Taking our newborn babies outside. Are we allowed to do it? Is it good for them? What do we need to consider when doing so?
Maybe you recently came home from the hospital and are feeling desperate for fresh air with your new baby. Maybe you’re wondering if it’s okay to take that baby outside. Maybe you’re second-guessing yourself, taking your baby outside of your home. As they say, babies don’t come with instruction manuals!
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What temperature is it safe to take baby outside?
It is important to consider the temperature when you want to head outside with your baby. If dressed appropriately in mild weather, your baby will be just fine! (Be sure to check with your doctor if you have any specific health concerns.)
If the weather is hot, dress your baby in minimal layers. It is important to keep your baby out of direct sunlight. Most doctors don’t recommend using sunscreen on a baby until they are six months old. Also, indirect sunlight is usually recommended for any babies with jaundice. You may want to limit the time you are outside with your baby if it is very hot.
Likewise, if the weather is cold, you want to dress your baby appropriately. One more layer than what you wear, is a good rule of thumb in the cold. Limit your outside time with your baby if the weather is very cold.
Again, no instruction manuals, but here’s a helpful chart to help you determine what temperatures are safe and which ones you should be a bit more mindful of.
When is it safe to take a newborn outside for a walk?
You can take your newborn outside for a walk whenever you feel comfortable, and the weather is right.
There are a few ways to take your newborn for a walk outside. You can just carry your baby, wear your baby, or push the stroller.
If you are planning to carry or wear your baby, make sure you feel sturdy on your feet. I know after coming home from the hospital, I tended to be a little wobbly for the first few days. If you, too, feel shaky, you can have your partner hold the baby, or you can use a stroller.
If you are planning to use a baby carrier, have someone help you put the baby in the carrier. These often take some practice, and it can be very helpful to have another set of hands the first few times. If you are by yourself, use a mirror as you put your baby in the carrier.
Most occupational therapists recommend a bassinet-type stroller, so the baby can lay flat. If this is not an option for you, you can use a baby car seat carrier with a stroller that matches up with it. If you go this route, just be conscious of how much time your baby is in the car seat. It’s not recommended that newborns spend a lot of time this way, because their neck can’t support the weight of their head. Also, it’s not great for muscle development. It is not advised that newborn babies sit in a typical stroller at all. Once your baby’s neck can support his head, you should be able to use a typical stroller. If you have any questions about stroller safety, be sure to consult your doctor or the stroller manufacturer.
Benefits of babies outdoors
There are lots of benefits for babies who spend time outdoors. From sensory experiences, to better sleep to language development, there are big perks for taking your baby outdoors.
A simple walk outside is a big adventure for your baby! This sensory experience appeals to all of his senses. He can hear the birds, feel the wind and see the trees. All of this begins to imprint on his little brain.
The Journal of Sleep Research found that exposing babies to sunlight in the early afternoon seemed to help babies sleep better at night. In my own experience, I have always found that my babies sleep better when they have spent time outside.
When you take your baby outside, you might see that she has her eyes fixated on a bird. Tell her what she is seeing. You might say, “That is a bird. The bird is brown. The bird has wings.” Of course, your little baby is not going to actually understand this information. But your baby is hearing your voice and starting to understand speech patterns. And this important stuff is what leads to language development.
Can the outdoors help with postpartum depression?
One in nine mothers develop postpartum depression. It has been suggested that being outside can prevent or lessen the effects of postpartum depression. You can read here about an ongoing study exploring this idea. The data is still being collected. However, they say that it is looking like there are some serious benefits to spending time outside for mothers with postpartum depression.
What should I be doing while I’m outside with the baby?
You can do all sorts of things. You can feed your baby. You may just stare at your sweet baby. You might even have a boost of energy and feel like you want to be productive as your baby is napping next to you. I write here about some productive things you can do outside, once you have recovered from giving birth. Number three is my new favorite!
You can certainly take your baby outside. Pending any unfavorable weather or illnesses particular to your child, you should be able to spend time with your newborn outside on a daily basis. This is a great way to bond with your new little love.