As a new dad, you will have been bombarded by advice - and not all of it good. ‘Don’t take baby outside’ is up there with the worst.
I’m sure some parents come home for the first time and slip into baby rearing as if it’s as easy as staying awake. But for the rest of us, those first few hours and days when you bring baby home are a daze of disbelief covered in a light mist of bubbling panic and night sweat.
I felt spent just driving my little guy home, and would quite happily have stayed inside for the next six months. But, for some reason, we agreed to take him to see his grandparents, a four-hour drive way, just a week later.
As car journeys go, that one was best summed up by the song Highway to Hell, ending with all three of us drowning in tears and vomit spray.
But at least we took him outside. As I recall, by week three I was out on the streets, confidently carrying him around strapped to my chest. And before long he was too heavy to be attached to the front without tipping me onto my face.
I do get that some first-time parents are frightened to take their newborn babies outside – because frankly at that stage we’re terrified of just about everything – but not leaving the house at all is utterly bonkers.
If human babies weren’t designed to cope with a bit of fresh air, our whole species wouldn’t be here right now. Sure, the human race has gone soft enough that some of us look like half-eaten yams, but it’s not that soft.
Plus, let’s be honest. It’s no fun being a shut-in. Have you ever spent weeks on end cooped up at home before? Ever heard of cabin fever?
As a dad who has successfully ventured past the front door with a baby in tow, I can recommend taking your child outside early on. I think the fresh air did me, my baby, and my sanity good, but there are a few things to think about before you brave the great outdoors.
Babies don’t tan – they burn
Really, no one should be tanning. But this goes double for brand new baby skin – and no one wants a screaming sunburnt writhing crying thing on their hands. Keep baby in the shade at all times; a pram with a sun-protection cover means you can still get out and about without worrying.
Of course, avoiding a burn needs to be balanced with getting babe the vitamin D hits that will help ward off rickets. Don’t worry too much about incidental exposure or some brief playtime in early morning or late afternoon sun – just not the middle of the day. Sunlight is one of the best sources of Vitamin D – for new mums, blinking dads and babies.
Babies don’t like it hot, but they don’t like it cold either
Babies are rubbish at regulating their own body temperature or telling you when they are too hot or cold, so keeping them comfortable, particularly in a hot Australian summer, is important.
The general advice is to give your baby one more layer of clothing than you’re wearing yourself (a tank-top, thongs and boardies won’t be quite enough when it’s cold, but could be too much at the height of summer).
The kid might need a blanket and a hat as well, so bring them along, because it’s time you got used to the fact you can’t leave the house without a large bag full of newly vital things. Spare clothes are never a bad idea. And nappies, of course. Lots of nappies.
You can add or remove layers as needed, checking your little one’s temperature by feeling their forehead. If you go into a warm house or literally anywhere else warm, take a layer off or unwrap them for a while.
Babies have terrible immune systems
Although breastfed babies are getting some immunity from their mums, they aren’t great at warding off disease. They just haven’t been exposed to much – this is one of the big reasons some parents try to keep them locked away until those first vaccinations.
While you probably don’t need to go full cave-man before your baby gets their first vaccinations, it is recommended you avoid areas where large crowds of people gather. Your local shopping centre might look clean and sparkly (mine doesn’t, but I’m sure some do) – but with the volume of people trundling through each day, it’s odds-on that someone’s got the flu.
Meanwhile Dr Karl – a scientific mind with an opinion on just about everything – reckons parents should let every visitor stick their finger in the new babe’s mouth to help build their tiny immune system.
I’m not sure I’d go that far. I tended to just be a bit logical – I took babe out, but didn’t rub him up against diseased folk or snotty kids.
Just take the baby outside already
The great thing about taking your new one out at this stage is they sleep so much and they’ll do it anywhere. If you time a walk when they’re content and snoozy, it can be a relaxing way for all of you to get some of that ‘fresh air’ – you know, the type that doesn’t faintly smell of baby poo and sour milk.
But let’s leave aside all this ‘fresh air’ stuff for a moment. More importantly, it’s one of the last times you’ll be able to go out without setting up Peppa bloody Pig on your phone, and worrying constantly about how much longer your kid’s patience will last until you have to go home.
Enjoy it while you can.