Walking out the front door with a baby is an unexpectedly complicated and stressful process. The baby needs to eat before you go. OK, but the baby poops while he eats, so you change the diaper—gotta find the wipes! Now the baby is yelling because he didn’t enjoy the change. You’re trying to get the diaper bag together for your trip. OK, now you’re trying to get him into a hat and coat because it’s chilly outside. You can’t find any socks anywhere. They are so small.
By now you’re starving so you try to grab a granola bar or something from the kitchen and you realize you didn’t fill up your water bottle. You look for a place to put him down for a second to take care of your water bottle. He’s so upset now that you sit down to nurse him again and text your friend that you’ll be at least a half hour late. You still haven’t gotten your purse or found your sling. It can be like this every day.
Here’s the thing—as hard as it is to leave the house with a baby, it’s worse to stay. You’ve been conditioned to spend your time in a house, essentially a box with unchanging sounds, sights, air and smells and people. Sure, you might get tired of it but you also may enjoy the occasional day to just stay in and not go out.
Your baby is hardwired for this, and loves to be comfortable outside. With changing sounds, blowing air, new things to look at and voices to listen to. Your baby knows and loves you, but it’s not enough! He needs stimulation that you can’t give him. He needs fresh air and walking and adventures. You do also! It’s too easy to get lost in a sea of new motherhood and forget what is outside your bed, your nursing chair, the four walls of your bedroom. You need to be a human out in the world, and so does he, and both get better at doing it together.
PACKING AND LEAVING
The secret is that packing up and leaving are two different activities. You probably didn’t need to separate them for everyday trips before the baby. But before a flight or a long day you packed up early the night before so that you wouldn’t be packing while you were also trying to leave. Imagine the taxi coming to take you to the airport and you’re still looking for your suitcase.
With babies, and with kids, every trip out of the house can be like going abroad. Unlike travel, it’s not the packing that makes it hard. It’s the leaving part. It’s trying to do everything you need to do with one hand and a fussy baby. Before, you would put your shoes on, grab your purse and lock your door to head to the store.
Now there are more things to bring, and on top of that you have to do everything with a baby. So it’s time to separate packing from leaving. Leaving will be hard regardless. But packing doesn’t have to be.
There are times during the day when your baby is asleep or can lie down on a rug or in the crib for 5 minutes while you pack up for a later outing. Pack your diaper bag, including your snack and water bottle. Pack your purse. And put whatever else the baby needs—outerwear, shoes, carrier, stroller—by the door all together.
It will only take you a couple of minutes because you aren’t trying to gather everything while dealing with the infant. Now you’re ready to grab and go once you can get the baby into a sling or a car seat. If you find that you still had 10 things to run around to get, try to include those next time. Or you might want a list by the door to use for packing up ahead of time.
TAKING A WALK
Walks are the best. Everything about being walked outside, the soothing rhythmic movement, the gently changing sights and sounds, the smell of the air and the feel of the breeze on his face is going to feel amazing to your baby. Baby-friendly destinations are often outside if the weather is warm.
Do you like to see shows? Look for outdoor concerts, plays in the park, and outdoor movie screenings. Find shows where a baby can make a little noise and someone can get up and carry him around.
Libraries can be an outing. We’ve made a weekly trip to the library for the full 13 years I’ve been a parent.With a baby you can just pop him in the carrier and browse the stacks yourself, stopping by the children’s department for board books and to nurse and change a diaper or check out your library’s baby classes.
Library song and story classes continue up through preschool age. We went through periods of attending, but even when my kids didn’t like the classes, we still went to the library to check out books nearly every week. This meant exposure to different kinds of books, stories and artwork. Include nonfiction as well as fiction. It also means I don’t have to keep a giant library of children’s books at home, just the favorites.
Scope out which parks have bathrooms. I remember this was very important to me. A park with a bathroom and a snack stashed in your diaper bag means you have the option to stay as long as everyone is feeling happy.
Good weather, good swings, kids running around to watch, your baby will enjoy the playground even if he can’t actually climb on anything yet. And the families and kids you get to know at your local playground will be friendly older playmates for your toddler and preschooler later on.
I took my kids to coffee shops. I got them used to sitting in a coffee shop while I enjoyed coffee and they munched away on a muffin or some yogurt pretty early on. With a baby you can go to more grown-up destinations as well. I visited most of the art museums and gardens in Baltimore when I had a baby. It was simple to tie him on my frontor back and stroll around looking at artwork.
Excerpted with permission from Baby in the House: Practical Advice for Living with Your Baby by Megan Beller.
Megan Beller is an author and professional musician in Baltimore, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Charley, three sons, and a cat.
Megan started the violin at the age of three and continued her study at the Eastman School of Music where she graduated with a BA in Violin Performance and Music Education in 2003.