SILVER SPRING, Md., December 29, 2011 ― A new baby profoundly changes your life and family. Babies bring joy and love and a world of new experiences. They also bring new stresses into life, and it’s nice sometimes to get away for a few hours to relax. Mom and dad deserve some time to themselves once in a while. If you use day care, the odds are you won’t have the same concerns as new parents who don’t. But if you’re dreading leaving your little one for the first time, here are some tips to make it all a little easier.
Finding a baby sitter
Finding the right baby sitter is extremely important. Without someone reliable, responsible and trustworthy, you are not going to feel comfortable leaving your baby. Many people first turn to family members, and if you have close family nearby, this may be a great option. Loving to spend time with their grandchildren, nieces or nephews, grandparents, aunts and uncles don’t charge for their services.
Another way to find good sitters is through referrals. Ask other parents who you trust. Ask friends who live nearby and have small children. Ask co-workers. Any one who has young children who you know and trust can be the source for a referral.
If you are using day care, you might be able to leave your child there for an evening. Some day care facilities recognize that day time hours are not the only times when parents might need someone reliable to watch their children. Such centers occasionally offer a weekend night when parents can drop off their children to go out. The benefit of this is twofold: You know and trust the day care providers, and your child is comfortable with the people and the place. Unlike the hour flexibility of an in-home babysitter, the hours are going to be more limited and prescribed, often with a 10pm latest pick-up time. However, you should check with your daycare center to find out if this is an option for you and what options they offer.
If you’re still in need of a sitter, try the internet. I’m not suggesting you go to the classifieds and pick out the first person advertising babysitting services. But just like many other industries, the child care industry has gone digital. Sites like Sittercity provide a resource for parents to find childcare providers whom they can feel comfortable with. The site allows you to find matches for the job and then interview applicants, check their references and reviews, and even view background checks.
Avoid bottle problems
For breastfeeding mothers, going out without baby can be especially problematic. First there is the issue of making sure you have enough expressed breast milk on hand for the babysitter, then there is the issue of baby drinking it. If she has exclusively breastfed, don’t make the first time baby is introduced to a bottle be the night you want to go out. Otherwise, you may wind up with a hungry baby who screams the entire time you are gone and a babysitter at wit’s end who refuses to come back.
Some babies will switch back and forth between breast and bottle readily, while others refuse to take a bottle at first, and others refuse to go back to the breast. To counter this, make sure you use a bottle with a slow-flow nipple and use expressed breast milk rather than formula to make the introduction easier.
Provide comfort measures for baby
While your baby may be too young to have a security blanket or a favorite stuffed animal, babies are still comforted by the familiar. If you haven’t left your little one before, or if you are leaving her with someone new, try to help comfort your child by being there even when you’re not. Leaving a nightgown or a shirt that you have recently worn with the babysitter works wonders. The piece of clothing still has your scent, and if the babysitter drapes the clothing over her shoulder where a tired baby may rest her head, the presence of that scent will calm your little one.
Similarly, if there are any specific bedtime routines that you have in place, make sure the babysitter is aware. The familiar routine will make your baby feel more comfortable without you there.
Be aware of baby’s development
Around 5 months of age, babies start developing separation anxiety. Try to let your baby get familiar with a babysitter before they hit this developmental challenge. It can be difficult to leave your baby for the first time with someone new, but it’s even harder when your baby is screaming at the top of her lungs and reaching for you. It will be a lot easier to walk out the door if your baby is familiar with the sitter before she hits this stage.
Another milestone that can cause a fussy baby is teething. Typically, babies get their first teeth around 6 months, although it is possible for teething to begin earlier or later. This can make babies fussy, and more irritable. While her gums will hurt whether you are there or not, being able to identify this problem for a sitter and provide your preferred method of soothing baby is important. It identifies the problem for the babysitter so that she knows what the problem is and uses appropriate actions to comfort an upset baby.
Provide contact info
Make sure the person staying with your child has a way to reach you in case there is a problem. These days, cell phones make this extremely easy. However, if you are going to a movie, the theater, a concert, or anywhere else where you have to silence your phone or might otherwise miss a call, make sure you also leave the phone number for your destination.
Providing a secondary contact and doctors’ phone numbers in case of emergency is also a good idea. This is one of those instances where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care. Chances are your babysitter won’t need this information, but it is better to be overly cautious in this case.
When you do finally decide to steal a night or day for yourself, remember to try to relax. Trying to escape the pressures of caring for a baby for a few hours won’t be enjoyable if you spend the entire time worrying and checking your phone to see if you missed a message. With the right preparations and the right babysitter, you will be able to enjoy a few hours without worry.
Follow Brighid on Twitter at @BrighidMoret and receive updates on when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.
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