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Getting Out and Keeping Active with a New Baby

You’ve just gone home with your new baby. Congratulations! There’s just one problem: between the lack of sleep, the visitors, and the crying spells that don’t respond to your best efforts to make everything better, you find yourself staring at your bundle of joy and wondering, What fool let me out of the hospital with this baby? You’re pretty sure you have no idea what you’re doing. You’ve forgotten everything they taught you in childbirth prep classes. You’re wearing slippers that don’t match and nearly every item of clothing you own has spit-up on it. You’re desperate to get out of the house but aren’t sure where to go and what to do with your newborn along. It’s time to get out, get moving, and get some support (not necessarily in that order).

Stress, “baby blues,” or postpartum depression?
First of all, do a mental check-in with yourself. It’s completely normal to feel stressed when your sleep keeps being interrupted by someone who doesn’t know what a clock is yet, or why you want the numbers on it to start with at least a six before you get up. You may well be tired and a little cranky. But there is a condition for which you should get immediate professional help: postpartum depression.

Now, you may experience something called the “baby blues,” which most often begins in the third or fourth day after delivery and is not the same as postpartum depression. The "baby blues" are characterized by the following symptoms, although each woman may experience symptoms differently:
  • Feelings of disappointment
  • Crying with no known reason
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
It is common for these "baby blues" feelings to go away soon after they start, in most cases without needing any formal treatment. Postpartum depression is a more intense and lasting condition. Crying becomes uncontrollable, irritability and impatience turn into resentment and major mood swings, anxiety becomes more intense. Other symptoms can include:
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Poor concentration/memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Fear of harming the newborn or yourself
  • Insomnia
  • Guilty feelings
  • Low self-esteem
  • Appetite changes
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Feelings of isolation
Women experiencing these symptoms should see their OB/GYN or Midwife’s office right away for diagnosis and potential treatment. There are times when new mothers are having these symptoms and do not recognize their significance, or feel guilty, ashamed, or like they should be able to handle these feelings. Partners of these women are encouraged to reach out on their behalf to get professional help.

If yours is ordinary new-parent anxiety and stress, it often helps to have a change of scenery and connect with others who are in the same boat as you.

Going out & about
You feel cooped up and want to get moving, but friends and relatives might tell you that you shouldn’t take a newborn out in public for a month, sometimes more. Is it risky taking a newborn out of the house? The answer is more about exposure to people’s germs than to actually being outside. Today most pediatricians will tell you to just keep your baby away from people who are known to be sick or from large groups of people. Of course, if your newborn is premature or has a condition that compromises his or her immune system, it’s important to keep your baby away from possible sources of infection. But taking your baby for walks in the stroller or on minor errands should be fine.

A sling or front carrier can serve the dual purpose of keeping the baby close and comfortable while discouraging others from touching the baby without permission. Anyone who wants to touch your infant will have to invade your personal space to do it, and most people won’t do that uninvited.

Go visit your (healthy) friends and family, or go out for a cup of coffee. Go for a walk to the local library and learn something new. You can also learn new things in person by taking new-parent classes, joining a “new mom” (and/or “new dad”) social group, and getting help with any breastfeeding issues you may be having.

Getting classy
Eastern Connecticut Health Network offers a variety of classes for new parents to help with fitness, breastfeeding, health concerns and bonding. Offerings include:
  • The ECHN New Mothers’ Group – An informal group designed to help new moms adjust to parenting, share their experiences, and get their questions answered about infant feeding and behavior
  • Fit After Delivery – A postpartum mother-baby exercise class
  • Newborn and Infant Massage classes – Dads are welcome at the “Infant Massage Class for Parents”
  • Itsy Bitsy Baby Yoga – A movement class for baby and mom
  • Infant, Child, and Adult CPR Skills for Parents and Childcare Providers is also offered, but ECHN recommends expecting parents take this class before the birth of their baby due to the length of the class
  • Coordinating Breastfeeding with Returning to Work or School – A class to help nursing moms plan for collecting and maintaining a healthy milk supply at home so they can return to a needed routine
Don’t forget that even if you can’t get out of the house, you can still get information, support and get your questions answered by joining the ECHN Family Birthing Center Facebook group. Every day there will be new articles and links posted, and answers to any questions you may want to ask about postpartum events, breastfeeding, nutrition, and parenting.

Lifetime friendships from the beginning?
Parenting classes and social groups don’t just provide support for new parents, they can provide your baby’s first friends. While babies don’t socialize the same way we do, they’re fascinated by their peers and can enjoy being with each other. And who knows? You may be introducing your baby to a friend for life.

Maternity. Eastern Connecticut Health Network. Accessed March 22, 2013.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna PhD., CNM, FNP

Last Annual Review Date: 5/14/2011

© 2000-2012 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Shmerling, RH. “Medical Myths: Taking Baby Out and About.” Reviewed October 23, 2012. Harvard Commentaries, Aetna InteliHealth. Accessed March 29, 2013.
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