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We’ve all heard it. Maybe we even took it as gospel truth. It’s the old instructions to keep newborns at home for the first 6-8 weeks of their life. With my first baby, I followed these instructions as if they’d been handed down by the Almighty Himself. Come to find out, that’s an old wives tale. It’s not necessary to keep a newborn home for the first 6 weeks!
In fact, it’s better to get a baby out into the fresh air and sunshine. Probably much, much better! It can do a world of good for a baby with jaundice, a mom with baby blues or postpartum depression, and anyone who’s feeling cooped up or overwhelmed.
Who said we have to keep a newborn home anyway?
So far, I haven’t found any “official” document that specifically says to keep a newborn in the house. But if you ask any expectant mother, she’ll probably tell you that it’s what she’s supposed to do. The information gets passed down from one generation of new moms to the next by word of mouth. It comes from other parents, friends, relatives, and even well-meaning doctors.
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Now I’d never EVER say you should go against what your doctor tells you to do. But if your doctor tells you to keep a baby home, ask for clarification. What they usually mean is that you shouldn’t take your baby into crowded public areas. Which is totally accurate – but not the same as staying home.
Where newborns need to be
Babies need to get outside. Think about it. When you’re cooped up in a house for a while, you get a little anxious. Even homebodies get cabin fever. Thank God for our home, but it’s not the healthiest place to stay all the time. It’s full of stale air, artificial light, and low levels of electromagnetic frequencies. All this affects newborns the same way it affects you.
In a sunny place
Newborns need sunshine, especially if they have jaundice. A nice sunny atmosphere works wonders for jaundiced babies! So if your new bundle of joy looks a little yellow, get her outside.
There are also many babies who are low in vitamin D and require a multivitamin. Breastmilk does contain vitamin D, but not quite as much as babies need. With a little sunshine, your baby’s body will begin to make its own Vitamin D. As a result, her brain will get a developmental boost and her bones will get stronger because she’ll absorb calcium better.
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Word of warning: Please protect your baby from sunburn. Don’t leave her in direct sunlight for long because newborn skin burns easily! Also, avoid direct sunlight between the hours of 10 AM – 2 PM. That’s when the sun’s rays are the strongest. And remember, indirect sunlight is beneficial as well!
In the fresh air
There’s something magical about stepping outside and taking in a lungful of outdoor air. Don’t you feel better as soon as you take a deep breath outdoors? It’s not your imagination! Fresh air is incredibly beneficial! According to Benenden Health, the benefits of fresh air include:
- better sleep
- improved digestion
- stronger immune system
Oh, and another good part about getting your baby in the fresh air is that YOU get all those benefits too! Show me a postpartum mom who doesn’t need relaxation, happiness, better sleep, and a stronger immune system? Then in a circle of increasing returns, your baby benefits from having a happier, more balanced mom.
Now if you could give your baby and yourself all those blessings just by stepping outside, why the heck wouldn’t you? Just make sure your baby is dressed for the weather! Keep her head covered to help her regulate her body temperature, and dress her in the same number of layers you’re wearing.
Where they DON’T need to be
So there are many perks to getting out of the house. But don’t get carried away, because there are places newborns simply don’t belong. And they have one major thing in common: people.
Here is where the “keep a baby home for 6-8 weeks” rule probably originated. Keeping them home is too restrictive because they do need to go out and get sunshine and fresh air. Taking your baby for walks will be good for her and you. But newborns should be kept away from crowds, and especially crowded indoor areas (shopping centers, churches, movie theatres, family gatherings, etc) until they’re at least six weeks old. Eight weeks is even better!
Crowds are dangerous for newborns because of the number of diseases they could potentially be exposed to. What’s scary is that some illnesses are contagious before symptoms even begin. Flu is one of those. A person exposed to the flu will be contagious for 24 hours before they get the first symptom. In a large crowd, it’s a sure bet that there’s at least contagious illness nearby – but most likely, there are several.
Near a sick person
If you suspect someone is sick or doesn’t feel well, keep your baby a safe distance from them! Don’t allow anyone to hold or be near your baby if they have symptoms of illness – even if it’s just a little sore throat. (FYI, a person with strep throat is contagious as soon as their throat is sore!)
Keeping a baby away from somebody gets tricky if the sick person is a sibling or parent. Do the best that you can. For baby’s sake, she needs to stay away from anybody you suspect may be sick. The only exception to the rule is a breastfeeding mother.
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A breastfeeding mom’s immune system is so incredible that not only does it fight her sickness, it sends antibodies for that very sickness into her milk! So a nursing baby gets custom-made milk that teaches her body how to fight any illness her mama has.Keep breastfeeding, even if you're sick. Because your baby will get custom-made milk that teaches her body how to fight your illness.
Getting out of the house
Since the best thing for both you and your baby is to get out and get some sunshine and fresh air, you need to make this a priority. Instead of staying cooped up inside all day, take your baby outside – even if you do nothing once you get there.
It’s no fun going outside if getting ready to go is stressful. Let’s keep this simple. You don’t need the full diaper bag for quick trips out. Instead, pack a purse to use as a mini diaper bag and keep it by the door. This way, the necessities are always ready for when cabin fever hits. So what goes in a mini diaper bag?
Just throw a couple of diapers, some travel wipes, a pacifier, and a receiving blanket in there. (The receiving blanket plays multiple roles: You can lay your baby on it, use it as a nursing cover, use it to block the sun, clean up a mess with it, or cover up a chilly baby.)
Safe outings for newborns
There are a surprising number of safe places for newborns, some of which you might not have ever considered. Here are a few fun ideas for getting out with a newborn:
- Hang out on the deck with your baby
- Take your little one for a walk in the stroller
- Head to the zoo and see all the outdoor exhibits
- Sit on a blanket in the shade
- Hang out by the swimming pool
- Snuggle on a park bench
- Enjoy a quiet bistro or coffee shop.
- Stroll through the park.
- Go for a car ride in the country.
- Visit the beach (but watch out for sunburn!!)
- Head out to the Farmer’s Market – but try to go when it’s not so busy
Go on, get out there!
Having a newborn in tow doesn’t mean you have to stay at home! You can still get out – and you should! As long as you dress your baby for the weather and keep her away from crowds, there’s no reason you can’t get out of the house.
Don’t keep yourself and your baby cooped up in stale, germy indoor air. Pick a fun outing idea, prepare that mini diaper bag ahead of time, and soak up some sunshine and fresh air!
Do you have more ideas for getting out of the house with a newborn? Share them in the comments below!
(2016, July 14). Come Outside: The Benefits of Fresh Air. Retrieved from https://www.benenden.co.uk/be-healthy/lifestyle/come-outside-why-fresh-air-is-essential/
Common Incubation Periods. Retrieved from https://www.kinsahealth.com/content/incubation-j.
Taylor, R. (2017, April 25). 6 Benefits of Getting Fresh Air. Retrieved from https://www.kent-teach.com/Blog/post/2017/04/25/6-benefits-of-getting-fresh-air.aspx