Once you're baby's on a solid feeding schedule or able to take a bottle, you'll probably start fantasizing about leaving the house sans yoga pants and (gasp) sans baby. However, hiring a sitter for the first time can be one of the scariest experiences for a new mom. If you go into it knowing you've taken all the right steps to prepare, though, there's no reason you shouldn't feel confident. There are some things you should totally do the first time you leave your baby with a sitter to help the transition and execution of this momentous day go as smoothly as possible.
I felt so overwhelmed by new motherhood, I actually counted the minutes until a babysitter came to help watch my 5-week-old baby so I could step out alone for a few hours. I was so exhausted from being up all night (not exaggerating) for weeks at a time, because my son couldn't sleep for longer than 40 minutes at a time. I probably should have handed my baby to her and jumped into bed, but I was so excited to walk into the sunlight as a free agent; not pushing a stroller and not stressed that my baby could go into full-on meltdown at any moment. I felt like a prisoner feeling sunlight on her face for the first time when I exited my apartment and walked outside alone. It was the most delicious feeling. And unlike a lot of other moms I know, I don't think I spent all that much time worried about my baby when I was out. I was too busy selfishly drinking in my freedom and getting reacquainted with a sense of agency. I have mixed feelings about this, for sure.
Luckily, the day went smoothly and that particular sitter not only worked out really well, but became one of our long-term sitters who took great care of my son. Now, as a second-time mom with much more experience, I can say that there are a few tried and true things I do when I leave my kids with babysitters, that just makes the entire process all the more easy.
Do Your Sitter Prep Work
Do a phone interview, a face-to-face, and then (ideally) have the sitter come at some point, in advance of your "first babysitting day," to see how she interacts with the baby. Definitely check her references and call her past employers (it is a super scary world out there), but don't be so freaked out that you're paralyzed about leaving your baby with anyone. No one deserves to be stuck in their house until their baby goes to college.
I've had many great babysitter experiences and, as one might expect, quite a few duds. None of the bad ones (and let me tell you, some of them were really, really bad) ended up being harmful to my children. Finding the right babysitter is sometimes like finding the right doctor, therapist, or even the right partner. You have to go through a lot of them to find "the one."
Make Sure Your Sitter Has Everything She Needs
Set your sitter and your baby up for success, and also give yourself the opportunity to have time away from the house so you don't have to constantly send texts or call with things like Wifi passwords, or instructions on how to work your particularly finicky microwave. Leave a detailed list of instructions about anything your sitter might need to know how to work in your house, your baby's favorite toys or songs, and of course, a run-down of your baby's schedule. Go over the lists in person and make sure your sitter is clear on everything before you head out. Definitely show her where the diapers are, and where she can find your baby's favorite pacifier and the drawer with the onesies. Make sure to leave emergency numbers, including the number for your pediatrician, as well as who to call if you cannot be reached.
I usually share my contact, my husband's contact, the pediatrician, and my mother-in-law's contact with my sitters via my iPhone. I also have all our emergency numbers written on the inside of our kitchen cabinet under the sink, which I point out to all of our new sitters.
Don't Leave If You're Not 100 Percent Comfortable With It
We once hired a sitter on vacation that I just did not feel good about. There was something strange about her, and it set me off. I am not usually a worrier of this extreme, but I told my husband I preferred to stay home and we just told her I wasn't feeling so well and that we were deciding to stay home after all.
Hopefully for the first time you hire a sitter to watch your baby, it will be after you've done a vetting process and it won't be the first time you're meeting the sitter, so you'll be able to step out feeling confident in the care that you've chosen for your child
Once Everyone Is Settled, Leave And Don't Look Back (Except Of Course, When You Absolutely Need To Check In)
Try to avoid the long goodbye. A quick, assured adios to your little one will be less stressful for everyone. Remember, this is your time. Plus, if you're breastfeeding, the clock is ticking to the next time you'll need to breastfeed or pump, which will surely take away from the precious minutes you could be spending doing you.
The first time you leave your baby with a sitter can be nerve wracking and you may be tempted to send in lots of texts or to call (or have your sitter text you each time your baby eats). If this truly makes you feel better, of course, do what you need to do. However, if you've committed to taking this time for you, and you have already decided that you feel good about your decision to leave your baby with a sitter, the best thing you could do is commit to the time you've taken for yourself.
I was lucky, kind of but not really, the first time I left my son with a sitter. With my first born, I had terrible postpartum depression, so I couldn't wait to be away from my baby. In my mind (before I was treated for the illness) he was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I would have left him with a dying horse if that's who had shown up at my door to watch him for the few hours I'd asked for. For real. I'm not proud, but that's actually how I felt during that dark and twisted time. Silver lining?
If You're Pumping, Pack Your Pump
Don't ruin your time away by having to cut it short because of painful and engorged boobs. Pack a hand pump (or if you have to, lug the big mama electric pump) and plan on having to spend some time doing a pumping session. It's worth it so you can extend your time away, and not necessarily have to limit your location to a place that's three blocks from your home. I don't think I traveled anywhere without my hand pump.
Wear Extra Padding
Nursing pads. Do not leave home without them. I always had a few packs of the disposable pads in my bag, just in case I had that delightful leakage that accompanies the lactating mother wherever she goes. Nothing ruins date night like milk stains on a nice(ish) shirt (as in nothing I wore out when I was breastfeeding was all that "nice," since I knew about the likely event it would get stained with milk).
Go And Do The Thing You've Been Dreaming Of
Have you been fantasizing about eating in a restaurant alone, or sitting in a coffee shop with a latte, paging through your "guilty pleasure" magazine? Has a pedicure been on your to-do list since the baby came early and you never got to go in for that last pampering session? Maybe you've been craving some one-on-one adulting time with your partner, like trying out a new wine bar or seeing a movie. Go and do that thing. You may feel guilty that you're not out "accomplishing" things that are worthwhile (i.e. something work related, or catching up on those thank you cards for all the baby gifts you've received), but I say you just tell that guilt it can kiss your hardworking ass. You need this time and you've earned the hell out of it. Grab a damn coffee alone or whatever you've been dying to do and own it.
The first time I left my baby alone with a sitter (who was a real sitter, and not a dying horse, FYI) I went to a tea shop I had been dreaming of since that first day with my newborn in the hospital. I had this distinct image of myself alone with a platter of tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and a pot of Earl Grey. Nothing defined indulgence more than that. So I rushed to the West Village as soon as I said goodbye to my baby and enjoyed those tea sandwiches like nothing else I have ever eaten and savored the first moments I'd had in what felt like forever, when no one was attached to me or feeding from my body.