Following our daughter Arya’s difficult birth, my wife and I were exhausted when we got home from the hospital. We spent the first 24 hours at home just trying to survive life with our newborn. By the third day things had calmed down enough for us to consider taking our newborn outdoors. With conflicting information from different baby books, it was hard to find the answer to our question: when can a newborn go outside?
The most common advice reiterated by a number of resources is that it is safe to take newborn babies outside as soon as they get home from the hospital. However, parents should be careful about exposing newborns to infections in crowded, public places. In particular, avoid exposing your baby to sick people and force everyone who comes into contact with your baby to wash their hands first.
The best resource is a full article written by a tenured-faculty member at Harvard Medical School hosted on the Aetna InteliHealth website. The author presents a strong case that it is fine to take healthy babies outside as long as parents avoid crowded spaces with recirculated air such as movie theaters, shopping malls, and airplanes. He believes that the major concern with taking a newborn outside has to do with exposure to germs, but that “a newborn’s immune system is remarkably competent”.
Aetna is a large health insurance company and I would expect the company’s bias (if any) to be in favor of the option which results in the lowest health care costs. Keeping a large population of newborns closeted indoors is likely to be cheaper for an insurance company than accepting the small risk of illness by allowing newborns to go outside. Therefore I am even more likely to believe the InteliHealth article and accept the opinions of its author.
When Can a Newborn Go Outside
My wife and I debated the trade-off between a small risk of infection from going outdoors versus being stuck in our cramped apartment for weeks. We decided that we would be comfortable taking Arya outdoors so long as we avoided sick people and prevented any strangers from coming close enough to touch her. Specific to our neighborhood in Boston’s Chinatown, we will always avoid walking past the two homeless shelters near our apartment and use a plastic weather shield when pushing Arya’s stroller to defend against stray liquid.
We are very confident that our plan minimizes risk while allowing us to enjoy spending time with our newborn. We have already taken her to Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden to enjoy a brief spate of warm weather and Arya has already shown interest in starting at the colorful trees and flowers which are starting to bloom. Our baby’s immune system is only likely to get stronger over time and once she receives her first major series of vaccinations at two months we will be comfortable taking her on even more short outdoor adventures.