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One of the most challenging parts of being a new parent is feeling like you’re stuck in the house. It’s a tough reminder your free time isn’t really your own anymore and can make you really miss just running errands or going out for a meal.

However, taking your new baby out into the world isn’t something you can do right away or in the same way you used to. Why? First and foremost, your baby is incredibly sensitive to germs, bacteria and viruses that can make them sick, since their immune system isn’t developed yet. The immune system is the body’s natural defense against illness and without it, your baby is very vulnerable to everything from a coughing stranger in the grocery store to kisses from well-meaning friends.

The second reason your new baby can’t handle a lot of exposure in the early days is the elements. Drastic changes of temperature, direct sunlight and pollution can also make your new baby sick. They can easily become too cold, overheated or dehydrated, which is why caution is necessary.

So when can you start taking your baby outside of their house? While there can be some conflicting information, a good recommendation is to lay low for the first two weeks aside from doctor’s appointments. You can go for walks with the baby around the neighborhood, but use this time to bond and get adjusted. After that, going to crowded places like a shopping mall should probably be avoided for a few more weeks, but you can start bringing the baby to the homes of friends and family or inviting more visitors over. If you need to make another stop, try avoiding peak business hours.

When it comes to taking your child out to visit friends and family or to a store or restaurant, being prepared is important. The first thing to do is check the weather for the day and make sure your baby is dressed properly. While you can take cues from how you would dress yourself, babies need extra protection as well. If it’s sunny out, consider a wide-brimmed hat or a covered stroller along with light, breathable clothing. If the weather is cold, remember a knit cap, socks and mittens to keep them toasty warm. Once they’re dressed, you need to pack breast milk or formula for them. Even if you think you won’t be gone long, you’ll quickly learn how unpredictable your newborns eating habits can be. Having adequate fluids is also important in case they get too warm. Quick tip for formula: pack sterilized bottles of hot or warm water so it will have cooled to approximately the right temperature when your baby is ready to feed. Take the formula powder in a small container. That way you will have plenty of formula milk, but you will not waste any.

Other items to make sure you have with you when you head out include diapers, diaper changing mat,  a feeding cover, a blanket, burp cloth, wipes, extra clothing and a few toys or books to help you keep them occupied if they get upset. You may feel like you need an extra person to carry all the stuff that you need! And whilst you don’t need a cool looking bag to carry it all, you may feel that you deserve one.  If you are out for the day, packing spare clothes for yourself is also a good idea. (Author experience: I will never forget the time on an airplane when my son vomited an entire milk feed all over me.  I had spare clothes in my bag for him but not for me.  It never happened again!)  Hand sanitizer is another one — don’t be shy about asking friends and family to clean their hands before holding the baby. You can never be too careful.

Enjoy those early days together as a newly expanded family and don’t feel pressured to take your baby around to meet people. When you’re ready to take him or her out, just take a deep breath and allow yourself plenty of time to prepare and get the task at hand completed. Once they’re older, these outings will be a wonderful way to teach your child new things.

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