Winter. The bleakest, bitterest of seasons — if you have to leave your house, that is. If you're fortunate enough to have a warm place to stay, make some hot cocoa, start the fireplace and/or Netflix, and get cozy until Spring. I try to avoid going out in winter as much as possible, ‘cause it's gross and massively inconvenient for moms of new people. However, if you're a new mom and you absolutely must leave the house, here are some things new moms need to know to survive winter with a new baby.
As a mom of a January baby, trust me when I say I know what I'm talking about. Surviving winter with a new baby requires your A-game in advance planning, patience, safety, and disease prevention. In addition to constantly having to make and reschedule plans due to bad weather, nasty colds and bouts of flu — and whatever new disease they’re advertising on the news that season — once you actually commit to going somewhere, you have to leave so much extra time to prepare that you might as well just wait until Spring. Paradoxically, the car that used to save you time going places becomes a hassle unto itself in winter time, because coats and car seats don’t mix. (Realest of real talk here: Never, ever have your baby wear a puffy coat in their car seat. Puffy layers between a baby’s chest and their car seat straps put them at serious risk in case of a crash.)
Even with all that, we haven’t even actually arrived at any destinations yet. Chances are, once you get wherever it is you’re going, there are still going to be sick people there (who nevertheless want to put their hands and faces all over your baby’s hands and face, immature immune system be damned), as well as strangers ready to judge your winter parenting (“Why is the baby only wearing one pair of socks?!”) or frenemies and family members ready to judge your overall parenting. Mama bears hibernate for a reason, y’all. But if that’s just not in the cards for you, here are some tips to help you make it through.
Allow Extra Time To Go Anywhere...
Going anywhere with a baby or toddler requires more time than going out by yourself at any time of year. But in winter, you need to factor in a whole bunch of other stuff, especially if you're driving.
Make time for a few extra layers of clothes, changing those clothes at the last minute if/when they get pooped or puked on, getting them in their car seat, parking, getting them out of their car seat, wrestling them into their winter coat in the back seat (or putting a giant car seat coat over their whole seat), and finally going inside.
...Or Maybe Just Don’t Plan To Go Out Until Spring
Like, do you really need to leave your home? Is it an emergency? It's just so cold and wet and cough-y and phlegm-y out there.
Look For Easy-Off Layers
If you absolutely must leave your home, make sure you have easy-on, easy-off clothing layers to deal with ridiculous temperature fluctuations — warm car to freezing cold outside to overly heated destination and back — and poop.
Oh, and beware of poop, because it’s inevitable that once you’ve gotten all the baby’s stuff on, they’re going to poop through all of it. Just pray the poop doesn’t make it all the way to the coat layer, since that’s usually harder to wash. Winter sh*tuations are the worst sh*tuations.
Double Your "Just In Case" Clothing
You know the back-up outfit that you pack in the diaper bag? Duplicate it. All the layers you painstakingly put on your baby will need to be replaced at some point when they inevitably get pooped in, and you don’t want to be caught out with insufficient clothing. That could lead to a cold, cranky baby, or worse: a nasty run-in with the Hat Police.
Beware The Hat Police
The Hat Police are people who patrol store parking lots, entrances, and exits for the entire winter season — which for them, lasts from mid-September all the way until Memorial Day weekend — accosting moms of young children who don’t currently have hats on, or whose other clothing they deem insufficient in any way. They are convinced that even the briefest hat-less walk in temperatures below 72 degrees will result in your child freezing to death, and they are the only thing preventing your child’s imminent demise.
If your baby is like mine and instantly takes any hat off of their head unless it’s Siberia-cold out, keep a hand free to catch it so you can show it to the Hat Police when they approach you. Alternatively, just keep a spare baby hat in your pocket to present as evidence that you’re not a terrible mother.
Keep Hand Sanitizer Handy...
When you're out and about with a baby during cold and flu season, you need a quick and handy way to keep your own and other people's hands clean before handling your little bundle of joy and their still-developing immune system. Practice drawing it from your diaper bag or pocket quickly, too, so you're prepared for all those people who randomly touch babies without warning.
...Except Don’t Because Hand Sanitizer Is Going To Kill Us All
Wait. Actually, it looks like hand sanitizer might contain problematic chemicals, and disrupt the balance of good bacteria in your body, and make it easier for your body to absorb other creepy chemicals, and might not work anyway. So, scratch that.
Invest In Baby-Sized Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Since hand sanitizer is out of the question, ask your favorite doctor or nurse where you can find some baby-sized PPE, to add yet another layer to your child before going outside during cold-and-flu and people-not-vaccinating-their-kids season.
Make A Plan For Holiday Meals
Holiday meals: a time for family; a time for togetherness and good cheer; a time for extended family to judge and/or undermine your parenting choices.
If you're not breastfeeding, be prepared with an explanation and/or your best side-eye. If you are breastfeeding ("Still?!"), be prepared with an explanation and/or your best side-eye. If your child hasn't started solid foods, or has certain foods they need to avoid, figure out a diplomatic way to keep them away from that aunt or cousin who tries every "innovative" recipe they find online. “I’m just dying to let your little one taste this Flaky Crust Allergens-And-Choking-Hazards Pie I baked! Six-week olds can chew peanuts, right?”
Seriously, Hibernation Is Probably The Best Option
Between all the extra gear, extra travel time, crappy weather, concern trolls, and heightened risk of illness, going out during winter with a baby is kind of the worst. Just make like a mama bear and hunker down. Make one last trip to Costco (hat in hand, because Hat Police are known to swarm there), get everything you need until at least March, and don't look back.