Though you probably can’t imagine being away from your little one, eventually the time will come when you want to go out for the evening with your spouse or maybe you will need to leave on an overnight business trip for work. When the time comes, it’s completely normal to feel a range of emotions from excitement to separation anxiety. Preparing ahead of time is the key to feeling less stress and being able to enjoy and recharge while you are away.
How to Prepare for Your First Time Away
Don’t let your night out be filled with worries of the things you forgot to tell the sitter or things that you forgot to do. Prepare now so that when the night comes, you can be confident that everything is under control.
Ask a Family Member Who Knows Your Baby
If your spouse isn’t able to watch your little one (or will be going out with you), try to ask a family member, such as your parents or an aunt who knows your little one, to help you out. Your baby will appreciate the familiarity and chances are your family member already knows some of your typical routines. Finding the best babysitter can be hard.
Make Arrangements for the Sitter to Come to You
If possible, ask whoever is watching your little one to do so at your home. Babies thrive on routine. The more closely that the caregiver can stick to your little one’s typical routine and surroundings, the greater the likelihood of the night going smoothly.
Ask the Sitter to Arrive Early
Asking your little one’s caregiver to arrive a half-hour to an hour before you have to leave will ensure that you will be able to go over your instructions and will give your little one time to adjust to the caregiver.
Write, Write, Write
Don’t rely on your memory as you are walking out the door and rambling off a list of instructions. Instead, take the time ahead of time to write down your little one’s typical routine, instructions on how to put your baby to sleep, favorite (and not-so-favorite) books, toys or snacks and any emergency information.
It’s also a good idea to be prepared in case of an emergency if you are going to be out for more than a few hours. A medical consent form, copies of insurance cards and detailed information on where to go if there is an emergency should be given to your caregiver and placed in a safe, secure location.
Leave a Comfort Item
Because babies are so attuned to smells, it can be helpful to sleep in a t-shirt overnight and then leave that shirt with your caregiver. The shirt will have your scent on it, which may help comfort your little one at bedtime or when you leave.
Prepare More than You Think You Need
It’s hard to estimate how much your little one will eat or how many diapers he or she will go through; this is especially true if you are nursing. If you are a breastfeeding mama, make sure to stock the freezer with milk you’ve pumped ahead of time even if you are only going to be out a few hours. Nothing is more frazzling than being stuck in traffic on the way home from a movie and realizing that it’s time to feed your baby. Make sure your sitter knows where the extra outfit, diapers and wipes are as well.
Consider Doing a Trial Run
Make sure that your little one has spent time with the sitter before leaving him or her and consider doing a “trial run.” Even if it’s just a quick trip to the store, your little one will be better used to the idea of your being away, and you and the caregiver will be able to solve any problems that occur before the big night out. Plus, it can be helpful for your little one to see that you will return after being gone for a few hours, which can help alleviate his or her anxiety when you really leave.
Pack a Portable Pump
If you are breastfeeding, missing out on too many feedings will quickly kill your milk supply. Bring a portable pump with you, along with a storage bag and containers, in order to pump if you are going to be out for more than a few hours.
Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Chances are, both you and your little one are going to have some separation anxiety (especially if your baby is older than 10 weeks). Try these tips for dealing with leaving, so you both can enjoy your evening.
Tell yourself (repeatedly) that being away is okay. It’s normal to feel guilty about leaving your little one, but allowing yourself to continually feel that guilt will ruin your time away. Give yourself permission to let go of the guilt and stress and enjoy the time you have away.
Try not to let your little one in on your fears. Babies are extremely adept at picking up and mimicking our emotions. When saying “goodbye” to your little one before you leave, try not to let your anxiety or stress show, so that your baby doesn’t become anxious as well.
Don’t just “slip away.” It may seem like it will be easier to quietly “slip away” without saying “goodbye,” but it can cause your little one to panic when you suddenly aren’t there. Take the time to say a short and sweet “goodbye” before leaving.
Let go and trust your caregiver to succeed. Once you’ve given your caregiver everything he or she needs, explained the instructions and said “goodbye,” it’s time to go. Dragging it out will make both your little one and your caregiver feel less-than-confident.
Leaving your little one for the first time is a nerve-wracking experience for even the most experienced mom. Take a deep breath, know that it’s okay to do something for you and be prepared in order to have a smooth, enjoyable experience.