The season of hibernation is upon us, and the one-two punch of sleep deprivation + lack of sunlight hits Maine parents with winter babies particularly hard.

It’s cold, it’s icy, and it somehow takes 3 hours to pack yourself and the baby into the car. The temptation to stay in and start building layers of winter blubber with the help of Netflix and Cheez-Its is overwhelming. Between the prevalence of seasonal affective disorder in northern climates and the 1-in-7 chance of postpartum depression worldwide, being a new parent during Maine winter is basically staring into the abyss.

Impossible though it may seem, getting out of the house is crucial at this stage. Movement and camaraderie are potent antidotes to isolation, and taking good care of yourself gives your baby’s early brain development an important boost.

Luckily, greater Portland has lots of destinations for parents with cabin fever. Even if you are the hardy sort who thinks nothing of strapping your baby to your back so you can snowshoe four miles for a gallon of milk, it’s helpful to know where to meet other parents with infants. Here’s where to start.

  1. The Mothering Circle
    This free weekly gathering of moms and babies is a great place to find your mom tribe. Facilitated by friendly professionals who create a safe space to share your joys and your frustrations, you will leave here remembering that you are normal and you are not alone on your mothering journey.
  2. Your local public library
    Maine’s public libraries are here for you, Mom and Dad. Whether you want to attend a “baby and me” story time or just find a warm, quiet place to sit with your newborn, the librarians are happy to see you all.
  3. Greenlight Studio
    Anna Maria Tocci, formerly of the North Star Cafe, bought and renovated this space in the summer of 2015. The result is a cozy, parent-friendly play space where you can feed your baby and sip a smoothie while the older kids burn off some energy. Even if you don’t have a toddler in tow, there is room for you: they offer cafe seating outside the play area with a full menu, too.
  4. Maine Mall Walking Program
    Is your baby up at dawn? The mall opens at 6 am Monday-Saturday and 9 am on Sundays for locals to walk its wide, climate-controlled boulevards. Park near any of the glass doors for easy access. Most stores open at 10, but Starbucks is there for you beginning at 7 am (or 5:30 if you go to the drive-through location across the street).
  5. South Portland Community Center
    This indoor walking track is smooth, clean, well-lit, and stroller-friendly. The facility has an elevator, large restrooms, and ample parking, and is generally open 6 am to 9 pm with slightly abbreviated weekend hours. Meet a friend there and walk as long as you like for a $1 nonresident fee or free if you live in SoPo. There is no dedicated area for nursing mothers (yet) but there are benches and chairs throughout the building where you can camp out when you need to.
  6. Walk Safely Falmouth
    The former Mason-Motz school is now home to Falmouth’s recreational program office. Monday through Thursday, from 8 am to 5 pm, (Fridays 8-12) you can wear your baby and do laps around the gym for free. Bring walking shoes to change into because street shoes are frowned upon. For questions, call their office at 207-699-5302.

Do you have a favorite place for hanging out with your baby during the winter months? Tell us.