As a mom of four and a therapist who works with a lot of moms with young kids, I can definitely appreciate how daunting it can be to get out of the house with a newborn! I can remember trying to assemble all of the necessary gear, time everything perfectly so we could get to a park or store and back home before the next feeding, and crossing my fingers that no one (including myself) would have a meltdown during our outing. This got even harder (but even more necessary!) the more young kids we added to the mix.
This can be especially for moms who are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety. Many moms feel isolated because it can be so difficult to get out of the house. This lack of socialization makes their depression or anxiety even worse.
Even though it takes a lot of planning and energy, having some outings with your baby is important for your mental health. You need fresh air, interaction with other humans, and a change of scenery.
Here are a few tips for making these outings successful:
- Start very small. Do not attempt a 5-hour trip to the children’s museum as your first outing. Instead, try a walk around your neighborhood. Feed the baby, then pack up the stroller and take a 15-20 minute walk. Even if the weather is not fantastic, you can both bundle up and get some benefits of fresh air and vitamin D on your stroll. You can build up from there— a quick run to the store, grabbing a coffee, maybe a playdate at a friend’s house.
- Start with open-ended timeframes. Choose a short activity that doesn’t require you to be somewhere at a certain time. Running an errand or taking a walk are perfect for this. Later you can build up to taking your baby to appointments that require you to be somewhere right on time (this can cause a lot of anxiety until you get some practice under your belt.)
- Plan ahead. The night before, write out a list of things you’ll need during your outing. Pack as much as you can ahead of time. Diapers, bottles, nursing cover, stroller, extra clothes (for both of you!), cash. Double-check your list right as you walk out the door.
- Be realistic. One outing a day is probably enough for now. You can build up to more if you find yourself craving more time out of the house.
- Plan around feedings. As you get to know your baby’s needs, you may start to notice some patterns of feeding, wake time, and nap time. Then about 3-ish hours later, you’ll probably need to be ready for another feeding. So try leaving for your outing right after a feeding. This should (hopefully) buy you the most time with the happiest (or sleepiest) baby possible.
- Lower your expectations. No matter how much you plan and prepare, you and your baby are both going to have off days. One or both of you might end up in tears from a stressful experience. That’s okay; expect that not everything will be perfect and give yourself some grace to try again the next day.
If you’re struggling with isolation, feeling trapped in your house, or feeling overwhelmed and anxious, I’d love to help. If getting out of the house is too daunting right now, don’t forget that online counseling sessions are a great option for getting help without even leaving your home.