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 married 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 the first few weeks after the birth so you and your newborn can settle into a regular feeding and sleeping routine. It is important to make sure your baby is feeding and growing well. Your visits to the pediatrician will let you know if your baby is on track. After this time, it may be appropriate to start leaving your newborn with a babysitter. Not everyone has the ability to choose this, however, as work commitments may be a greater factor in the decision. The exact time frame depends on your comfort level and the needs of your baby.
At some point, after having your baby, you'll start dreaming about leaving the house again. You probably won't care if it's dinner, a movie, or just a trip to the grocery store or shopping mall. But you will want to put on real clothes and be around big people again!
In this article, you'll learn some tips for deciding when you can start to leave your newborn with a babysitter.
When Is Too Soon 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 the day after 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 you and your baby come home, I'd recommend waiting at least a couple of weeks before you go out anywhere. Newborns sleep a lot in the first month, so if you really want a break just to get out of the house within those first couple of weeks, you can load them up and take them to brunch with a friend.
Getting a late breakfast or early lunch at a restaurant (before the noontime rush) is usually faster, and the restaurant will be less busy compared to going at dinner times. That will give you a chance to get out while avoiding much of the hassle. Plus, you'll be working around 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.
Whether your baby is breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it's important to settle into a regular routine (at least as regular as babies can be!) and start getting familiar with the demands of parenthood. You'll want to be sure that your baby is willing to accept milk or formula from someone other than you before you leave them with a sitter.
Once your infant has established a good feeding pattern and is starting to gain a healthy amount of weight, then you will probably feel more comfortable with the thought of leaving them with someone else while you go out.
Who Will Watch Your Baby The First Time You Go Out?
Assuming you have family that lives in your area and you're on good terms, most parents leave their kids with relatives 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, niece, or nephew. So you might be surprised at how your relatives jump at the opportunity to spend a few hours with your baby! 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 would feel comfortable leaving your baby with, it would probably be members of 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 a few weeks old! Of course, 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 once!
If you've got friends who already have kids of their own, you might want to consider 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! And it could become a regular thing for both of your families.
To find out what makes a good babysitter, check out this article - Essential things to look for in a babysitter.
When Can You Leave Your Baby With A "Real" Babysitter?
When I say a "real" babysitter, I mean another person that you're not related to and that you pay for their services, as opposed to having family members or friends sit for you.
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 another person, 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, choosing the right time to leave your baby with a babysitter will come down to your personal situation and beliefs. Some parents are ready to hand off their infant 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 are feeling a bit stressed at the thought of 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.
Get The Food Situation Sorted Out First
If your child is breastfed, then worrying about feeding them is going to probably be the most significant limiting factor when it comes to leaving your baby with someone else. Newborns typically eat every two to three hours, so your babysitter will most certainly need to feed your child while you're gone. If your baby is formula-fed, 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 babies at home. Once you're into a good routine, you can begin using a breast pump after feedings to set aside extra milk for the babysitter.
But before you hand your child off to a babysitter, you'll want to give your baby a bottle several times in advance to make sure they are taking to it, although you should be aware that breastfeeding 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 have them give it a try with you out of the room. 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.
Is Leaving Your Baby With A Babysitter Bad For Them?
There isn't any evidence to suggest that there's any risk or downside 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 brings with it some major benefits. It may help reduce separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a normal stage of development, starting at around 6 months of age. At this time, babies start to come to the realization that they're dependent on their parents, and that their parents are separate individuals that can leave them.
Since separation anxiety is a normal part of child development, most kids will naturally grow out of it. But starting to leave your baby with a sitter will really help them to learn that it's okay for their parents to leave because they will come back. And they will soon understand that, in the meantime, they’ll do fine with someone else. So using a babysitter will hasten that understanding and may very well help to create a more secure and independent child at a younger age.
See our 9 tips to minimize separation anxiety when leaving your child with a babysitter.
Infants need to be exposed to a wide range of people and experiences to learn about the world. So introducing new faces and voices could help accelerate your baby's social 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 your baby will end up eating and sleeping while you are busy worrying, so it may actually be harder on you.
Use Good Preparation To Set Your Mind At Ease
The more you prepare for leaving your baby with a babysitter and the more things you take into consideration ahead of time, the less you'll have to worry about while you're out. You won't have those "what if" moments where you start to think about worst-case scenarios that make you nervous.
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 daily care. Don't forget to leave your contact details, just in case of any problems or questions.
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.
Avoid Feeling Guilty
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 that way about it! It's great for your baby to get used to childcare and begin to bond with some other people besides you. Don’t be afraid of that happening either; it’s good for them. Everything will be fine, and your child isn't going to remember that night you went out to see a movie when they were just 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, when you care for yourself, you'll avoid burnout or feeling overwhelmed if you take a few hours out every week or two.
If you can't seem to get over the idea of leaving your baby, try a more gradual modified approach. Get a babysitter, friend, or family member to come and 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 don’t have 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 right there to come and help.
When you're out on a date night, and your baby is at home with a babysitter, avoid the temptation to look constantly at your phone. It's a good idea to set a designated check-in time during the evening, 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—or calling the sitter.
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 right away. So don't stress about getting your first babysitter until you know you and your baby are 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.
When Shouldn't You Leave Your Baby With A Babysitter?
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 of 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 medical conditions, illnesses, or disabilities that make them a bit more fragile or difficult to take care of than a healthy baby, you will probably want to hold off on leaving them with a sitter for a while longer.
Similarly, if your baby is having problems related to feeding, you'll need to wait until that has improved before 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 for extended periods of time.
You can probably feel good about leaving your baby with a sitter sooner than you guessed! You'll want a couple of weeks to get into a routine and make sure that they're eating well and gaining weight. But if they're healthy and everything seems okay, you can start leaving your child with a special someone even within the first month after they're born.
Leaving your baby with someone else can benefit their social development and help reduce separation anxiety. But don't feel pressured into leaving your baby before you're ready. Start slow and leave your baby with grandparents or another family member for a couple of hours if you aren't ready to hire someone to babysit your child yet.
Having 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 to create some "me time" for yourself. Whether that means going out for dinner, seeing a movie, getting your hair done, or even just having a peaceful bath, be sure to allow yourself to enjoy some time away from baby for a recharge, and you will end up being a more relaxed parent.