When you take your baby out in public really depends on who you are and who you talk to. Even the most extreme rule-follower might have a tough time figuring this one out because, like many parenting quandaries, there are a myriad of “right” answers and opinions. I asked several of the doctors at my pediatrician’s office and answers varied – even between doctors of the same practice.
Although the right answer is fuzzy when it comes to a healthy newborn, most medical professionals agree that if your newborn is sick or premature or has any sort of complications, you should be overprotective for the first two to three months.
The Two-Month Standard
Any doctor will tell you, it’s important to monitor your newborn’s temperature in those early months because unlike older children or adults, newborn babies could have very serious illnesses and display little to no symptoms. A 100-degree temperature in a 4-month-old is nothing to sweat about, but if your two-week old is running that same temperature, chances are you’ll be sent to the ER and your baby will have to undergo a spinal tap.
Because of this, many parents choose to hide away for those first two months to limit their baby’s exposure to germs. But, this isn’t something that you HAVE to do.
How extreme you get with the two-month standard or if you even observe it at all is really up to you. Most doctors won’t even bring up “when you can bring your baby out” if you’ve had a normal delivery and a healthy baby. In fact, most mothers I know had their babies out and about within a week of birth. A lot of breastfeeding mothers will say they have confidence that their babies are protected because they’re drinking breast milk.
Where you go and when you go are personal decisions, but if you do choose to take your baby out in those early months, here are a few protective measures you can take:
- Wear Your Baby
If you don’t have a Moby or Ergo wrap, GET ONE. One of the best ways to keep people from touching your baby is to wear your baby. I could write a book on all the added benefits of wearing your baby. This is just one of them.
- Embrace Your Inner Mama Grizzly
I am extremely non-confrontational. I grew up a top tier people pleaser…until I had children. Something about the gravity of motherhood changed me. If it has to do with the safety of my children, I really don’t care who I offend. I’m not exaggerating that much when I say that after the birth of my most recent daughter, I smacked an old woman’s hand away, as she reached up to sweetly rub my newborn’s cheek. Cold? Maybe. But, my daughter was 2-weeks-old, this woman was a complete stranger (who definitely hadn’t sanitized her hands), and I had decided early on to embrace my over-protectiveness in that 2-month-window of vulnerability. [Note: Old lady and I are fine.]
- Be Smart With Your Excursions
My pediatrician told me to go to Target – but not on Saturdays. He told me to eat at my favorite restaurant, but only during the 3pm dead times. Basically, you can go out and live your life, but be strategic about it. Don’t go to Chili’s during the dinner rush. Don’t go to the grocery store when you have to crawl over people to get to the coffee. Go when everyone is at work. There’s no danger in having your child in outside places. The danger is in them picking up illnesses from well-meaning people with dirty hands.
I think that out of any sample of mother’s, my advice would be on the extreme side. Most people would tell you to just live your life and don’t let any sick people hold your baby. With my first child, I was pretty much a hermit for those first two months. With my second, however, life couldn’t just STOP because I had to get the older kid to and from her activities. I didn’t want to keep her cooped up for two months just because she had a little sister. So, I did take my second child out earlier, but I was very protective. I went to social gatherings when I had to (wearing my baby in the Moby wrap) and started off saying, “I would love to pass her around, but we’re waiting until the 2-month period has passed. Most everyone understood and once we passed that mark, I loosened up and passed her all around town (except of course, not to obviously sick people).
If you’re reading this and can’t decide where you stand, I’d say trust your gut. You are the SmartMom and you probably already know by now that there aren’t really that many right or wrong answers when it comes to all these tiny details. Do what you feel is right for your family.