Whenever I see a very young infant out in public, the pediatrician’s cautions still ring in my ears.
Keep your newborn at home!
Maybe you heard it from your doctor – or mother – too. Don’t take your baby out! It’s flu season! Don’t let people breathe on your baby! The baby’s immune system is not developed yet! The baby needs to be in a cocoon for two months!
Especially – and I mean especially – do not take the child to church.
And you know what I say? (At least inwardly say…) I say, “Thanks for caring, doc, but I’ll go to church and anywhere I like whenever I please.
“I’ll take your advice most of the time. But I’m pretty sure I’ll go crazy if I’m stuck at home for two months.
“And if I’m going to be around anyone, I want it to be those people who have watched my belly grow, who have prayed for this baby, and who will continue to support me as a new mother.
“And even though I have maternity leave and don’t have to be at church functioning as the pastor, I actually like those people and I like to worship God with them.
“So I’m going. And I’m bringing the baby.
I think doctors envision swarms of sneezing, unwashed-handed people goggling around the baby and asking to hold your precious bundle.
It’s true that it’s a bad idea to let germy kids who have recently picked their noses come up and pinch the cheeks of your baby. But c’mon… us moms are savvy enough to protect our infant and still get out into public if we want.
Maybe you’re not as resolved as I was. Maybe you’re tired from the long, frequently-awakened nights. You might wonder if you can gracefully and discreetly breastfeed in public. It might truly be flu season. Your family may be unsupportive of you leaving the house.
If there is a worry in your mind, here are some pointers that may help…
For germ prevention: Wear the baby the entire time.
Get a wrap, and learn how to use it. Stick the baby in it and make it snug. Don’t miss this part: position the infant’s head right in the middle of your boobs, and cover him up.
Don’t let the baby out, not even for one person. You don’t want to start down that path. Other will expect their turn.
Only take the baby out when you are seated and worship has begun. And that’s only if you need to feed the baby. Ideally, the babe will sleep in the carrier the whole time!
People will get the hint that you are not passing the child around or even putting him on display yet.
As you enter, exit, and during welcome time, your mission is to keep other people’s saliva far away from your child’s face.
Even the least-aware member of your church will be unlikely to put her face near your baby’s face when it’s right by your bosom. And I’m serious when I say that you should position the kid in your boobs so that it would be very awkward for people to get close.
I used a Moby wrap. It’s a long piece of fabric that has to be tied just right. My doula showed me how to wear it (you can find tutorials online), I practiced a few times, and initially my husband helped me get it on so that it would stay tight enough.
Honestly, this tip works like a charm. Here is a picture of me with our two-week old at church for the first time. The only reason you can see his head is because I uncovered it for the photo. No germs were getting in there!
For eager church members – Say no.
Just say no. “Sorry, but I’m not letting anyone hold the baby yet.”
And don’t feel badly about it.
Blame the doctor, if that makes it easier. “Sorry, but the doctor says her immune system isn’t developed yet and I cannot let others touch her.”
Honestly, most people know that your newborn is fragile. They know it’s safest to keep him shielded. They will take cues from what they see.
For a fussy baby – tip A: Breastfeed him.
Breastfeed him. Or feed a bottle, if formula is your jam.
Here’s my motto: a nursing baby is a quiet baby.
For a fussy baby – tip B: Keep him moving.
Carry and walk the baby around in the back. And stop worrying so much. It’s a baby, and it’s going to make some noise. Everyone knows that.
As a preacher – yeah, I’d like people to be focusing on the word of God and not be distracted. But out of all the possible distractions, a baby’s noise is the best kind. Hearing babies in the church means our church actually has young families and children to grow in the faith and be the next generation of believers.
If there’s lots of wailing and you cannot figure out what’s wrong – obviously step out, go down the hall, try your baby tricks, and regroup.
For breastfeeding: Get a nursing cover.
Not only did I feel awkward about breastfeeding initially, but I was also awkward in the doing of it. My first child was a struggle in getting him to latch, it was painful for several months, and a newborn is so floppy that it was just downright hard.
I go to a small church that doesn’t have a nursing room with a live feed of the service. So I sat at the very back and covered up.
After a second baby, I’m a pro at breastfeeding. I can discreetly get my baby on and off and keep her head positioned so as to be less revealing. And I am SO less self conscious about it. I don’t feel the need to always cover up in public anymore. But when I was first learning, a nursing cover allowed me to sit around people and feed my baby without fear of exposure.
If you’ve gotten this far down in this blog post, you probably are a person who wants to go to church – or anywhere – with your baby. But maybe the thought of leaving the comfort of your home is too overwhelming at first. Maybe hearing a doctor’s advice to keep the kids sheltered from people was music to your ears. If so, that’s completely okay! God still loves us just as much when we don’t attend worship services.
I strongly believe that God reserves a special grace for mothers. God knows how hard it is. So take some time off. Wear PJs all day.
The point is – you should be the one who decides when is the right time to venture out into the world. You can handle it if you want to.
Question for you: What other tips helped you when you initially started taking your baby out into public?