly try to find a little time to pamper themselves, but I'd suggest erring on the side of caution and hitting the salon by yourself," Dr. Jana says. "You'll not only avoid exposing your baby to chemicals, but you'll also up your chances of actually enjoying your visit there."
Houses of Worship
In a perfect world... Your cutie patootie will become part of your faith community right from the start. By the time he's a toddler, he'll be familiar with its traditions.
The reality Churches, temples, and mosques traditionally welcome all ages. In fact, they often encourage members to attend religious services as a family. Some have a nursery or "crying room," where parents can hear and see what's going on while they tend to their little companions.
Our advice Sit at the very end of the aisle so you can slip out, or take turns with your partner walking the baby around if he gets fussy. One caveat: Be wary of too many people handling your sweetie; to avoid spreading germs to his hands and face, offer your baby's tootsies to touch instead.
In a perfect world... Your kid will be a Red Sox fan before she can hold a baseball bat!
The reality You'll need to base much of your game-time decisions on the specifics of the sport, and the spectators. "Ask yourself some questions," says Devra Renner, coauthor of Mommy Guilt. "Ask yourself: Will people be smoking around us? Could Baby get beer spilled on her? Am I going to be comfy with her on my lap for several hours? Will we be out in the hot sun?"
Our advice As long as you can keep your infant comfortable (and out of the range of fly balls or stray pucks), you don't have to toss your season tickets. Make plans with friends, who can help with the logistics, and try arriving and leaving slightly earlier or later than everyone else to miss the throng at its worst. Go, team!