surviving winter with an infant (Unsplash)Some day I’m going to look back at the first few months of Anna’s life and laugh with her. We’ll talk about how it was a record-breaking winter for Boston, how her dog Abby LOVED her first (and second and third and fourth…) snowy days, and how I used to take her on walks wearing her under my coat.

In the meantime though, I have to admit that winter with an infant in Boston is HARD. Looking outside and seeing mounds of snow higher than my head is disheartening. It would be easy to curl up in a ball and hibernate until spring. Instead, I challenge you to conquer the weather, tackle the winter blues, and embrace the intense amount of slush. Boston in winter is not for the weak-hearted. But with the right preparation, we can do it — and maybe even enjoy it! Here’s how.

Get the right equipment.

Both you and the baby (and any other creatures, human or pets) need the right equipment for the job. For us city-dwellers, that means I use:

  • a sturdy stroller like the UppaBaby Vista (based in the South Shore!) that pushes through the snow and slush
  • a car seat cocoon (don’t settle for something like a BundleMe for a car seat — it’s not safe)
  • a rain cover for the car seat
  • good winter boots (for the adults in the family — and these ridiculous-but-they-do-the-job Pawz for the dog)
  • a good winter coat — I got a hand-me-down that is too big for me, but it was perfect for my pregnant belly and then for wearing my daughter under the coat

If you’re in the suburbs, you want to make sure you can safely get in and out of the places you normally go. Will a Snap-N-Go type stroller cut it with the kind of snow your town gets and the job the plows do? Are you outside in your backyard regularly? If so, you need a way for your infant to keep warm. Are you responsible for shoveling? Your kiddo shouldn’t be outside that long, so will you get a babysitter or is there another family member who can watch your infant while you shovel? Perhaps you want to hire someone else to do the shoveling this year.

Take care of yourself by eating well.

The best gifts we got when Anna was born were the meals our community put together for us. For weeks we received delicious, healthy, mostly homemade meals delivered to our door by friends and neighbors. We ate better in the weeks after her birth than we ate my entire pregnancy! Our fridge was always full, the leftovers were plentiful, and we never felt like we had to order take-out because there was “nothing to eat.”

After the meals stopped, we decided to go on a Whole30 diet — 30 days of clean eating with a focus on proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Best decision of my maternity leave. I feel so good! I have more energy than I have ever had before, and I can do the late-night feeding shift as well as the first one in the morning without falling asleep. But more than the physical benefits is the amazing feeling I get knowing I’m taking care of myself and my family.

Whatever your way of eating, make a commitment to what will help you feel your best, and stick with it. Make taking care of yourself a priority!

Get out of the house — every day.

This is the hardest piece of doing winter with an infant. You have to leave the house. No excuses.

The time post-baby is an easy one for parents to hole-up inside, staying in our pajamas all day — particularly if you’re battling postpartum depression. If you think you might be depressed, call your doctor. ASAP. Give yourself and your baby the gift of getting help. If you’re feeling tired, overwhelmed, and that it’s just easier to stay home, call a friend, make plans, and leave the house. (In the first few weeks, if it’s too overwhelming to leave, invite a friend over — and then invite her to help you get out another time!)

Need some ideas for getting out with the baby?

  • Head to the movies! Many local theaters show films in the middle of the day geared to parents and caregivers! The lights are dimmed but not dark, the sound is loud enough to hear but not blaring, and there’s a changing table for you to use. No one cares if your baby cries or if you need to walk around in the middle of the movie.
  • Visit the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) for culture, art, food, and fun. If your kids are a little older than infants (and are interested in what’s happening around them), check out all the colorful pieces of art in the contemporary sections. The museum is very baby/stroller friendly.
  • Spend time at your local library. Sometimes we walk to our local library to pick up books, and other times we go just because it’s there and something to do! Many libraries offer baby-specific singalongs and story times, too!
  • Run your errands (grocery shopping, Target, thrift stores, etc.). Early on, we we picked an errand a day and made it our activity. Forcing myself into this taught me I could travel with my baby, feed/change her in a public place, and live to tell the tale.
  • Visit family. If you’re lucky enough to have family nearby, make a day trip of it. Nothing excites my dog and kid more than a trip to the grandparents’ house. My dog can frolic in a big backyard and knows exactly where Papa keeps the dog treats. My kid is treated to non-stop attention from her adoring grandparents. And I get to nap. It’s win-win for everyone.
  • Walk the dog. If nothing else, take a walk. One of the great things about having a dog is that I HAVE to take her out a few times a day. Yes, there are days when I’ve been a wimp and taken her on shorter walks than I’d like. But at least we’re out of the house. (I struggled for a while to figure out how to walk with both a dog and a baby. Baby-wearing has worked best for me. Putting her in a wrap or carrier means she comes with me, stays warm, and the dog can’t accidentally pull over the stroller.)

Join a parenting group.

I’m in the “new arrivals” class at the Newton JCC. My husband is participating in a new dads group. We’ve loved the opportunity to connect with other people going through many of the same things we’re experiencing. It’s been rewarding and relieving to know we’re not alone. If you follow only one piece of advice this winter, this is the one to follow!

Be kind to yourself.

Recognize that parenting is hard work. And parenting in the middle of winter in Boston is even harder. Give yourself a break. Make time for yourself, whether that’s a manicure, an hour at the gym, or coffee with your friends — make sure it is a regular part of your week. It’s important to have reasonable expectations of what you can accomplish. Chances are (at least for me), a few errands are more than enough for one day. I can’t do a Target run, a movie, and a trip to the gym all in the same day.

And in the end, you just have to embrace it. Winter with an infant in Boston can be cold, dark, and a bit lonely, if you don’t make the extra effort. So dive right in!