I bet it’s not just me that felt like leaving the house after giving birth was a HUGE deal. (With my first baby. I’m 99% sure this is something that gets easier every kid you have.)
It was almost as scary as leaving the hospital for the first time with the baby.
Or maybe it was even MORE scary, because this time is was just me and the baby. My husband was at work and I was going out with a newborn alone.
I have some important tips to share with you, but first let’s talk about how long you should wait to go out after having a baby.
How Long Do You Have to Stay in the House After Giving Birth?
Girl, it’s 2020. 2022. (Hmmm. I’m not really sure “2020” has the positive connotations I hoped it would in that sentence. I’ll try something else.)
Girl, it’s the 21st century.
This almost unbelievable article on how to give birth 100 years ago states:
In 1835, postpartum care mostly involved holding very, very still for a ridiculously long time…
…for the first four days (after childbirth) she ought to lie upon her back most of the time. After the fourth day she should change to the side often, and it is desirable to lie upon the abdomen some. After the fifth or sixth day she may be propped up in bed with pillows behind her for one-half or one hour at a time. She should not sit up in a chair until the top of the womb has descended into the pelvic cavity — from the tenth to the fourteenth day. The first day that she sits up she should remain out of bed only one hour and must not stand upon her feet or walk until the middle or end of the third week.
In the middle of the 19th century, these poor women didn’t leave the house AT ALL for a minimum of 5 weeks after giving birth.
Thank goodness, this isn’t the case anymore!
So how long do you have to stay in the house after giving birth TODAY?
As long as YOU WANT! (And believe me, you are gonna WANT to stay at home for a while.)
There are no weird and arbitrary rules about this anymore… HOWEVER:
Please respect the fact that you just squeezed a human out (or, possibly, had a human cut out) of your body.
So let’s consider that and plan to give your body some time to rest.
Not resting after giving birth is one of the top 21 things to avoid postpartum!
Experts suggest trying to stay in bed as much as possible for at least 48-72 hours postpartum – with short walks to the bathroom of course (source). This is great for skin-to-skin time with baby, and it’s ESPECIALLY great if you’re learning to breastfeed. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy and natural – and trying to make it happen out of the house can be REALLY difficult those first few days (or weeks).
This is important to be aware of if you’re breastfeeding exclusively… we went out about 5 days after my son was born (not by choice, we had to have some tests done), and it was a really busy day, the car kept him sleeping peacefully, and he didn’t eat enough.
He ended up with such low blood sugar we couldn’t wake him up (we had to rush back to the hospital), and it was one of the single most horrible days of my life – all because we went out and I (as a new mom) wasn’t properly aware of how much a tiny baby actually needs to eat during the day.
If I was offering advice to a friend with a newborn, I’d suggest planning to stay home for at least two weeks after having a baby, and WAY longer if that’s what you WANT!
Leaving the house after giving birth is something that you’ll not want to do ALONE, unless you have no other choice
Keep in mind that if you’ve had a c-section, you won’t be able to carry your baby in a car seat.
Driving is also something that should be avoided during postpartum recovery (for the first week if you’ve had a normal delivery, longer for a c-section. You can ask your doctor about when it’s safe to drive after giving birth.)
Depending who you talk to, there seems to be various reasoning behind not driving directly after giving birth – ranging from “you use your abdomen muscles for braking and accelerating, and you should be leaving those muscles alone right now”, to “any pain medication you may be taking could make you less focused than usual”, and even “new moms might be more distracted than most”…
Honestly, they all sound like good reasons not to drive to me, and I’m sure there are others.
In a pinch, you can ask a friend to drive you or call a cab, but if at all possible, I’d choose to just stay home.
When you DO feel ready to go out after giving birth, or you have someone to take you out, there are some things you can know and do to make going out with a newborn less terrifying.
Going Out With a Newborn: 6 Tips to Make it Easier
Leaving the house after giving birth is way harder for mom than it is for baby. Your newborn will probably sleep most of the time you’re out, it’s YOU that’ll be stressing!
It honestly (at least the first few times) almost feels like going on a terrifying expedition.
And yes, you will forget something important, and yes, it might feel like the end of the world… but it DOES get easier!
Here’s my top tips for tips for taking newborn out in public:
1) Dress baby appropriately
My first was born into snowy blizzardy -30 degrees.
He didn’t leave the house with anything but his nose and eyes showing for 4 months lol.
Dress baby in layers, if it’s cold. Cover his head.
While full body jammies are super nice, if it’s VERY COLD where you live (as it is where we live) we found onesies with pants more appropriate than jammies for going out because you don’t have to undress baby’s TOP half to change his bottom half.
(This actually does matter for back of the truck bum changes in below zero!)
We also found that onesies (because they do up under the bum) rather than shirts and pants, prevent baby’s back from being exposed to the cold when you pick them up out of the car seat.
My second was born in hotter weather, and a onesie (on it’s own) is just as appropriate for hot weather.
In other words, onesies for the win!
Related: How Many Baby Clothes Do I Need in Each Size?
2) Dress yourself appropriately
I had no idea how many of my clothes were completely NOT breastfeeding friendly before I had a baby.
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you’ll want to make sure you dress with easy boob access.
There’s nothing like trying to get an angry baby under your shirt (without showing everyone your super engorged angry boob) in the middle of a restaurant with your postpartum-gut hanging out as you sweat intensely (I mean, that happens after you have a baby and it’s even more likely to happen while everyone is starting at you and the screaming baby).
I mean, it’s pure. joy.
Do yourself a favor and buy a couple cute nursing tops. They might seem frivolous now, but I promise, your leaving-the-house-with-a-newborn-self will LOVE you for this.
3) Pack your diaper bag with the RIGHT things
I can’t tell you how many times I left the house without THE RIGHT THINGS in my diaper bag.
I also can’t tell you how much EASIER it was going out WITH the right things. (Like a nursing cover. A great nursing cover made it SO much easier.)
(And, take heart, it’s only like 2 months MAX before you can start leaving a lot of this stuff at home. By the time your kid is 6 months old you can plonk a diaper, wipes and snacks into your huge mom purse and that’s it. IT GETS EASIER.)
Here’s a list for you, screenshot it, refer to it whenever you’re leaving the house with a newborn. Ok?
WHAT TO PACK FOR LEAVING THE HOUSE WITH A NEWBORN:
- peri-bottle (just LEAVE one in your diaper bag. Get a 3 pack.)
- extra shirt for mom
- breast pads
- nipple shield / cream
- feeding cover (this is my favorite)
- bum cream
- change of clothes for baby
- plastic bag for dirty diapers
- bottles + formula (if using)
- pacifier + extra pacifier
- sanitizing wipes (because 2020)
- swaddle blankets (so many uses)
4) Plan a short / relaxing outing
If you can, plan a short trip and start with something easy.
Your first trip out of the house after giving birth shouldn’t be a marathon (remember, you should be resting – you technically have an INTERNAL wound for up to six weeks postpartum, where your placenta was attached – and too much activity could re-start bleeding).
Going to a restaurant might be a much better choice than going to the mall – quieter, more relaxing, less walking, honestly probably cleaner… you know, just things to consider!
Be ready to cut your plans short and leave – especially if you struggle to feed baby, or even if you’re just tired and ready to go home.
(I remember attending a birthday party with our first when he was a few weeks old. I spent most of the night in a freezing room at the back by myself trying to get my baby to eat, but we were still struggling with breastfeeding so much at that point – in hindsight, I wish I had just left.)
5) Avoid noisy crowds
This is an important consideration for taking a newborn out in public.
Even when it’s NOT 2020, and we’re not all sanitizing and social distancing, a babies immune system isn’t nearly as strong at two weeks as it is at 3 months (source). The fewer germs you expose your baby to prior to the maturing of their immune system, likely the better.
Also remember that while you easily filter out the noise and chaos of a crowd, your baby is more easily overstimulated.
Overstimulated babies might be crankier and have trouble sleeping.
6) Your baby MIGHT love the car / stroller / baby carrier… or she might not
I think one of the most stressful trips I ever took was a 20 minute drive during which my two week old baby screamed ceaselessly THE ENTIRE TIME.
(He actually would have screamed for only 16 minutes, but at the 16 minute mark he fell asleep and I was so freaked out by the silence that I pulled the car over to check on him and he woke up and commenced screaming.)
Some babies LOVE the car… some babies hate being separated from mom, or maybe they find the car seat uncomfortable, or they hate being strapped down or maybe they just have to poop.
It’s hard when baby is unhappy in the car, but know that this’ll pass!
As for packing them around when you’re out, it might take some experimenting to see what works for both of you.
I had SO many friends tell me to try baby wearing – that it was the saving grace of all mothers – but no matter what wrap or carrier I put my first kid into, he was unhappy. (And then I was unhappy.)
Try a baby carrier, but also try a stroller, try carrying them in the car seat (worked for both my kids), and definitely don’t underestimate giving a pacifier!
7) Set realistic expectations when leaving the house after giving birth
If you have an amazing “going out with your newborn experience”, that’s AWESOME.
But be prepared for it to be a little challenging and maybe even scary.
If it doesn’t go the way you hoped, just know that you’re not the first new mom to burst into tears in a parking lot (my cousin) or to spend the entire party in the back bedroom (me), or feel so overwhelmed you swear you’ll never go out again (also me).
If I haven’t said it already (Ok I totally did say it twice, but it’s the right way to wrap this up) going out with a baby GETS EASIER, I promise.
(Also, it’s ok to consider leaving baby with a sitter if taking baby out is overwhelming!)
Related: Bringing Baby Home (How to Enjoy the First Week With a Newborn)
Do you have other tips for new moms leaving the house after giving birth? What do you wish you knew about going out with a newborn?