The great outdoors - with a new baby
Well done! You've managed to get through giving birth, survived the postnatal wards and have kept your head above water at home with your lovely new baby.
Autopilot engaged and every day becomes a ritual of feeds, nappies, washing, naps and repeat.
It's so easy to 'just stay indoors' at home because you are exhausted, the world out there seems so much more daunting with a baby and you might be afraid your baby might pick up nasty bugs.
There are no hard and fast rules about when you can safely take your new baby out. In short, it can be whenever you yourself feel ready. It is however really important to get out as soon as you feel up to it.
We used to worry about babies immune systems not being ready for attack but in recent years studies have shown that for healthy term babies their defences are stronger than once thought. For the first few weeks they have passive immunity through a large number of mum's antibodies which have crossed the placenta ready for action, and in addition to this babies do have an inbuilt system to fight off infections from bacteria and viruses.
Breast fed babies also get an extra boost of antibodies should you be opting to do so. I still recommend avoiding very crowded places or letting lots of people touch or kiss your baby initially but this does mean we can be less fearful of the great outdoors!
Getting outside even for short periods of time is really good for both you and your baby. Physical activity itself improves mood, reduces stress and increases calm. It can help release the feel-good hormones called endorphins that ward off feelings of depression in both men and women.
Babies will often reflect how parents are feeling so looking after your own psychological wellbeing will go a long way to easing some of the pressure of looking after a little one.
Avoid becoming isolated by joining parenting groups, or dropping in to children's centres. These can be a great starting point to make getting out and about more regularly, and you are likely to find other parents in the same boat!
You will probably find that simply walking outdoors with your baby in the pram will help to get them napping more easily both during walks and later on as the motion and vibrations are thought to mimic sounds in the womb and can elicit a sense of familiarity and calm.
My advice is try not to put it off too long, so do think about going out as soon as you feel ready, and do make it a regular event. The benefits are plenty both for you and your baby's general wellbeing and progress!
Dr Monah's top tips for going out with your newborn
- Plan ahead - try to time your outing for after a feed and a nappy change that way you will have a calmer baby and no rush to change while you are outside
- Make sure your baby is safe from the sun. Babies under 6 months should not be exposed to direct sunlight, as their skin is highly sensitive. Use pram hoods, sunshades and parasols, and avoid going out in the peak hot hours in the middle of the day
- Dress your baby for the weather. A good rule of thumb is one layer more than what you feel comfortable in outdoors. Take a spare blanket or large muslin wrap
- Start with shorter walks and build up gradually. For mums, no matter what method your baby was delivered by, you will still be in recovery so don't go nuts just yet!
- Pack a small bag with your backup kit - portable changing mat, nappy and wipes as well as a change of clothes in case things don¹t go to plan. A drink and snacks for yourself is a great idea too
- Make sure you are comfortable yourself comfy clothing and shoes will help whether it's mum or dad taking baby for a walk!
- Don't set yourself a strict timetable for going outside, if you get out and after 5 minutes it's not really working, that's ok, just head back and you can try again another day
- If you really aren¹t feeling up to doing much even after a few weeks and this all seems alien you may be suffering from postnatal depression. Speak to your doctor, there¹s plenty of help available
- Keep moving and get chatting while you're on the move! There's plenty of evidence that talking to your baby, including conversing in an adult way (crazy as it may seem) boosts their general brain development and helps with language skills for many years to come
- Most of all, enjoy! Tired as you are right now, these are wonderful times!
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.