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Steppin' Out With My Baby

Before I had my first baby, I imagined my outings as a mother would be much like my prepregnancy ones  -- with one small, sweet, thumb-sucking addition. Well, Lilianna was sweet, but she cried (a lot). She spit up (a lot). She nursed around the clock, required more supplies than would fit in my fanny pack, and got very heavy very quickly. Sometimes it seemed like too much trouble to go anywhere with her in tow.

But it wasn't long before I realized what great companions babies really are. They're easy to keep track of and don't require much in the way of food; they even enjoy running errands. A good trip, though, means being mindful of your baby's temperament and schedule as well as your destination. The first step: Consider your baby's disposition. While more adaptable infants seem to thrive in any environment, sensitive babies might find the bright lights at the supermarket or the crowds at the zoo unbearable. That doesn't mean you should keep your sensitive child at home. In fact, it's part of a parent's job to gently introduce a baby to the world's wonders, says Claire Lerner, child development specialist at Zero to Three. Just take it slowly if she's timid  -- first try a pit stop at the grocery store instead of a stocking-the-pantry trip. No matter what your child's temperament, try to venture out when she's well rested and well fed. This will not only minimize fussing, but it will also enable her to get the most out of the excursion.

When you arrive at your destination, don't expect your baby to entertain herself. Engage her by pointing out the sights and describing what's going on around you. It may require a little more effort, but she'll reward you by being willing to stay out longer. Learn to recognize her threshold and respect it  -- when she's had enough, find a quiet place to regroup or simply bring her home.

Karen Miles is a frequent contributor to Parenting magazine. Additional reporting by BabyTalk magazine.