If you're here, you are probably doing that awful anxious searching to see if something can take away all the emotions. I've been there, and done it twice, and all you want is for everything to go perfectly, and to arrive home as if you never left!The good news is, this will probably happen, except our newly wired parent brain, won't let us think like that, and it is totally normal!!
Here's a few starting points to help you prepare for this parenting milestone...
1. Over the course of a few days, start to jot down any little things your baby does when they are tired, hungry, have wind, are bored or how you comfort them. My little boy used to pull on his earlobe when getting tired, so being able to tell someone to look out for this, made it easier to get him down for a nap before it was too late and he became overtired.
2. Depending on the age of your baby, will dictate what they're eating, so if they're on the bottle or will be having expressed milk, make sure you have enough to cover your time away. Whether this is a few hours or overnight, it's always better to have WAY more than you'll ever need, just incase there are delays in getting home, or if your baby is having a hungry day. I always used to aim for double the usual amount. So if I was leaving baby for a duration I'd usually feed him twice, I'd leave enough expressed milk for 4 feeds, and so on. Build up a supply of expressed milk, and remember to leave clear instructions on how to defrost/ reheat (labelling ready made bottles when they must be used by).
If they're 6 months or older they may be on solid foods or weaning still. It depends how much prep you want to do, but writing down a few favourite easy meals, and having plenty of snacks in will take the pressure off whoever is taking care of them. Either prep and place in the fridge ready to heat up, or buy some favourite mini ready meals you can get for babies. Snacks are important for older babies, and can be used as a really good distraction. Fill a basket of their favourite goodies, and let your babysitter know, that for today, they can eat all of their favourite things as often as they like. (It can also stop them from being given lots of new sweet treats and sugar they might not have had)
3. Write down your usual daily routine (even if the timings change a little) Add in meal times, nap times, whether you watch TV at certain times, or if you go for a walk. If you have a bath time routine write these little details so it can be replicated and baby feels safe doing their normal day in day out things. Try not to plan anything big for while you are away, it is likely
you experience more anxiety knowing baby is going for a long car journey, or to a new place you can't visualise them in. If your babysitter wants to do something outdoors, suggest a local park you walk to, or set something up in the garden so they can have a change of scene.
4. Plan for your baby sitter to come to your home. While not always possible, this is the most reassuring way to enjoy your time away from baby. You will know that they have everything they need, and they will also be familiar with their sleep space making nap times easier. Ensure you have a changing area with plenty of nappies and wipes ready, fill baskets with toys and entertainment, place favourite books ready for bedtime, and layout towels and bubbles ready for bath time. Your babysitter can swiftly move around the house without having to search for anything. While having access to a baby monitor is great while you're at home, I'd strongly suggest you turn it off or mute
it if you're feeling anxious. Check every couple of hours if this will relax you, but try not to sit looking at it constantly, and trust your baby sitter so they will want to do it again.
5. A very important tip, is to choose wisely. Grandparents are most people's first choice, which is totally understandable, but they're not always available. Next step, who do you choose? Can your babysitter: drive, do they have a fitted carseat in their car, first aid experience or training, does your baby know them well and have they spent time with them? If they're a parent and have kids too, it could be easier to have them all visit or for baby to go to their home, children are a great distraction for older babies, and will give them someone to play with, and I'm sure your friend/ relative will have everything your baby will need in place already, or know parenting hacks to fix it if not.
6. Lastly, try and enjoy some time away from your baby, it's a healthy way for both of you to keep that bond nice and strong, gives you a mental break, and can also give you and your partner/ friends a chance to reconnect as quality time is a little limited with a baby, and an adult conversation is so refreshing.
Thanks for reading, if you got this far, I hope you are able to have a stress free first experience. There's no way to predict what will happen, but planning as much as you can will be the best you can do for your baby and yourself. Then return home, and cuddle that baby like crazy!!