So you're home from the hospital and excited to be settling in with your baby. But just wait -- pretty soon you'll be itching to get out of the house, even if it's just for a stroll around the block. We asked some experts to address your most common concerns about your baby's first outdoor adventures.
I've been home with my infant for just a few days, but I'm already feeling totally cooped up. Help!
If the weather's good -- no rain or extreme temperatures -- go ahead and get some fresh air. "A good first outing is a walk around the neighborhood," says Laura Hunter, an Atlanta-area pediatric nurse and coauthor of The Moms on Call Guide to Basic Baby Care. It won't take much effort, and it's a great stress reliever. But don't take on too much too soon; you should wait at least two to three weeks before bringing your baby along to the grocery store or on errands, because it can be totally exhausting for both of you. When you're ready to venture out for more than a stroll, take a friend or family member with you the first time, especially if you're feeling anxious or nervous, suggests Sarah Klagsbrun, M.D., a child psychiatrist in New York City and founder of Uptown Mommies parenting groups. The extra set of hands will come in handy if you need to change a diaper or if your baby starts crying uncontrollably.
Going out around town
I have to take my 10-day-old daughter to the pediatrician, and I'm worried about her being around sick kids.
Many pediatrician's offices have different "sick" and "well" waiting rooms. "But don't delude yourself into thinking that there aren't germs in the 'well' sections," says Jay Rosenbloom, M.D., a pediatrician in Portland, Oregon. Bring along hand sanitizer, and be sure to use it before touching your baby, her toys, or her bottle. When possible, schedule visits on Tuesdays when the office is less crowded, recommends Hunter. Also aim for the first appointment of the day or the first appointment after lunch to avoid long waits.
My in-laws are coming to town, and I'd love to do some sightseeing with them -- can I take my 6-week-old along to museums and restaurants?
It's okay to take the baby with you if you keep him covered in a carrier, away from crowds and overly curious strangers. Opt for a quiet restaurant with a cozy corner where you can feed him. If you go to a museum or any other tourist spot, don't make it an all-day affair and it's safest not to go during flu season (October to May). In general, avoid places where your baby will be in contact with lots of kids. "I wouldn't take a baby under 8 weeks old to a children's museum or a church nursery," says Hunter.
Air travel with baby
My grandmother's having an 80th-birthday bash, and we'd have to fly there. Is it safe to take a 3-month-old on a plane?
It's absolutely fine to travel with your baby. There aren't specific dangers related to flying -- the main concern is exposure to germs, as it is in other confined spaces. So carry plenty of hand sanitizer, keep her covered whenever possible, and avoid direct contact with strangers. If you can, breastfeed or give her a bottle when you take off and land to relieve pressure on her ears. Although most airlines will allow you to keep your baby on your lap, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends purchasing a separate seat (ask about lower rates that may not be advertised for kids under 2) and using the airplane's seat belt to secure your car seat in case of turbulence.
My mom's always putting blankets on my 4-month-old son because she thinks he's cold. How can I tell if he's warm enough?
Recognize that your mom means well, but trust your own judgment. If you live in a hot climate, usually one layer of clothing is enough, but take along a blanket in case you'll be in an air-conditioned room. In cold weather, dress your baby the same way you would dress to stay warm. Use undershirts and blankets for extra layers without much bulk. And don't forget that babies need sun protection all year long. Try to keep him in the shade, dress him in a hat with a brim, and use sunscreen on any exposed skin. The AAP says that a small amount of sunscreen is safe for an infant on limited areas, as long as you keep it away from his eyes and mouth and watch for possible reactions. Test a tiny amount on his skin first to make sure he doesn't have a reaction.
- Make sure your baby is strapped in securely and the stroller has a canopy you can close for protection in direct sun.
- Choose smooth terrain -- it's important to keep your baby's head and neck protected from jerky movements.
- Make sure your collapsible stroller is firmly locked into the open position before you use it.
- Use an umbrella stroller until your baby is 6 months old (it won't provide adequate head and neck support).
- Use a jogging stroller until the baby is 6 weeks to 6 months old (check the manufacturer's recommendations; they vary).
- Hang bags from the handles -- the stroller could tip! Use the basket to tote your gear.
Originally published in the October 2007 issue of Parents magazine.