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Stepping Out, Without My Baby

Dec22

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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.


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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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9 Responses to “Stepping Out, Without My Baby”

  1. Heather Dec 22 at 12:37 pm Reply Reply

    The first time I left my baby “alone,” he was 6 weeks old, and I went for a walk with my husband for about…20 minutes. We left the baby with grandma and SIL. But I had such.a.HARD.time. just rounding the corner and walking AWAY from the house. And I actually RAN back to the house on our way home bc I was so consumed with being with my baby.
    The first time I ‘really’ left my baby, he was 13 months old. My husband had purchased tickets to a matinee (Wicked) and had given me 6 months advanced warning to find a babysitter. I finally found a babysitter that I met and liked (instinctively) and we left on a Sunday afternoon for the city. I can’t tell you ONE DETAIL about that show, because I was so consumed by thoughts of the babysitter taking mah baybee and crossing the border, and other crazy thoughts/delusions. I called the babysitter 4 times while we were away, too. When we finally (FINALLY) got home, I peeked into the window and spied on the babysitter and my son. He was fine! He was laughing and playing with her. So…my only advice would be…don’t be like me and wait until your baby is a year old. Go much, much sooner so that (a) you get the much needed break you deserve,(b) you leave your baby soon(bc it is harder the longer you wait), and (c) your baby gets to interact with someone new (trusted) before stranger anxiety sets in!

  2. Olivia Dec 22 at 1:33 pm Reply Reply

    My first time leaving baby with a sitter was for our anniversary. She was just over 3 months old so I had gotten over the most intense “must be with my baby at all times” part. And our sitter was a trusted friend. All went well, but I sure did miss her.
    Generally, though, I want to spend my non-working time with her so I take her wherever I go.

  3. eileen Dec 22 at 3:03 pm Reply Reply

    This just brought back a memory I have tried to squash for 30 years. Yes, you read that right, 30 years! When my son was 7 weeks old, we went to Tahoe with family. Everyone was going out for dinner and some gambling, and we needed a sitter to join them. I kid you not, we walked up and down the street that our condo was on, found a young girl around 13 or so and asked her to baby-sit for us. We had no cell phones, etc. back then. I have no idea how the hell I was able to go out, but I did and had fun! Yikes. When we got home, the baby was sleeping, and all was well. Hubby paid her and walked her home. I went to check on the baby and found him sound asleep on his BACK!!! This may not sound scary to you all, but when I had my babies, we NEVER put them to bed on their backs until they were old enough to roll over themselves. Something about choking on spit up or some such thing. It freaked me the hell out to see my baby on his back. So, there is my horror story of leaving babies with sitters. He was none the worse for wear, and is just fine now, and has provided me with the 2 best grand kids in the whole world!
    Um, second time around, we had twins, so those volunteers to sit dried up really fast! A 3 year old and newborn twins, uh, ya, sorry, I have to wash my hair that night.

  4. eva Dec 22 at 4:09 pm Reply Reply

    My husband and I work full time outside of the house. We use a babysitter a couple of times a month to go out for dinners, enter races (we both run) or whatever. So even though we are away 35 hours a day? We still take waking hours away from our two year old. And she still loves us and we feel very attached to her.
    But we do not not not miss her or pine for her when we’re out! EVER!
    The first times we left her with a babysitter she was 6-8 months old and they didn’t even spend time with her awake – they’d get to our house after she was in bed, and she was none the wiser that her favourite two people in the world had deserted her in favour of bad movies/overpriced food. Then once she started sleeping through the night we started letting the babysitter (a co-worker’s daughter) put her to bed. Hasn’t ever been a problem, although there are usually tears when we leave, they stop very quickly.
    And we’ve honestly never, not once, phoned or texted to check up on things. We’ve told the babysitter to call her mom if she has questions, and if it’s serious call 911 then call us.

  5. maria Dec 23 at 3:58 am Reply Reply

    I never had troubles leaving Jakob with anyone early on, actually. (Although it was basically family who took him and I was TIRED!!) Our first big night away out of town though (our anniversary, Jakob was a couple months old) we actually drove home and FORGOT we had a baby… we had to turn around and pick him up. Oops!

  6. Olivia Dec 23 at 8:24 am Reply Reply

    @Eileen, that makes me laugh, becuase so many mothers with babies today would freak out if they found their newborn sleeping on his/her stomach.

  7. Stefanie Dec 23 at 11:57 am Reply Reply

    We left our daughter with my mother at two weeks old. There was no other person I could have left her with at that point. And she was totally fine. The next time, we left her with my sister, who is 8 months pregnant. My daughter had been sleeping for a couple of hours when we left, so I showed my sister the milk I’d pumped so she could feed her…but my sister spent the whole time we were gone snuggling her so she just slept! By the time we got home, our daughter had been sleeping for 5 hours. Needless to say, the moment she was in my arms she smelled milk and woke up…and nursed until 6 am. BUT it was totally worth it. My sister got to have some baby cuddles, which is always nice when you’re waiting for your own to arrive, and my husband and I got to have a break and some adult conversation. I think we might have even talked about something other than the baby once or twice. Totally second bringing the hand pump along. Every time I would think about the baby my boobs would fill up and it was not comfortable!

  8. Amelia Dec 27 at 2:08 pm Reply Reply

    I hired a “mother’s helper” for a few weeks when Charles was very young and I was on maternity leave (2 months, 3 months old). Then, after I trusted her to love on him properly while I got laundry done, or ate a whole sandwich, or just SLEPT for God’s sake, my husband and I hired her as a real babysitter for a couple of hours out. This system worked out great, because the sitter was tried and trusted while I was within shouting distance, so there was much more peace of mind for me. The bonus was that I had clean laundry, instead of mounds of milk-stained laundry piling up, because, you know, GOD FORBID I put the baby down for 10 minutes and let him sleep anywhere other than my arms. Hmm. Will know better next time.

  9. pippi777 Dec 29 at 3:12 am Reply Reply

    I don’t have any children of my own yet, but I’ve been babysitting for over 10 years and nannying for 5. The youngest I’ve ever sat for was 3 weeks old. They have an older son who will be 2 soon and the first time that they had EVER gone out together since they’d had the older one was a month before they had the second. I’ve watched both boys twice now and will be staying with them overnight for New Years Eve. Several families that I already sit for told them that I was great with their kids and that they should get my number for babysitting. I think that, more than anything reassured them that I knew what I was doing and they didn’t need to worry.) I nannied part time for a family, starting when their oldest was 5 weeks. The mom worked from home and came down periodically to check in and see him, but I was his primary caregiver while I was there and mom asked me if she could hold him. (My response was always ‘Of course! He’s your son.’ But I still liked that she showed me the respect to ask since I was the one taking care of him at the time.) I nannied for their 2nd from 6 months to a year before I found a new full time family. Another family I sit for, I started when their oldest was about 2. When I first started, the mom would text periodically throughout the evening and ask how everything was going, how much/what did she eat, etc. Now they have a 6 month old and I was both girls at least once a month and the mom doesn’t worry a bit while they’re out. I watched the baby one day a week starting at 6 weeks old until I found a full time nanny job.
    I feel incredibly honored that the parents trust me to watch their children and I know how hard it must be to leave them, no matter whether its done at a few weeks old or a few years old.

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