For this month’s topic of Getting Active, I have decided to write about Getting Out and About… for those new parents who are anywhere from concerned to down right panicked at the thought of taking your baby out for athe first time…
I have been looking after babies and children for over 18 years, so to me this is not particularly daunting… However, for those parents who have possibly never even held a baby before your own cute little bundle arrived, the thought of going out into the big wide world for the first time might seem a little overwhelming. So, I am here to give you a few tips to reduce your stress levels and help you to enjoy the experience.
Firstly, I would say that the best time to take your baby out is when you feel comfortable to do that. I personally don’t think that for a healthy, full term baby there needs to be a period of time spent at home. If at day three you feel the need to get out, you can do that. If it is at week three or month three, you can do that too. If your baby is premature or has obvious health concerns then consider staying home for a while to reduce exposure to germs.
One of the main issues for new mums that I have come across is breast feeding in public. It can take six weeks or longer to really get the hang of it and have it be that your baby can latch on discreetly, rather than both boobs hanging out – particularly at the mall on a busy Saturday afternoon.
When the issue is a lack of confidence that it will all be ok, then I can recommend being organised and having a plan. I would suggest that the first couple of outings are ones that can easily be abandoned if necessary; a walk in the park or along the beach, short shopping trips, the post office or a cafe where a quick exit is easy if it all becomes too much – just don’t forget to pay on that last one!
If you are worried that your baby will start and not stop crying, well, babies do cry, but they also love movement. Don’t see your baby’s uncontrollable crying as a failure on your part, you are not responsible for what is going on for your baby, but you can comfort them in their moment of need. To do this I would always take a swaddle wrap with me when I go out. If the baby I am with gets overwhelmed, I just wrap them up firmly and tuck them into my shoulder and walk or bounce on my feet, wind usually comes out, either direction and if they are tired they slowly drift off. If you feel like people are watching, try to ignore them and take a deep breath or two. You can console your baby better than anyone else, providing you can relax enough to do it. A sling is a wonderful way to keep a baby happy and both of you moving.
I would recommend that both parents practise trying out your car seat, buggy and sling at home when you have a few spare minutes when you and your baby are relaxed. If ever there was a case for reading the instructions it would have to be for the equipment that will keep your child safe. Once you have read the instructions and figured out how it all works in reality, you will be prepared for when you need to use them for your first outings. This way you will not be heading towards a colossal argument before the trip even begins.
I’m guessing this is too late for most, but I would also suggest before the baby arrives checking out the facilities of the places that you frequent most often. I accompanied one client and her partner on their first outing with their baby. They were really anxious about the whole thing. Together we found the changing facilities and where to heat up the expressed breast milk bottle, the baby was no trouble at all – which I have to say is fairly typical. It is a lot of stimulation for a newborn baby to experience, driving in a car, the new sounds, smells and energies, so they do tend to go into their own little world of sleep. Using a sling is a great way to cocoon them from some of it and to make them feel secure. It’s worth noting though that if you are trying to get those milk calories in during the day, that a baby will sleep deeper and longer in a sling than in the buggy, so take them out to cool down and have a chance to wake up a little before you are hoping to feed them, or enjoy the break if that works for you too.
The most obvious thing to say is to feed and change your baby just before you leave – that means have everything else ready, keys, phone, handbag, buggy in the car, car seat lined up, nappy bag good to go and all that jazz, so that you – Feed. Change baby. Leave the house.
If you are going out and planning on breast feeding your baby as normal, consider taking the breastfeeding cushion you use – it can be stuffed under the buggy and it won’t be forever (a rolled up jumper can work too). It is usually only until the baby gets big enough for you to be able to grip and hold them in place properly. Wear appropriate easily accessible clothing. One client I worked for did make me laugh out loud by wearing a dress that did up at the back with small buttons whilst travelling on a plane – lucky that she was a model and even luckier for the bloke sitting next to her. Also, a shawl, wrap or scarf for some privacy for yourself. Tucking it under the bra strap on the side that you are feeding can help to hold it in place. There are breast feeding covers, a bit like an apron, that are designed just for this purpose. Having just spent some time researching them, it seems that it might be quite useful as it can also be used to cover the buggy or car seat if you’re looking for more shade, as well as shading your baby in a sling. Excellent!
If you are bottle feeding your baby I recommend taking a small thermos flask with freshly boiled water with you. If it’s expressed breast milk you can ask a coffee shop for a mug to pour water in a sit the milk in – they might be happy to provide hot water for you, but I would suggest being willing to pay for it. If formula feeding, I take some cooled boiled water in the bottle from home, and take a formula powder dispenser with the correct number of scoops for the amount I am going to make up. I add a little of the thermos flask water up to the correct amount, check the temperature and then add the formula – and voila, a bottle in about 30 seconds. (for example: depending on formula used, a 100ml bottle = 2 scoops. I would have 70-80 mls of room temp water already in the bottle and then add 20-30 mls of hot water. Making 100mls of warm milk once powder is added. Tommee Tippee and Fisher Price both do a brilliant thermos flask that has a large container as the outside which allows you to be very independent.
Whichever way, you will be feeding your baby. Find a place that is as comfortable as possible and as quiet as possible. Away from walkways if you can. The parent rooms in Malls often have seating areas where you can feed fairly quietly – with the change facilities right there. If you are not at a Mall, often, but not always, cafes have changing stations, and often some comfy seats to sit in too. Fast food restaurants almost always have places to change a baby, and I have been known to use the boot or back seat of the car for a bottom change or two. Airport departure lounges work well also. Once, when travelling from Spain back to London with the family I was with, I left the parents debating where to change the one year old (who really needed changing if you know what I mean), meanwhile I went to the corner and quickly and discreetly changed him. This is where hand sanitiser comes into it’s own. When I came back they were still talking about it. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be anywhere specific. This might not work for a newborn blowout though.
The essentials for going out with a newborn are (but not limited to) the following: Probably the most important is a change of clothes (newborns have blow out nappies that require almost nothing short of a full bath to clean them, but in the mean time change of clothes would suffice), a mat to lie baby on, nappies, nappy sacks (if you might take the nappy home with you), wipes or cotton wool + water (already wet in a bag), natural hand sanitiser (available in NZ from health food stores and some chemists) bottom cream (if required), burp cloth, bib, clean dummy if using. A bottle of water for mum, and a scarf, muslin, or other lightweight fabric for discretion when breast feeding. I am a fan of plastic bags for the nappy bag. A couple of supermarket ones for the blowouts and sandwich size ziploc bags are just the right size for a little change of clothes to keep them clean and dry until needed.
Have a think about where it is that you are most likely to go when you do decide to go out. Pick a place to go that will not stress you out from the get go. Is it to the Mall? the most likely to have pretty good change facilities and possibly a parents room like those at the Westfield Malls here in NZ where you can heat a bottle or sit down in relative privacy to feed. If it is an independent cafe or restaurant you might want to ask in advance of their facilities so that you know what you are letting yourself in for. Walks in the park and strolls along the beach are also great adventures for new parents. Visiting supportive relatives is another fun way to get out and about. For some new parents going out is just a necessity and the baby has to go to the supermarket at day two otherwise Mum and Dad go hungry, others will take it all in their stride, but for those who are anxious, I trust this information gives you some useful tools to work with.
Wherever you choose to go, relax and enjoy this time with your partner and new baby. The newborn stage doesn’t last for long and sometimes it’s remembered as a blur of continuous feeding, eating and not so much sleeping for parents. By getting out and about you will be creating other lovely memories to look back on in the years to come. So, get your thinking cap on about where and when you are heading out to introduce your little one to the delights of the big wide world.