When Can You Take a Newborn Outside?
Navigating those first days and hours with a newborn in the hospital is hard enough, but eventually you have to leave the hospital and get back to life. But how do you know when it’s okay to start venturing out? Or even having people come visit? And how do you integrate this new little person into your world while keeping him safe? Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what works best for your family, but even though I am obviously not a doctor and you should ask yours if you have questions, here are a few things we’ve learned along the way as we’ve brought our six babies home.
I will say that people are MUCH more considerate of keeping a baby safe in this post-Covid world. Before Covid, people were way less aware of germs and generally dismissed any efforts to protect your baby as the actions of an overprotective parent. But now that we’ve all been forced to see the impact of contagious illnesses, people tend to be a little more gracious about letting parents’ make whatever decisions they need to keep their babies safe. So hopefully things will be a little easier for you than they were for us on our first few babies!
Time of Year/Climate
When your baby is born makes a big difference in when it’s okay to take her out. When the weather is good and illnesses are way down, it’s totally fine to take your baby on a walk outside as soon as you feel up to it. With our first (born in September) we ventured out a lot right away because the walks around the neighborhood put her to sleep and helped with my recovery. If the weather is too cold for the baby to be out, lay low until things warm up and it’s safe to take her out.
If it’s a time of the year when illnesses are high, it’s best to sit tight and keep the baby safe. Sure, you’ll be sad to miss out on a few things, but you’d be devastated if your baby becomes unnecessarily sick.
Newborn Baby Visitors
We’ve always (except during Covid) had our siblings and our parents come and visit our new babies in the hospital. They have all been very respectful about handwashing and only coming if they are healthy.
Once we are home, it’s generally the same people who want to come and see the baby, though this time they usually bring their families. We have decided that when our babies are brand new, we would only allow healthy adults to hold them. Though we know all of the many cousins would love a chance to snuggle the newest member of their crew, they’ve all been really sweet to respect our plan and waited until the baby was a little older before holding him.
We’ve found that it helps to have hand sanitizer placed in lots of areas around our home. That way anyone who enters our house typically takes a quick pump before coming near the baby. And now that masking has been more normalized, it is perfectly okay for you to ask visitors to wear a mask if you are concerned.
When is it safe to take a newborn out in public?
We’ve found that we dare take our baby to a public place before we’d dare take him to something like church. At Costco, for example, you can put the baby carrier in your cart, keep the baby covered, and know that he is staying relatively safe. If the baby is covered (with ventilation), we’ve had very few instances where people ask to see the baby. And while he’s strapped in (and likely asleep) no one is asking to hold him. Any curious friends that you might run into can take a quick peek from a distance and you can be on your way. Just make sure that no one is touching the baby with their germy grocery-store hands.
However, going out in public to a place where you will be surrounded by friends is a different story. For example, we do not bring our babies with us to church until they are at least three months old. Everyone in our congregation is excited to meet our new little one and wants to see and touch and hold. We’ve found it’s just easier to wait and not have to have any awkward conversations. When we DO go back, I usually wear the baby in a carrier. I’ve found people are less likely to want to see and touch the baby when she is close to me. It’s worked really well.
When can I take my newborn out to a restaurant?
Taking a newborn to a restaurant is a little trickier than going to a store. You’ll likely be there for a longer amount of time and you’ll be sitting in tighter quarters in a much smaller building. Because of those factors, it’s riskier to take your baby to a restaurant until he’s a bit older. Don’t go until you feel comfortable taking him out of the relative safety of his covered (but ventilated) car seat for a feeding–we have yet to have a baby actually sleep through the whole meal.
Can you take a newborn to the beach?
Taking a newborn to the beach is relatively safe from an illness perspective–you’re outside, the weather is nice, and you are able to easily separate from other people. The biggest consideration for heading to the beach is sun exposure. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend exposing newborns to direct sunlight because their skin is so sensitive. Too sensitive, even, for sunscreen. When sun exposure was unavoidable, we opted for super clean mineral-based sunblock for our baby that our pediatrician recommended. But try to make sure your baby’s skin is covered and you stick to the shade. Watch for signs of overheating and dehydration, too.
How soon can a newborn travel?
I still remember the first time we took our first baby out of town for a work trip. We couldn’t believe that we didn’t need someone’s permission to do it! It felt insane to be fully in charge of this little person.
So how soon can you travel? Well, that depends on HOW you’re traveling and where you’re going. If you’re traveling by car to a location where you can easily control illness exposure and social distancing, then you’re good to go as soon as you think you can handle it. Just be prepared for frequent stops to feed and give the baby time out of the car seat.
If you’re hoping to travel by plane, you’re going to need to give it a little more time. Most experts agree that a four-month-old baby can handle a plane ride, but that is a baby who doesn’t have any health issues. Because of the circulated air and close exposure, common practice is to wait until a baby is three to six months old before taking to the skies.
We have traveled extensively with our kids, so I can tell you with relative expertise that babies tend to do really well on flights. Something about the white noise of the engines and the constant attention, I bet. Just one pro tip: make sure that your baby is either nursing or taking a bottle at take off and landing to help with the pressure in his ears.
Taking Newborns to Family Gatherings
These are tricky. We’ve had babies born right before Thanksgiving (#3) and right before Christmas (#6). We have huge families who like to gather a lot, so we’ve had to be really thoughtful about how we handled things. We have missed some gatherings that were REALLY close to the baby’s birth and gone to some that were a couple of weeks after. We just try to be careful about how many people will be there and if we’ve heard of a lot of illness going around our area. We have stuck to our rule about not letting the baby be passed around at family parties and it’s turned out well. An adult or two who are confident they are healthy will hold the baby, but that’s about it.
We’ve been told by our pediatrician that the germiest group of people is teenagers because their immune systems are so strong they often don’t know they are carrying illness. We’ve got a lot of darling teenage nieces and nephews, but they’ve been really good at waiting to hold the baby until we’re ready. We did have one sweet niece whose birthday was a few weeks after our youngest baby was born. All she wanted was to hold our baby, so because it was her birthday we did let her hold the baby–with freshly sanitized hands and a mask.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately our advice is this: wait as long as you can and be as careful as you can without making yourself crazy. Your baby will likely still get sick at some point, but by pushing that out as long as possible, he will have the best chance at weathering the illness well. Be careful about who you let near your baby, but make sure that you are allowing people in who will support you, your recovery, and your baby. And always remember to reach out if you are feeling overwhelmed or need help navigating the rollercoaster that is new parenthood.