Kids Love Dr. Barton

When Can I Take My Newborn Out?

by Dr. Douglas Barton, M.D., Pediatrician 03/02/2009

One of the oddest questions I get on a regular basis is from parents of newborns. “When can I take my newborn out?”  I guess it seems odd to me because I never really gave it much thought. Since I’ve heard it so often, a little guidance seems like it might be useful. Newborns are not as fragile as many of us think. They tolerate being outside just fine. In fact, a little fresh air can be very good for most of us, including newborns. There are a few precautions to consider, however.

First, newborns don’t regulate their temperature very well. On a hot day, they can become overheated (and potentially dehydrated) easily. On a cold day, they can develop hypothermia quickly. When going outside, if you’re hot, your newborn is hotter. If you’re cold, your newborn is colder. Limit your time outside accordingly.

Babies also sunburn very quickly. Sunscreen is not recommended before 6 months of age due to potential absorption of PABA, the main ingredient in many sunscreens. Keep babies in the shade when they are outside and use strollers with “roofs” on them to keep the sun off their sensitive skin.

The trickiest part about going out with newborns is infections. Babies have not been exposed to the wide variety of viruses and other organisms that adults have. They will catch every little thing. They also cannot tell us where they hurt or what’s wrong with them, so pediatricians tend to be very conservative when managing a newborn with a fever. This involves a lot of blood tests and possibly a hospital admission. Needless to say, when a child wants to touch a newborn or grandparent can’t resist the urge to hold a newborn, they must have washed their hands well and not sneeze or cough on the newborn.

Air travel has become a common component of many families’ lives. Newborns can fly. They may find the cabin pressure uncomfortable on their ears. Feeding while ascending and descending can relieve some of this pressure. Also, remember that an airline cabin is an enclosed space with 20 to 100 other people with all their germs and infections. Clean hands and a relatively private space become critical.

There is no magic age when you can take your newborn out. But following the above simple guidelines will make this a safe and enjoyable time for both you and your baby.



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