How to take your newborn out in public “early” (and how to do it safely)
We’ve discussed how some recommendations say to keep your brand new baby indoors until they are about 2 months old. The idea is that you want to wait until they’ve had their first round of vaccines and until their immune systems are a bit stronger. But what if you can’t—or don’t want to—wait? Here are some facts about how to get out with your newborn and keep your little one safe in the process.
1. Realize that those vaccines aren’t going to prevent most of what your baby’s exposed to. Unless there is a whooping cough or rotavirus outbreak, for example, the majority of the bugs that could make your baby sick aren’t even covered by vaccines. This includes the everyday viruses that could cause the common cold or related illnesses. So to think your baby is magically protected against all infectious diseases with his or her 2 months shots is unfortunately not realistic. With that in mind, we still recommend following the traditional vaccine schedule, but realize it doesn’t cover everything!
2. If you breastfeed, you are “vaccinating” your baby with every feed. Breast milk contains antibodies that help fight against disease, and your milk makes antibodies to whatever germs you are exposed to. Nursing passes these on to your baby, so if you plan to take your baby out in public when he or she is only a few weeks old, your baby is already protected from the antibodies in your milk.
3. If you’ve got an older sibling at home, you essentially are exposing your newborn to all the germs big brother comes in contact with daily. Older siblings who are in daycare, school, or go out at all come in contact with tons of microbes every day, and you can bet they make their way into your house. Therefore, the idea of sequestering your newborn at home is kind of an oxymoron when there are older kids in the house. Your baby is getting exposed to them anyway, so if you need to take your baby out, don’t fret—he or she has kind of already “been out” before even stepping out the door!
4. Use common sense when going out. Most of these suggestions are intuitive: avoid crowded places (a children’s museum on a Saturday might be germ overload for your baby, while a morning at a park filled with fresh air is probably better), use good hand hygiene, keep well-meaning strangers from touching your baby, and consider being more strict with excursions during flu outbreaks.
5. Wear your baby. This is a great way to keep your baby close to you and, more importantly, keep strangers’ hands (and coughs!) away from your little one.
6. Realize the oxymoron of the pediatrician’s office. Some say not to take your baby out, but then you bring them to the pediatrician for their regular check-ups and vaccines. These offices are probably some of the germiest places you’ll set foot in! So if you are feeling guilty about taking your two-week-old on a stroll through the neighborhood, stop and realize what a contradiction this is.
7. Consider your mental health. Locking yourself up for a few months because you are afraid to go out with your baby might not be the best for your own mood, and your baby needs a happy parent. Fresh air is good for everyone! Always weigh the risks and benefits and do what is right for you and your family, and if that means trips to the park and maybe a lunch date out with your newest bundle of joy, so be it.