Deciding when to take baby out in public and around others for the first time is a pressing and sometimes worrisome topic for most new parents, and especially first-time parents. The concern is that infants do not have fully developed immune systems and as a result are unable to resist or fight off sickness.
According to most pediatric health experts, infants can be taken out in public or outside right away as long as parents follow some basic safety precautions. There's no need to wait until 6 weeks or 2 months of age. Getting out, and in particular, getting outside in nature, is good for parents and babies. Sunlight and fresh air provides health benefits like Vitamin D exposure and mood and energy boosts.
To keep your new baby healthy and safe, it's important to be aware of the environment and the people you encounter when going out in public for the first few weeks and months in order to reduce exposure to illness. When taking baby out and about, follow these few simple tips:
Limited direct sun exposure - The sun provides essential vitamin D, which all of us and especially new babies need. However, babies are also more susceptible to sunburn. Limit direct sun exposure to around 15 minutes, and then use a cover or sunscreen afterward. Talk with your doctor about your child's individual health to determine how much sun is safe.
Keep germy hands and faces away - This is an obvious and important tip to follow. You won't always know who is sick, but in general, it's a good idea to keep other children's hands and faces away from your baby's hands, face, and mouth. Also, it's generally smart to not allow strangers to touch or hold your baby. With family members, you can still be selective. Hopefully, a family member will instinctively not ask to hold baby if they know they are sick. Either way, you have the right to politely and firmly say no when anyone asks to hold baby. Their health is at stake!
Be selective about location - Schools, doctors' offices, hospitals, day cares, airplanes -- these places are known to be Germ Central Station and should be avoided when possible. If it's not possible, keep your baby close in your arms or carrier, or use a cover on your infant carrier or stroller. Also, be sure to wash your own hands frequently so as not to pass along anything you've picked up while touching surfaces or other people's hands.
Mind the heat (and cold) - Don't over or under dress your baby for the temperature outside. Parents and grandparents have a tendency to believe that babies need to be bundled up, but depending on the weather, that may not be necessary and could cause baby to overheat. Dress your baby in as many layers as you are wearing and bring a blanket just in case.
Caring for a newborn is a combination of common sense, gut instinct, and professional guidance. If your infant has special medical needs, your guidelines for bringing baby out in public may be different and it may, in fact, be critical for your child's health to avoid public places for a specific period of time. Do your research, use your head, and talk with your child's doctor to make the best evidence-based decision.