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5 Places You Can Bring Your Baby

With my first baby, my world seemed suddenly smaller, limited to stroller walks and visits to the pediatrician's office. I couldn't imagine taking Mathilda into a bookstore or our small, crowded church: What if she made noise? What if I needed to nurse her or change a diaper? I used to shop for food late at night, after she was asleep and my husband was home, because I dreaded taking her along. When I had my second child, though, I realized things had to change. This time, I had to get out!

The truth is, almost nowhere is totally off-limits with a baby. These five should get you started:

Grocery Store

The quick in-and-out runs you made before you had a child are as long gone as your skinny jeans. But this does not have to be an errand you dread. To make it easier...

? Start Small Instead of hauling the baby to the store for the hour-long, $200 shopping event, take her to pick up milk, eggs, and juice. Your confidence will rise and she'll get used to the routine. On later, longer trips, it's best to grab the essentials first (produce, dairy, meats -- located around the rim of the store) in case you don't make it through every aisle.

? Time it Right Weekday mornings are best, if possible; your baby is rested, and you miss the after-work and weekend rush. Of course, feed her at the last possible moment -- ideally, in the parking lot. This isn't the time to push the limits on the two-hour feeding. If you work or have an immovable morning routine for any reason, try for the same early hour on weekends. (Wave hi to the other moms while you're there.)

? Park Near the Cart Corral, Not the Store "You can load up without getting flustered and feeling you're in the way of other shoppers, juggling with your child, carrier, and diaper bag," says Brooke Thompson of New Oxford, PA.

? Take an Extra Layer Grocery stores are notoriously chilly, so even if it's 90 degrees out, bring a sweater for your baby (and for yourself, too -- this is why diaper bags are so big).

? Break Out the Sling or BabyBjorn I never got the hang of attaching the car seat to the grocery cart -- I always felt more secure with my baby next to my body. But do practice getting her in and out at home. "With my first baby, I was very nervous about using the front carrier," says Carolina Fernandez of Ridgefield, CT, a mom of four. "I watched his every breath, held his head with one hand while I reached for the groceries with the other. But after a few times, it was no big deal."

? Don't Even Think About the Self-Serve Checkout Lane Take advantage of the store's services -- bagging your groceries, pushing the cart to your car, putting bags in the trunk.