Know where you're going and how long it takes to get there, and then add at least 20 minutes to the time you think it will take to get ready and get in the car and get there. Yes really. You can thank me later. If you haven't had your baby yet then I highly encourage scouting out the pediatrician's office, breastfeeding support group, babywearing meeting, and the bottle feeding/formula aisle at your local grocery store. Just knowing exactly how to get there (parking? escalators? closing hours?) can make navigating in a sleep deprived, hormonal state that much easier.
Ditto your gear. Don't try to set up your stroller or use your new carrier for the first time in a Target parking lot. In a week or two you'll be able to do this in your sleep, but when you're tired and running late (or are just desperate for some lansinoh) you'll be glad you practiced a couple times at home.
Everyone has their own diaper bag/baby outing set up, but here are a couple things to keep in mind. 1. Babies can make a HUGE mess in a short amount of time. 2. Less is easier. That's why I try to keep a change of clothes for everyone (and at least a clean shirt for mom/primary caregiver) during those early, spitty days. I once arrived at an appointment late only to find my son had had a blow out in his car seat. Poop happens. Be prepared.
On the other hand, nothing is more cumbersome than feeling like you have to carry EVERYTHING with you each time you leave the house. If you're driving then leaving a baby essentials kit in your car will let you carry the minimum. For a quick grocery trip this means phone, keys, and credit card/cash stashed in a pocket. Longer trips away from your car kit (or if you are using public transit) will necessitate packing more stuff - my best suggestion there is to poll your friends, look at your current purse, and make a working plan from there. Remember that cloth diapers and bottles/formula all take up extra space. Plus, your needs will change as your baby grows and you start packing snacks and toys. Be flexible and/or willing to replace your current diaper bag as you learn more about what y'all need.
Oh, and about the timing - if you're going to a 9:00am doctor appointment on Tuesday then try to pack your diaper bag on Monday before bed. At some point your baby will be fussier, hungrier, or messier just when you most need a free hand. It helps to be prepared.
Naturally, we recommend a good carrier as the easiest way to carry your baby, but you might want to consider some other factors. If your baby will sleep or be content in her car seat then that might be the best choice if you're going out to eat. It's super easy to tuck a ring sling or mei tai over them as a blanket in case you need to wear them anyway.
You might also want to consider the weather. Mei tai's are cooler for hot weather. Ring slings and buckle carriers you can put on when the ground is muddy without worrying about messing up your carrier (although a pre-tied wrap carry like front cross carry can do the same thing - just tie it before you get out of the car).
Generally speaking, a ring sling is just about the perfect first carrier for a newborn. They are simple to use, pack easily, and available in a range of price points. This is our number one recommendation for newborn carrying, but most every type of carrier has good newborn options. Feel free contact us with any specific questions about newborn wearing.
When it's not your first baby
If you have a newborn and a toddler or preschooler you'll find yourself carrying around even more stuff. Streamline, streamline, and get a good diaper bag or backpack to carry the inevitable snacks, burp rags, toys, and diapers. Older toddlers (2+) can help carry some of the bulky but light items like diapers, lovies, and spare clothes.
Have a plan for handling meltdowns with older children. Will you go home? Wear both of them? Power through and know you aren't the first or last person to have a kid screaming in Publix?
Planning trips around nap schedules and avoiding certain triggers (like the candy or toy aisle) can help keep everyone calm. For grocery trips you might want to zip through the express lane with a snack for your older one (my son beelines for the apples) before checking off your list. If you aren't already in the habit of talking through errands this is a great time to start. Playing I Spy or talking about colors and shapes as you shop can help turn errands into bonding time with your older child(ren) who might be wanting a little extra mom time.
It helps to have a feeding plan before leaving the house. If you bottle feed then you'll want to think about transporting and preparing breastmilk or formula while out and about. If you breastfeed then you should know that you have the right in Alabama to nurse your infant wherever you have the legal right to be. Using covers or retreating to private spaces is completely up to you. Regardless of how you feed your baby, a carrier can help you feed more easily while out and about. Older children can often nurse or hold a bottle without assistance, but infants will require a hand to either support them at the breast or hold the bottle (since bottle propping isn't recommended). Your carrier can also provide privacy when breastfeeding in public. Just understand that, particularly in the early days, this isn't a hands free skill and should be practiced at home. Remember to continually monitor your baby's positioning and airway and always return her or him to a snug and upright position after feeding. As always, we're happy to help if you have any questions.
Finally, maybe you should just stay home
Getting out can be necessary and good for your mental and physical health, but sometimes moms of newborns think they have to do too much. If you can order it on-line, ask someone to pick it up, or do without those are all valid options. There's no prize for being the first one back up and doing. Raising babies (whether or not you're also recovering from pregnancy and birth) is tiring and time consuming. Respect the season you're in and, whenever possible, don't rush back into your previous lifestyle.
Note: I've written this post generally assuming a postpartum mother, but these tips also apply to grandparents, fathers, and adoptive parents. Adoptive moms might not have the physical recovery and hormone swings, but they also don't have the same mental and biological preparation. New babies are beautiful challenges no matter how they arrive, and all families need support and encouragement during that time.
Natalie Short, VBE