Cabin fever: tips for the first time out with your newborn

Cabin fever? Don't let the first few weeks of parenthood keep you cooped up inside the house with your newborn.

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Their route was simple: Just around the block, but things quickly got complicated as Sarah Cavaliere and her husband crammed their stroller with diapers, bottles and blankets for their first trip out of the house with their days-old son, Logan.

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“As if we were going to stop and change the baby’s diaper on the way,” says Cavaliere, laughing about it now as she looks back on that first outing around their Vancouver neighbourhood.

Escaping the house with a newborn can be daunting, especially if you’re venturing out alone, but it’s vitally important, says Denise Lewis, a public health nurse in Toronto who runs programs for new moms. Physical activity is known to help with depression generally, and while more research is needed, some studies have shown that moderate exercise, such as walking outdoors, can alleviate symptoms of postpartum depression. Socializing with other moms also helps to normalize the experience, Lewis adds — you’re not the only one walking around in public with spit-up in your hair.

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The first trick to getting out the door is to cut yourself some slack, Lewis advises. “The first time you may forget the diaper bag, but the next time you probably won’t.” Scope out your neighbourhood for coffee shops with ramps, automatic doors and ample room for strollers — there’s a good chance other moms congregate there, too. And outings usually get easier as babies age; a three-month-old can typically go longer without nursing and diaper changes, meaning fewer things to lug along. Strollers and carriers also become less cumbersome with practice. You may even want to keep a lightweight stroller in the car trunk to eliminate the need to pull apart and fold your bulky SUV version.

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On hectic days, Rebecca Ritson-Bennett, a Calgary mother of three boys ages five, three and seven months, makes it to preschool and doctor appointments using creative tricks. To streamline their morning routine, she and the two older boys shower together and have smoothies for breakfast. She uses CBC kids’ shows to distract the oldest two boys while she dresses herself and baby Angus, then straps him into his bucket carseat and herds everyone into the minivan. Her best survival tip is a sense of humour.

“Do I sometimes feel like it’s never too early for a gin and tonic? Uh, yes,” she jokes. Now that Cavaliere’s son Logan is three months old, she always has her diaper bag packed and ready. She keeps a checklist by the door, reminding her to lock up, turn off the stove and safeguard the trash from the dog. She makes an effort to get out at least once a day. “When you’re inside by yourself with the baby, it can get a little stuffy,” she says.

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