Stepping Out, Without My Baby
Photo by pink_fish13
So at some point, you may start thinking — dreaming! wishing! longing! — about leaving the house. By yourself, with your husband, partner, friends. To dinner, a movie, happy hour, the stupid shopping mall for the love of God, you don’t care, you just want to put on real clothes and maybe some makeup and spend two hours free of the fear that someone is going to vomit into your cleavage.
How Soon Is Too Soon?
Well, the night you get discharged from the hospital is probably a bad time for theater tickets, but it’s really, really okay to take an outside-the-house break occasionally once healthy weight gain and good feeding habits have been established. (And milk is accepted from someone other than you, of course.) We went out for a dinner alone for the first time — perhaps two or three hours, leaving the baby in the care of our mothers — when each of the boys was between two and three weeks old. Noah was still getting regular formula supplements and Ezra also had no trouble going between breast and bottles of pumped milk.
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding without any bottles and still find yourself really, really needing a break, try arranging a date brunch or lunch on the weekends instead, to avoid the nighttime cluster-feedings that so many newborns do. I found Ezra’s morning feeding schedule to be slightly more spaced-out and predictable than the frantic nonstop rooting and snacking he did in the evenings.
Who Watches the Baby?
We left Noah with a babysitter (as in, a stranger we paid, whom we were not related to) when he was five weeks old. Looking back, I have NO IDEA how I did that without experiencing some kind of paranoid breakdown. I think I was just that tired. (And it was a pretty important, awesome event that I’m glad we attended, and oh yeah! That sitter is now one of my dearest friends.) But really, it was a little trial-by-fire trust moment that taught me that the world would not end if I left my baby in the care of another. Considering I went back to work full-time less than seven weeks later, it was a good moment to have.
Obviously, family usually comes with a bit more of a built-in comfort level. (MAYBE. If writing the Advice Smackdown has taught me anything, is that that grandparents can sometimes be less preferable to a professional sitter with good references.) I’m a big fan of dads getting lots of chances at solo parenting too, so mom can take a break. Barring that, don’t forget about any and all friends who offered babysitting help. Before we had children I remember offering our friends a night out, then later listening to her complain about how long it had been before they found a sitter and could go anywhere. When I reminded her that Jason and I would have loved to come over and care for her daughter, she admitted that she “felt bad” asking and didn’t think we were serious.
If you have friends who already have kids, offer to swap sitting services once a month. Babysitters are expensive (ours generally always have nicer handbags and shoes than I do), so seriously, learn to love the mutual mooching.
(And while I cannot speak for everybody, yes, even with two children already, I would start foaming at the mouth at the chance to babysit someone’s itty bitty newborn. And the older my kids get, the more willing I am. LEMME AT UR BAYBEE NOM NOM.)
But Will I Actually Have Any Fun?
Look, I know some mothers absolutely cannot fathom leaving their baby for even an hour. Lots of mothers, actually. I can do little more than nod in awe and applaud their dedication and patience levels, because I — particularly since staying home full-time — would pretty much lose my mind if I didn’t get away from them once in awhile.
Leaving a newborn in the care of another IS stressful though, and I don’t care if your husband DID virtually beat down five other people on Craigslist for those concert tickets, you’re not being ungrateful if you’re less than 100% jazzed at the idea and need some coddling yourself.
Have your sitter or caretaker arrive early, so you can walk them through every possible scenario and swaddling technique and show the contents of every dresser drawer — even if it’s mostly for your benefit. Hand them the baby while you get dressed to ease your way into the transition. Ask them, if possible, to text your phone with updates (“just drank 4 oz!” “sound asleep!”) so you are less tempted to call six times in one hour. Though…call if you want to, as often as you want to.
If you’re breastfeeding, carry extra nursing pads. When I was going through some crazy oversupply troubles, I brought along a small dismantled hand pump (thank goodness for big oversized purses) so I didn’t have to spend the second hour of our dinner with painful rockboobs. If you’re drinking at all, test your breastmilk with a Milkscreen strip when you get home before you pump or feed the baby. Depending on your body’s metabolism, one or two glasses of wine may not necessarily mean an automatic pump-and-dump, but it’s best to test and be sure.
But Will I Scar The Baby For Life?
Okay, I’m guessing no one really asked this question, but I wanted to end on an! upbeat! note! And say! One more time! IT’S OKAY TO TAKE A BREAK. TO LEAVE YOUR BABY IN THE TRUSTED CARE OF ANOTHER. We all want our babies to love and bond with us, but being cared for by Daddy or Grandma or Auntie Jane while Mommy has some grown-up time and conversation — or even just goes to the salon to get her roots done and tacks on a bonus pedicure and lingers over a fashion mag — is a good thing for you both.
I still have a prescription slip from the lactation consultant who finally helped Noah and me get past the worst of our early breastfeeding woes. Once my milk finally came in and Noah’s weight went back up and latching and pumping and supplementing were all working reasonably well, she scribbled down some homework to complete before my next visit.
“Dinner AND a movie!” it reads.