Whether you’re going on a vacation or a business trip – or even just your first solo shopping trip for an afternoon – it can be truly overwhelming and terrifying thinking about leaving baby for the first time.
(The first time I left my first baby – for just a few hours, at that – was absolutely challenging… and the baby was with his dad the whole time. That didn’t make it easier, LOL.)
Keep in mind that generally it’s not NEARLY as hard for the baby to be left as it is for mom to leave them… assuming they are with a capable caretaker, so it’s YOU that needs preparing, not the baby.
(And once you’re in the habit of leaving, you might discover it is MUCH less work to leave a baby with a sitter than it is to leave the house WITH baby, haha!)
If your child is a bit older and understands that you’re leaving, that can be harder for the child… but generally by that age it won’t be the FIRST time you’ve left your baby! (And it won’t be nearly as hard to do THEN – for either of you – if you practice it from time to time NOW.)
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Leaving a Newborn for the First Time
If you’re getting ready to go somewhere where you can’t bring your baby – or you just need a little break for your own mental health – and you’re not sure exactly what to do, I’ve got you covered.
Here’s my top 5 tips to successfully leave your baby for the first time. So without further ado, let’s dive right in!
When is it Okay to Leave a Baby for the First Time?
How soon you can leave a baby for the first time really depends on if you are breastfeeding or formula feeding (or both).
The most important thing to consider when determining if it’s too soon for mom to be away from her newborn is that new babies should not go more than 4-5 hours without feeding (source), and most new babies will eat more often than this.
Regardless of how you are feeding baby, baby needs to be fed, so if mom is the sole option for feeding, mom really can’t leave baby yet. (Or, mom can only leave for as long as baby goes between feeds. This might be limited to an hour or two in the first month of life – try not to miss too many feeds in early days of nursing, as it helps establish your supply!)
Pumping and leaving a bottle with the caretaker is an option – but make sure baby will TAKE the bottle before you make the decision to leave baby.
I had to leave my 2nd overnight when she was 7 months old, because I had emergency surgery. She was with her dad, and I pumped a bottle for her. Despite him offering the bottle to her MANY times – AND going out to buy formula and offering her that – she outright refused to drink from the bottle. Her dad ended up spoon-feeding her a little milk to prevent dehydration, but for the most part it was a long terrible night for both baby and daddy.
Obviously, as long as the baby is with a capable caretaker, being away from mom for a few hours is not going to hurt the baby – they might get hungry and grumpy if they refuse to eat, but as long as mom returns to feed baby within a couple hours, everyone will be fine.
When it comes to leaving your baby for a few days or even overnight, you really have to ensure that baby will eat regularly for someone else!
How Do You Leave Your Baby for the First Time?
Determining that you CAN leave your baby is one thing – physically answering the question when can a newborn be away from it’s mother… but doing it is another!
How exactly do you leave your baby for the first time? What are some practical things you can do to prepare and make sure your mental health stays intact during your time away?
Here’s the top 6 things you can do to make leaving your baby for the first time easier:
1) Be Ridiculously Picky With Childcare
Obviously leaving your baby with someone you know and trust is going to be far easier than leaving them with someone you chose from an ad.
I suggest leaving baby with daddy or a grandparent or an aunt or maybe your best friend, rather than a daycare or sitter for the first time.
If close family and friends aren’t an option and you HAVE to hire someone you don’t know well, do your homework to find someone with excellent references.
Ask friends to share numbers for sitters they personally use.
You really want to have someone who has experience with babies and who is willing to respect your opinions.
Leaving your child with someone you truly trust is going to make a HUGE difference when you’re leaving your newborn for the first time!
2) Do a “Practice” Run
Once you’ve chosen/ found the person who will take care of your baby while you’re away, “practice” being away.
Actually LEAVE the baby with this person – long enough for the baby to need feeding AT LEAST ONCE.
The difference between this practice run and the real thing is that you can stay near-by – if you’re high stress, like me, just go downstairs or out in the yard.
You’ll only be seconds away if any issues DO arise (but they honestly probably won’t!).
3) Plan to be away while baby is sleeping – if possible
If you have a good sleeper (I didn’t, but maybe you do), there are whole 1-3 hour stretches in an afternoon where THEY DON’T EVEN NEED YOU!
If you can plan your time away from baby during a nap, this makes it easier for everyone – you, the sitter, the baby… you might duck out the door and be back before baby even knows you’re gone!
If the sitter is going to be in a situation where they have to put the baby to sleep, you might want to practice that as well – but if that’s not going to be the case, you can put baby down before you leave.
4) Be Over-Prepared
You’ll feel more comfortable if you KNOW that baby has everything they need and then some, and all the “boxes are checked”.
Leave extra formula or pumped milk, extra diapers, extra clothes, and – most importantly – specific written instructions for how to contact you/ your partner in case of emergency.
5) Take Your Time Leaving
While it may be tempting to sneak out the door the second you walk in to drop off the baby, it’s better that you take your time and allow the baby to adjust as much as possible before you leave.
Remember, being left for a short time – especially for very small babies – isn’t a difficult
experience for the baby. It’s YOU that’s likely to struggle.
6) Start while they’re young
If you ask anyone “When did you leave your baby for the first time”, the answers will be wildly different – some moms leave their babies a few days after they are born, some wait well over a year… BUT (and this is my personal opinion/ observation) I actually think it’s EASIER to leave baby for the first time when they are little!
If you practice leaving baby while they are too young to really understand that you’re going, you don’t have to deal with the trauma of feeling like a terrible parent while they reach for you and cry hysterically.
I definitely don’t think it’s necessary to rush out for a girls dinner in baby’s first week, but If your two year old has NEVER had a super fun afternoon with gramma or a favorite baby sitter, of course they’re going to resist being left!
SO, start while they’re young, even if you only leave them for an hour here and there, to make it easier when they’re older!
(And tell remind yourself that your future self will thank you for ripping off the band-aid and doing this now!)
So Really, How Do You Leave Your Baby for the First Time?
Leaving your baby for the first time can be a scary thing to do… but it’s something that you ARE going to do at some point.
But practice and preparation will help – along with making sure you have a strong, reliable babysitter that you know you can trust.
Once you’re ready to try leaving baby for a few hours, maybe you’ll finally catch up on some sleep!