The Benefits of Taking Your Baby Outside
July 11, 2022
It’s no secret that being outside is highly beneficial for the brain and body. Whether you live by the beach, the forest, or in the mountains, a little bit of sunshine, fresh air, and being around nature can do wonders to improve your mood. So, after you have a baby and you’re frazzled, sleep-deprived, and trying to adjust to this new life, it makes sense that going outside can give you a much-needed serotonin boost. Not only is it great for you, there are many benefits for your baby as well. While many still believe that you should stay inside for a month after having a baby, this is actually a myth. If your little one is healthy with no underlying illnesses, you can actually take them outside for a walk as soon as you’re comfortable doing so. Doctors usually advise that premature babies and those with compromised immune systems stay indoors for two months before being around crowds, but short outings to open, spacious areas like the park should be fine as long as you and your baby aren’t close to people. Since your baby’s immune system doesn’t mature until they’re about 2-3 months old, it’s better to err on the side of caution and keep them away from large crowds, even if they’re healthy. Luckily, even going outside in your own backyard is highly beneficial for your baby, and those benefits continue long past infancy! Here are the ways that being outside is crucial to your baby’s wellbeing:
A sensory-rich experience
When your baby goes outside, they’re exposed to new sights, smells, and sounds that create a sensory-rich experience to boost their brain development. Their brain is a sponge, absorbing new information and processing it. The stimulation that they get outdoors immerses them in a multisensory environment, which helps engage and sharpen all of their senses. To help their brain form crucial synapses, make outdoor play a regular part of their routine. Babies shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight, nor should they be outside in extreme weather, so exercise good sense and judgment while giving them outdoor time.
Opportunities for language development
When you’re inside your home following the same routine, day in and day out, there’s not a lot to see or point out to your baby. However, when you step outdoors, there are so many things that you can touch, see, hear, smell, and feel. Take your play mat into your yard, and sit with your little one, pointing out everything you see. From the smooth, waxy texture of a green leaf to the gentle tickle of a spring breeze carrying the sweet scent of jasmine flowers, the outdoors provides a rich learning experience that can boost their language development.
An easy activity you can do with your baby is to focus on one sense at a time, first pointing out everything that you can see (the bright blue sky, the colors of flowers in bloom, or a hummingbird hovering nearby), then everything that you hear (the twittering of birds up above, the wind whistling in the trees, or the sound of children laughing and playing), then everything you smell (the fresh scent of yesterday’s rainfall, smoke from a barbeque next door, or the salty ocean air), then everything you let your baby touch (the tickling of soft grass on their soles, the rough, bumpy bark of a stick, or the smooth hardness of a stone).
Helps establish circadian rhythm
Babies aren’t great at sleeping. It’s one of the things that make parenthood so hard–seriously, sleep deprivation can run you down faster than most things. Circadian rhythms are the biological cycles that repeat every 24 hours, including the sleep-wake cycle. Think of it like your body’s internal clock—it keeps you asleep throughout the night and it’s directly influenced by environmental cues, especially light. Research supports that taking your baby outside for fresh air and sunshine can actually help them establish a better circadian rhythm, leading to longer periods of sleep at night. A 2004 study in the Journal of Sleep Research done on babies younger than 13 weeks old found that the babies who slept well at night spent twice as much in the sunlight than the others. The amount of light exposure during the day directly affects the body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone that helps with sleep.
Boosts the immune system
Children who spend time outdoors are less likely to come down with illnesses. A study conducted by scientists at the John Hopkin Children’s Center found that infants exposed to pet and rodent dander, roach allergens, and a wide variety of household bacteria in their first year of life appeared to be less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma. Science suggests that everyday microbes found outside in nature, including dirt, helps children develop a more robust, healthy immune system. When your baby brings grass or a large stone to their mouth, it’s tempting to stop them, but the action of “mouthing” allows their immune system to explore their environment. Sanitizing everything to create an ultraclean environment is a double-edged sword because while it eliminates bacteria and viruses that make your little one sick, it prevents your child from being exposed to the organisms that positively influence their immune system. Our take? Keep them away from the dog poop and flies, but a little dirt is probably okay now and then!
About the Author: Alice
Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.