It's normal to have mixed feelings the first time you leave your baby with a sitter. You might be nervous but also excited. Here are some ways you can prepare your baby and yourself to help things go as smoothly as possible.
How do I get my baby used to me leaving?
It's important to get your baby accustomed to being cared for by someone else. And starting this process relatively early – before separation anxiety sets in – can make things easier for everyone.
Try having your partner, a trusted friend, or a family member handle a feeding while you leave the house (or even just go to another room) for a little while. Begin with short periods of time away, then gradually work up to longer periods. This helps your baby get used to being without you.
If you're breastfeeding, you'll need to teach your baby to take a bottle of pumped or expressed breast milk – which makes it possible for you to be away longer in the future.
How do I ease the separation?
There's no surefire way to make the separation easy on your baby (or you!), but here are a few suggestions:
- If you're anxious, do your best to calm your own nerves beforehand. Try talking to someone about your worries or writing them down in a journal. Practicing visualization is another good way to manage anxiety. For example, take a few deep, slow breaths and imagine your baby feeling content while you are gone because she is safe and nurtured by her caregiver. Picture returning to your baby, and how good it will feel when you see each other again.
- Treat brief separations casually. When it's time to go, don't get worked up over your departure or linger over saying goodbye.
- Make sure your child is well rested and fed before you go out. She's more likely to have a hard time if you leave when she's tired or hungry.
- Consider having the sitter come over for an hour or two a couple of days before you plan to go out. That way, she can get to know your baby, and you can see how they get along.
- Don't sneak out without saying goodbye, but do make sure she's enjoying a new toy or fun activity with the sitter when you're ready to leave. Then say goodbye with a hug and a kiss, and leave promptly.
Remember, you not only deserve to have a little time to yourself, you need it. It's important for everyone to exercise, see friends, or spend a relaxing evening with a partner.