As parents, especially as new moms and dads, we often feel that no one can care for our own children as well as we can. It can be difficult to trust someone else with someone who means the absolute world to you. But it's also really important that we give ourselves a little bit of space on occasion to take a little time and reset, whether that's by yourself or with your partner. My husband and I have regular date nights, but up until a couple of weekends ago, we had not both left our son for a full night.
We had an out-of-town wedding on the calendar and had to make the choice to either bring our son with us or leave him overnight with my parents. We've done the whole wedding with a baby thing. It's doable, but I wouldn't classify it as "enjoyable." And we knew throwing in traveling and sleeping in a hotel room certainly wouldn't help matters. So my husband and I made the decision to leave our baby with my parents. I'm happy to report that it went incredibly well. Here are a few things we did in preparation that I strongly believe made for a good first night away for him and for us:
HOW TO PREPARE TO LEAVE YOUR BABY FOR AN OVERNIGHT TRIP
- Make sure your baby is old enough. I don't think there's a set age at which all babies are ready for this, as each baby develops at their own pace. As you know, though, a lot of things - like sleeping - get easier as your baby gets older. My son is now sleeping through the night, which was good for this trip because it meant I wouldn't have to worry about him waking my mom up at all hours.
- Opt for the familiar. Choose someone who you trust and who already knows your baby well. This might be a relative, or a close friend who's spent ample time with your baby, or a babysitter who's cared for your child a few times in the past. In my case, my parents were a natural choice since, lucky for us, they live fairly close, but also because they have been around Beckett enough for me to know that he feels comfortable with them and knows them. This left me at complete ease. Another tip: have your overnight sitter stay over at your home rather than bringing your baby to their place so your baby can sleep in his own bed, etc.
- Prepare feedings. If you're breastfeeding, start stocking up on milk far in advance. I certainly can't speak for everyone, but I do not produce a surplus of breast milk. Therefore, I knew I needed to start saving every little drop a few months ahead of time. It's extremely stressful to be away and worrying about whether or not your baby is going to have enough to eat. Planning ahead in this regard can save you the worry. Determine how many feedings you’ll miss while you’re away so you can figure out how much milk you’ll need to save and how long it will take to build up your stash.
- Make this first trip one that's fairly close. For our first overnight, we were 2.5 hours away. No matter how far away you are, more than likely, your baby is going to be completely fine while you're gone. In the event, though, that you need to come to the rescue, having to drive a few hours rather than dealing with the logistics of changing a flight and hopping on a plane is more ideal. Not only is it easier to be nearby, but it also gives you more peace of mind knowing that your baby is so easily accessible.
- Do a trial run & then leave clear instructions. Make sure your caretaker knows your baby's general schedule in terms of eating, napping and playing. This is where having someone who's been around your baby enough to know all of these details can help. This was the case with my mom, she knew Beckett's routine - including what we do to put him down for bed. In the event that your baby hasn't been around his caregiver for the p.m routine, schedule a trial run or two ahead of time. This is also a great excuse to give yourself some "me" time or go on a fun date with your partner! In general, the less you can go astray from your child's normal routine, the better the experience will likely be - both for your baby and for the caretaker.
- Set communication expectations before you go. It can be hard to genuinely enjoy your time away if you're receiving constant updates on what your baby is doing. In the same vein, it can be hard to relax if you're wondering how he is doing without you. Set the expectation with your caregiver that either you will check in at a certain time or they can reach out and update you at a set time. This will give you the peace of mind that everything is going well, but it also allows you to somewhat detach and enjoy your time alone.
Most importantly, remember that this time away is supposed to be relaxing! Being a parent is hard work, and taking a break every now and then is necessary. So do what you can on the front end to be well-prepared so that you can unwind and have fun during your time away. You deserve it.
- Family Room blog: Mom Playdates: Friends & Achieving Work/Life Balance
- Bright Horizons Online Community: Vacation without Kids
- Read more posts about infants and posts about breastfeeding and pumping from The Family Room bloggers