It’s amazing how the baby who felt, frankly, enormous when she was on the inside kicking your ribs and bladder can look so tiny and fragile when she’s in your arms. The thought of taking this helpless little newborn out into the world of germs and traffic fumes can cause a lot of worry. Meanwhile, you’re going stir crazy at home. When is it safe to take your newborn out in public?
What Do Doctors Recommend?
Medical advice varies on when it’s okay to take newborns out and about. Some pediatricians recommend waiting until at least 6 weeks, or even 3 months, before taking the baby out of the house for extended periods.
The reason for waiting is that newborn immune systems are still developing. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, your baby can get some immune protection boost from your milk. Even so, new infants are more vulnerable than most people to infection. Fevers are more dangerous, and they’re not as ready to fight off disease. You can’t control the cleanliness of environments outside your house. Babies also understandably attract attention, and brand-new parents may not be sure they’re ready to ask well-meaning strangers to give their baby space (or, if it comes to it, tell people to back off).
On the other hand, some pediatricians leave the timeline up to parents’ discretion and don’t impose any wait limit. Many parents can’t afford not to do that grocery run, or pick an older child up from preschool. If you’re prepared to enforce boundaries and take the steps you can to minimize germ exposure, you can do a lot to protect your newborn’s health in public.
Getting the old “it varies” answer is irritating. We get that. So let’s run through some factors in your actual life that could be reason to go for it or reason to wait to take your baby out. That way, you can make an informed decision that fits your circumstances.
Reasons to Keep a Newborn Home
These factors are good reasons to minimize outings for a few weeks or months:
- It’s flu season: Winter and early spring can be dangerous times of year for spreading the flu. Flu, or even a nasty cold that’s going around, is extremely dangerous for newborns. It’s a smart idea to get a flu vaccine yourself during pregnancy, and ask anyone visiting the baby to get their flu shot, too.
- Your baby has a health issue: Preemies and babies with other conditions that could compromise their immune system makes them especially vulnerable.
- The outing squeezes you up next to people: Think church, a bus or subway, a movie theater, or other situations where you’re less than a foot from someone who could touch or sneeze all over your baby at any time. Aim for outings where you feel comfortable getting away whenever you need to.
- It’s very hot or cold outside: Extreme temperatures are hard for you and baby to handle.
- You’re worried: Your instinct matters! If you fear you’ll be too shocked to step in when a stranger tries to touch baby’s face, or you just feel stressed about taking baby out, wait.
Getting Out With Baby
These tips can make you feel more confident about your baby’s first outing at any age:
- Your baby is up to date on vaccines: Vaccinations are your best tool to protect your infant against disease. Keeping your baby up to date on shots helps him develop immunity.
- Your baby is dressed for the weather: Choosing the right number of layers to keep your baby comfortable helps keep her healthy. (Bring a change of clothes just in case!)
- Your baby is in your own carrier. You can keep your own stroller or baby carrier clean and limit baby’s ability to touch other surfaces. Baby-wearing with a wrap is another way to keep baby close and protected. Stash a pack of disinfectant wipes in your bag to wipe down grocery cart handles and other germ centers.
- First outings are scaled appropriately: A walk outside in the fresh air? Lovely. A five-day hike with no cell phone reception? Maybe too ambitious for those early weeks. When in doubt, go for something short and sweet so you can adjust plans in the moment as needed.
- You’re comfortable saying “no”: No, you can’t hold him. No, you can’t touch him. Don’t lean in close, please. None of these are rude or unfriendly to say. You’re protecting a new baby, and you have every right to keep your distance.
- You wash your own hands frequently: Don’t get so wrapped up in keeping germy strangers away that you forget about your own exposure!
If you’re feeling pressured to get out or pass the baby around, know that it’s absolutely fine for you to wait until you’re ready. You’ve got all the time in the world to show off your little one, so choose the moment that feels right for your family, not anyone else’s.