Attention! New mum coming through! Here's our foolproof guide to getting out of the house, baby and all.
This article appeared in the February-March 2010 issue of Mother & Baby magazine &mdash.
There's nothing more precious than the first few fuzzy, glorious days you spend at home with your new baby. But once the visitors have gone and your partner's back at work, it dawns on you: you can't stay behind closed doors forever. Trouble is, you're responsible for this vulnerable little person and the outside world suddenly seems like a very intimidating place.
Midwife and Mother & Baby contributor Megan Baker says nearly all new mums struggle with getting out of the house. "They worry about breastfeeding on the hop and whether the baby will cry inconsolably while they are out," she says.
But with a bit of forward planning and the right equipment, trips out are (a) possible and (b) enjoyable. So, to ease you across the threshold, here's the M&B expert guide to how to cope — and thrive — with a baby in tow.
Back from hospital
Bringing your baby out of the safe cocoon of the maternity ward is exciting but more than a little nerve wracking. After all, you're saying goodbye to the midwives and taking responsibility for your baby. "Lots of mums are concerned about how they'll cope without the support of the hospital staff," Megan says. "They wonder whether they'll be able to care for their babies."
But stay calm and have confidence in your ability to be a mum. Babies are actually remarkably resilient so try not to get too stressed.
The journey home is an important first step. It's against the law to transport a child in a private vehicle without an appropriate restraint, so make sure you've bought an approved car seat and had it fitted properly well before the birth. And if you have a capsule, practise lifting it in and out and attaching the straps.
Out of the house
Why leave the house at all, you may think. After all, everyone seems keen to come and visit you. But there will come a time when the grandparents go home and your partner returns to work.
If you want some fresh air and sanity (not to mention a loaf of bread) it's time to hit the streets. This can be scary but the trick is to take it slowly and keep it simple. Don't be too ambitious on your first outings, advises Megan. Start instead with a small trip such as a walk around the block with your baby in a pram or sling. If you feel a little insecure or worried, take a friend or your partner.
So when should you take your baby out for the first time? "I'd recommend as soon as possible!" Megan says. "It's good for your mental health to get out in the fresh air, but you don't have to head for shopping centres or cafes. Instead go for a walk around the block or head to your local park to sit on a bench for a while. You'll get some fresh air, reconnect with your surroundings and gradually you'll become more adventurous."
Behind the wheel
For the first few car trips, someone else will probably be driving — especially if you've had a caesarean. After that, that first drive alone is a huge milestone. How will you ever concentrate on the road when you're listening out for every burp and gurgle?
Just like the first walk round the block, the trick is to start gently and give yourself time to build up your confidence. Drive as if it's your first drive just after passing your driving test. Stick to a short, familiar route somewhere local, avoid heavy traffic with big trucks and choose a day when you aren't pushed for time.
Taking public transport
"I'd advise waiting a while before tackling public transport," Megan says. "It's tricky scrambling onto buses holding the baby and trying to get the pram on as well." Depending on how crowded your bus, train or tram is you may have to collapse your pram, so take a pram which is simple to operate.
Be confident about asking for assistance if you have to negotiate train station steps and train carriages. Everything is easier if you plan ahead as much as possible. Avoid rush hour and ask for help and it can be much more baby-friendly than you'd imagine.
Breastfeeding in public for the first time is a big deal for most new mums. Lactation consultant and Mother & Baby contributor, Barb Glare says mums are often nervous about the first few times they feed in public and find it hard to believe they'll ever feel confident about it.
"In the early days each feed can seem like a marathon, with the baby bobbing on and off and the need to sit in the right chair and have the right pillows," Barb says.
"But eventually it all falls into place. If you feel a bit shy, pick a table facing the wall or a quiet corner in the shopping centre. Some centres have great, clean comfortable feeding rooms, but don't feel you have to lock yourself away," she says.
You don't need any special equipment or tops, generally a T-shirt pushed up is the best bet. "Most cafe staff are understanding and supportive. To be honest, most people will not even notice what you are doing — it will just look like you are cuddling your baby," Barb says.
"I've breastfed four children and I've never had a negative comment. Have a positive, confident attitude and a ready smile for those who look your way. You may find that other women will end up sharing their breastfeeding experiences you."
And if you do run up against a less than supportive attitude, remember your right to breastfeed is protected by law in every state of Australia. It is illegal for anyone to ask you to stop, leave or cover up.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association has a list of shops, restaurants and shopping centres that provide good facilities and a welcoming attitude to breastfeeding mums. Check out the association's website www.breastfeeding.org.au to find places which have been given the "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" sticker, plus a list of baby care rooms.
So grab your nappy bag, check you've got your keys, wallet, hat, water bottle and pram and head out. Just don't forget the baby.
Babies are little time vacuums. "Looking after a baby is a lot tougher than you'll ever imagine it to be," Megan says. "Be flexible, especially in the early days and don't feel as though you are a failure because you haven't managed to make it to a mother's group meeting on time, or if you haven't managed to get there at all."
Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready, because everything takes twice as long as you think it will when you have a baby to organise as well as yourself. Later, when your baby is a little bit older, and possibly developing a pattern, it's a good idea to try to be home for the times when your baby is sleeping. And pick your events; in the early days avoid anything involving crowds or too many steps!
What are your tips for getting out and about with a new baby? Share your thoughts in the Mother & Baby forum.
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