Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner means keeping the romance alive, even after your baby is born. One study from the Marriage Foundation and the University of Lincoln showed that couples who had dates at least once a month or more had the highest odds of staying together and being happy in their marriage.
But how soon is too soon to leave your baby alone with a sitter? You should stay with your baby for at least a few weeks after you get home from the hospital so your child can settle into a regular feed and sleep routine. After this time it is appropriate to start leaving your baby with a babysitter. The exact timeframe depends on your needs and comfort level.
At some point, after you have your baby, you'll start wishing and dreaming about leaving the house again. You probably don't care if it's dinner, a movie, or just a trip to the shopping mall. But you want to put on real clothes and be around real people again!
In this article, you'll learn when you can start to leave your baby with a babysitter.
You can probably start leaving your baby with a babysitter much sooner than you'd expect.
Now, you definitely don't want to book tickets for a Beyonce concert on the same day that you get discharged from the hospital. But you don't need to wait until your child is in preschool to start leaving them with a sitter either.
After your baby comes home, I'd recommend waiting at least a couple of weeks before you go out anywhere. It's important to settle into a regular routine (at least as regular as babies can be!) and get used to parenthood. Once your child has established good feeding habits and is starting to gain a healthy amount of weight, then you can start to think about leaving them alone with someone else.
You'll want to be sure that your baby is willing to accept milk from someone other than you before you leave them alone.
If you really want a break just to get out of the house within those first couple of weeks, if your baby isn't too fussy, you can load them up and take them to brunch with a friend. Getting breakfast or lunch at a restaurant is usually faster and the restaurant will be less busy compared to going at dinner times. So it gives you a chance to get out while avoiding much of the hassle. Plus you'll avoid the cluster feedings that many newborns seem to want at night time.
Taking your baby out to eat with you might be one of the few options available if you're exclusively breastfeeding and not using any bottles, but are still really craving a chance to get out of the house.
Assuming you have family that lives in your area and you're on good terms, most parents leave their kids with relatives for the first time that they need a babysitter, rather than finding someone unrelated to them.
Your own parents or siblings are probably quite eager to see and spend time with their brand new grandchild or niece or nephew. So you might be surprised at how your relatives jump at the opportunity to spend a few hours with your child! Plus you already know that your parents have experience with children and exactly what their parenting styles are. After all, they're the ones that raised you! So if there's anyone you should feel comfortable leaving your baby with, it should be your own family.
If your parents offer to babysit for you, I'd recommend taking them up on that offer. Even if your baby is only two or three weeks old! It doesn't have to be a big outing. You can just go to dinner for a couple of hours. Or more likely, you might even just want the chance to have an uninterrupted nap for a few hours!
If you've got friends who already have kids of their own, you might want to think about swapping babysitting services every month or so too. Babysitters are expensive, so if you can trade your time instead of money to have someone watch your kid for a night, go for it!
To find out what make a good babysitter, check out this article - Essential things to look for in a babysitter.
When I say a "real" babysitter, I mean a stranger, that you're not related to, that you pay for their services. As opposed to using family members or friends as a babysitter.
Sometimes you might have the luxury of choosing when you want to start leaving your baby with someone else. Other times, the necessity of going back to work might mean that you have to start leaving your child with a stranger, even only a few weeks after you've given birth.
That's particularly true in places like the United States where maternity leave isn't guaranteed. If you can't afford to take extra time off, and you don't have a partner who can stay home with your kids, then you'll have to start using a babysitter, nanny, daycare, or some other type of childcare service.
Ultimately when you can leave your baby with a babysitter will come down to your personal situation and beliefs. Some parents are ready to hand off their kids to someone else right away, while others might take a year or more before they're comfortable letting someone else watch their baby. Neither is necessarily right or wrong. If you feel a bit stressed about leaving your child with someone that's perfectly normal. And if you don't feel any stress about it, that's fine too!
Not sure where to find your first babysitter? Check out our complete guide – The Best Ways To Hire A Babysitter.
If your child is breastfed, then worrying about feeding them is going to probably be the single largest limiting factor when it comes to leaving your baby with someone else. Newborns typically eat every 2 to 3 hours, so your babysitter will almost certainly need to feed your child while you're gone. If your baby is formula-fed, luckily this won't be an issue for you at all!
Breastfeeding mothers want to make sure everything is going smoothly for at least three or four weeks when it comes to nursing, before they start to think about leaving their kids at home. Once you're into a good routine, you can begin using a breast pump to set aside extra milk for the babysitter.
But before you can hand your child off to a babysitter, you'll want to give your baby their bottle at least several times in advance to make sure they are taking to it. Although you should be aware that babies are more likely to accept a bottle from someone other than their mother. So if you struggle with your baby refusing the bottle, try handing them off to another family member and get them to give it a try. You may even specifically want to have your babysitter try feeding your baby before you go, to make sure they won't have any problems with it.
There isn't any evidence to suggest that there's any risk or downsides associated with starting to use a babysitter right away, within a few weeks after your child is born.
In fact, starting early can help with your child's development and has some major benefits. Namely, it can help reduce separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a normal stage that is common in kids starting at around 6 months of age. At this time, kids start to come to the realization that they're dependant on their parents, and that their parents are separate things that can leave them.
Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development that most kids will naturally grow out of. But starting to leave your child with a babysitter will really help to enforce the fact that it's okay for their parents to leave, that they're okay being with someone else, and that you'll come back. So using a babysitter might help to create a more secure and independent child at a younger age.
See our 9 tips to minimise separation anxiety when leaving your child with a babysitter.
Babies also need to be exposed to a wide range of things to learn about the world. So introducing new faces and voices could help accelerate your child's development.
When you hear your baby's cry that pulls at your heartstrings when you try to leave them, you might think it's even harder on them than it is for you. But in reality, it usually is much harder for the parent than the child when you leave.
The more you prepare to leave your baby with a babysitter and the more things you take into consideration, the less you'll have to worry about while you're out. You won't have those "what if" moments where you start to worry about the worst-case scenarios that could happen.
Make sure you're stocked up on lots of diapers and any other supplies that your babysitter will need. And leave a detailed list of instructions about your baby's routine and how to care for them. Don't forget to leave your contact details, just in case of an emergency.
For a lot more detail on how to get yourself, your house, and your baby ready, check out my article – How To Prepare For Your First Babysitter.
You may feel guilty or like you're a bad parent for wanting to leave your baby with a babysitter soon after they're born. But there's no reason to feel guilty about it! It's great for your baby to get used to childcare and bond with some other people besides you. Everything will be fine, and your child isn't going to remember that one night that you went out to see a movie when they were a baby.
Remember that having some time to yourself to unwind a bit will make you a more relaxed, calmer parent who is better able to handle their baby. In the long run you'll avoid burnout or feeling overwhelmed if you take a few hours to yourself every week or two.
If you can't seem to get over the idea of leaving your baby, try a more gradual and modified approach. Get a babysitter, friend, or family member to come watch your baby for a few hours while you take a nap or have a bath. That way you get a little break where you aren't having to worry about the baby, but you're also within earshot if there are any problems. If your child needs you or the babysitter can't get them to stop crying, you'll be available to come help.
When you're out on a date night and your baby is at home with a babysitter, avoid the temptation to constantly look at your phone. It's a good idea to set a designated check-in time or two throughout the night where you can phone your sitter and make sure everything is going okay. But otherwise, try not to spend the whole night checking for messages.
If you just don't feel ready to leave your baby yet, don't feel pressured into doing it! Just because other people think you should doesn't mean you have to. So don't stress about getting your first babysitter until you know you're ready.
Are you still not sold on the idea of leaving your child with someone else? Check out my article - Benefits Of Hiring A Babysitter to see 42 unexpected advantages.
All of the details above assume that you have a happy, healthy baby. If that's the case, then there shouldn't be an issue with leaving your baby with a sitter after they're a couple weeks old.
But you may want to delay getting a babysitter for a bit longer if your child isn't in perfect health.
If your baby has any conditions, illnesses, or disabilities that make them a bit more fragile or difficult to take care of than a regular baby, then you probably want to hold off on leaving them with a sitter for a while.
Similarly, if your baby is having problems related to feeding, you'll need to hold off from hiring a babysitter. If your child refuses to take milk from a bottle and exclusively breastfeeds, that's something you'll need to figure out before you're able to leave them for extended periods of time.
You can probably leave your baby with a sitter sooner than you guessed! You'll want a couple of weeks after you bring your baby home to get into a routine and make sure that they're eating. But if they're healthy and everything seems okay, you can start leaving your child with someone else even within the first month after they're born.
Leaving your baby with someone else can help reduce separation anxiety when they get older, and can help benefit their development as well. But don't feel pressured into leaving your baby before you're ready. Start slow and leave your baby with their grandparents for a couple of hours if you aren't ready to hire a stranger to babysit your child yet.
Raising a baby is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding things that you'll go through. So don't feel guilty about getting a babysitter so make some "me time" for yourself. Whether that means going out for dinner, seeing a movie, getting your hair done, or even just having a nice relaxing bath to yourself.
Written & Illustrated by:
Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
Published: 8 September 2019
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