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Stepping Out With Your Baby

How to Install a Carseat
How to Install a Carseat
Shopping
Woman holding baby in car seat

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.

Restaurants

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.

The Movies

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!

Weddings

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.

Nail Salon

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.

Sporting Events

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!

1. Your babe lets loose, really loudly. Just as Melissa James's pastor called for a period of silence during a service, her 8-day-old decided it was a fine time to do his thing. "He filled his diaper, and out came a loud, drawn-out, liquidy, raspberry sound!" recalls the mom from Hampton, Virginia.

Save-face strategy Laugh it off. James dissolved into giggles, along with her friends. As she says, "I decided it was a reminder from up above that I needed to keep a sense of humor as a mom."

2. Oh, no! Baby's puke is everywhere. During a holiday trip, as Kirsti Jeppsen, of Taylorsville, Utah, shuffled through a long airport security line, her 17-month-old threw up on her. "I just wanted to cry," she says.

Save-face strategy Accept help. "One mom in line passed me a couple of wadded-up tissues, and another handed me some rumpled napkins," Jeppsen says. Tokens, sure, but when disaster strikes, an offer of assistance can be just as comforting as a hug.

3. Snookums screams throughout a flight. Bernadette Noll once flew with her wailing, flailing, teething 6-month-old. The evil eye from passengers was about to become a torrent of angry words when the Austin, Texas, mom bought a round of drinks for people seated nearby. "It broke the ice and softened the not-so-nice glares," Noll says.

Save-face strategy No need to lube up seatmates with drinks. Commiserating works too! Try a rueful smile and, "Wish I'd brought earplugs for all of us!"


Nurse in Public (Without Flashing Anyone in the Process)

If the fear of stares or overexposure has left you housebound, take the advice of Barbara Emanuel, executive director of La Leche League International. See you at the mall!

 

Dress for success.

Nursing bras and tanks have cleverly designed flaps and latches that you can often open with one hand, allowing your baby easy access. Try wearing a loose button-down blouse or cardigan over a nursing tank top (which unlatches from the strap) to keep your middle covered. Place a burp cloth over your arm to provide a quick cover-up, just in case. You can also carry your baby in a sling for a truly stealthy feeding.

Do a trial run.

At home, nurse in front of a mirror, where you'll be able to view what passersby will see. When you arrive at your destination, scope out a private niche if mealtime is coming up. As soon as Baby sends out his "I've got the munchies" signs, which might include turning his head from side to side or putting his hand to his mouth, get set to nurse before he starts crying, which will make it tougher to latch on.

 

Don't be shy!

Handle stares by meeting Ms. Nosy's eyes and reciprocating with a friendly, confident smile. And know that the law is probably behind you: Most states have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. Learn your rights at NCSL.org.

Don't hit the gas until you're sure--more than 80 percent are installed wrong. Is yours okay? Find out here.

1. I got my cherub's car seat from ...
A. The store: It's brand-spankin' new.
B. A yard sale: It was only five bucks!
C. My sis: Her kids are older now.

If you answered A, you go, Mama! Every new car seat sold in the United States must meet federal safety and crash-performance standards. A used one, however, may be missing parts or may have been involved in an accident. "There's no way of telling if it would protect your child," says Lorrie Walker, technical advisor at Safe Kids Worldwide. Plus, car seats expire, usually in six to nine years. Have a garage-sale seat or a friend's hand-me-down? Upgrade to new.

2. When I put my squirt's car seat in, I position it ...
A. In the rear middle seat.
B. Behind the passenger seat.
C. Behind the driver seat.

Answered A? Yay! The rear center spot is technically the safest one in the car because it's farthest away from any impact. If you have more than one child, take heart: Any position in the back will help protect your precious cargo.

3. My bambino's car seat is rear-facing and carefully tilted back at a ...
A. 90 degree angle.
B. 45 degree angle.
C. 15 degree angle.

If you chose B, you have the angle right. Rear-facing car seats should recline at about a 45 degree angle so Baby's noggin is supported and her chin won't fall to her chest and block her airway. To get the right position, adjust the base or insert a tightly rolled towel beneath it. Many seats now have a built-in level indicator to check your work, but be sure the car isn't parked on an incline.

4. How does your babe roll on frosty days?
A. First I loosen the harness and then I buckle her in with the straps over her snowsuit.
B. I pull the harness tight over her snowsuit. She looks just like a mini sausage!
C. I dress her warmly, buckle her in, and then cover her up with some fuzzy blankets.

If you picked C, you're hot stuff! "Collisions compress everything, even bulky outerwear," explains Stephanie Tombrello, executive director of SafetyBeltSafe USA. "If your baby's harness is loose, she could be ejected from her seat." Remember: Snap, then wrap.

5. I know I installed my car seat correctly because...
A. I read the manual three times.
B. It barely budges when I shake it. And I've really tried to jiggle it.
C. I had it checked by a registered safety professional. It passed!

You can drive with confidence if you chose C. "The best way to ensure proper installation of a car seat is to visit an inspection site staffed by nationally certified technicians," Walker says. The check is free. To find a site near you, visit SeatCheck.org. For a video on installing your seat, go to americanbaby.com/safe-mama.

Originally published in American Baby magazine in October 2011. Updated in May 2014.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.