When Can Your Newborn Go Outside?

Mother carrying her newborn baby

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The idea that newborn babies should stay inside is an old wives’ tale and completely false. Getting fresh air and natural sunlight is good for both you and your baby, no matter how recently she was born. In fact, there is no medical reason not to take her outside the day after you take her home from the hospital, as long as you both feel up to it.

However, you should take some precautions and implement certain restrictions in order to keep your baby healthy. Here are some guidelines for where to go and not go with your newborn, how to dress her appropriately, and how to protect her from the elements. 

Avoid Large Crowds 

While it's fine to go out in the yard or to a quiet park, you'll want to try your best to avoid places where there are crowds for the first several weeks of your baby's life.

The younger she is, the more immature her immune system, and the more susceptible she is to pick up germs from other people and nearby coughs, sneezes, and unclean hands. Once your baby reaches 2 to 3 months, her immune system will mature significantly and you won't need to be as concerned.

Babies are irresistible, which means strangers may want to touch and play with her—leaving you with less control over what she's exposed to. So, keep that in mind before you head to the mall or the local swimming pool.

A good way to protect baby from strangers' germ-filled hands is to wear your baby in a sling. When family members or friends want to hold your baby, insist that they wash their hands first.

Dress Your Baby For the Weather

Before you head out and about, you might be tempted to bundle your baby up in extra layers, or if it's summertime, to put her in a stroller in just her diaper. The general rule of thumb is to dress your baby for the weather—not too hot and not too cold—and add an additional layer.

Use your own clothing as a guide. If you're comfortable wearing a T-shirt, put your baby in a long-sleeved shirt, and if you're wearing a sweatshirt, baby may also need a light jacket. Always have a spare blanket on hand to use as an extra layer.

Unlike adults, babies are not able to regulate their body temperature as efficiently. So keep a careful eye on your baby to make sure she isn't too hot or cold. Listen to your baby's cues, if she is uncomfortable, she will cry will to let you know.

If your baby is too hot, she may get flushed and a little sweaty on the hairline. Remove a layer or blanket. As long as the baby isn't in the sun, it's OK to wear just a diaper in the sweltering heat, but you don't want to stay out in the heat for long.

Likewise, if your baby is cold, she will likely cry to let you know. If the temperature is cold, keep your baby bundled up tightly with hands and feet tucked in to stay warm. And always be sure your newborn wears a hat outdoors when it is cold, as humans lose body heat through their heads.

Protect Your Baby From the Elements

Whether it is winter or summer, facing the elements without the right protection is never a good idea. Here's what you need to know for the different seasons of the year.

In Winter

It's perfectly safe to take the baby outside in the winter, provided she is bundled up properly (as discussed above), the temperature isn't too cold, and you keep the trip brief. Sometimes babies need a few gasps of fresh air and natural light, especially if they are colicky.

Use caution in cold weather. Babies are at an increased risk of hypothermia, due to their still-developing nervous system, minimal amount of subcutaneous fat, and an inability to shiver to bring up their body temperature. If the weather is freezing outside, you may still take the baby out for quick trips out, provided the windchill factor is above 20°F. Do not stay out for longer than a few minutes.

In Spring

Spring is a wonderful time of year to have a newborn. Winter's cold has started to thaw, and the days are getting longer. This is an ideal time to enjoy a walk or trip to the playground with older kids.

Spring days can be deceptive though. A bright and clear day can quickly give way to gusts of wintry air, or a sudden rain shower. Always check the weather before taking the baby out in the spring and be prepared with an umbrella for the stroller, extra blankets, and a change of clothes in case you get caught in an unexpected downpour.

In Summer

In summer, you want to protect your baby from the sun, excessive heat, and mosquitoes. On hot summer days, try to avoid going on in the heat of the day, and instead try to time outdoor activities for the morning or late afternoon. If the thermometer reaches 80°F, head inside.

Babies under 6 months of age should never use sunscreen, so you'll need to keep baby in the shade and use a sun hat. When taking a walk or going to the park, use a stroller with shade and check to make sure the baby isn't in direct sunlight at any time.

If your area has a lot of mosquitoes, you may want to use a mesh net to cover the stroller or pack-n-play in the back yard, but be sure the mesh is away from your baby's face.

In Fall

Just like springtime, autumn can be a great time to have a baby. The temperature is moderate, with lots of sunny days and colorful leaves to enjoy. However, the weather can change quickly on fall days as well.

In early fall, chilly mornings can give way to summer-like afternoons, while in late autumn, bright sunny days can have a deceptive winter chill. Layering is key in fall weather, so be sure to have extra blankets with you to keep your newborn warm outdoors.

When You Get Home

When you get home from an outing, be sure to wash your newborn's hands, especially if anyone has touched her. It would also be a great idea to wash your own hands, to avoid transferring anything from yourself to the baby. Some parents feel better giving baby a bath after coming home from excursions, especially shopping trips to the grocery store or mall where the baby may have been exposed to germs.

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