Do Newborns Need Outside Time? Pediatricians Weigh In
Everyone knows the importance of getting little (and big) kids outside for a breath of fresh air. Particularly these days, when so much of your time is spent indoors social distancing. But what about newborns? Do newborns really need outside time? Or is it OK to just let them chill in the house all day?
I reached out to Dr. Alison Mitzner, a pediatrician and "mom expert" for her thoughts on newborn outside time. And if you're looking for an excuse to go out on a walk or hang out on the grass, you've got one. "Often parents hear that they must stay home with their newborn all the time. It is not necessarily correct. It is a good idea for your newborn to get some outdoor time, fresh air, and sunlight."
But there are, of course, some necessary precautions parents need to take. For starters, mom needs to make sure she's ready. "You do want to be sure you yourself are feeling up to it postpartum." For real. I remember after my son was born, I badly wanted to get out of the apartment for a stroll, but I still felt like my body was held together by some very loose (and rusty) springs. It's really important for moms to listen to their bodies, and not push themselves too soon.
And of course, parents need to take proper safety precautions with their little one, particularly right now with Covid. "You want to be sure to avoid crowded areas and exposing your newborn to people who are sick," says Mitzner. "Anyone who touches the newborn should be sure to wash their hands first, and it's best to stick to touching the lower part of the body of the baby and avoid touching the face, mouth, and hands."
Dr. Whitney Casares is a pediatrician and author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One. She says that while newborns don't necessarily need outdoor time, she agrees with Mitzner that it can be good for the parents. "Getting outside in the fresh air, with your baby or alone, is an important way to reset and change up your environment when you're up to your ears with diaper changes and sleepless nights."
Casares reminds parents to have the necessities on hand to avoid having your peaceful walk turn into a stress fest. "Make sure the weather is temperate, and you have a stocked diaper bag, including a change of clothes and an extra blanket in case the weather turns quickly."
On that note, if you are planning to spend any time in a sunny spot with a baby, the child needs proper shade and protection. As the Skin Cancer Foundation reminds us, children under 6 months shouldn't get direct sun exposure, and if possible, parents should avoid taking them out between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun is the most intense.
Of course, if your OBGYN or pediatrician specifically advised you to hang inside, you need to check in with him or her first before sauntering out the door. "If your doctor advised you to stay indoors, or take extra precautions," says Mitzner, "be sure to speak with them first before heading outside."
But if the doc is OK with it, you're feeling up to, and the diaper bag is ready? Well, head on out into the world with that wee one. It doesn't have to be some marathon stroll. Just a jaunt around the block can be rejuvenating. Says Mitzner, "Even 10 minutes outdoors can be a great benefit to both your newborn and yourself."
Dr. Alison Mitzner, M.D., pediatrician
Dr. Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P., author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One