You may be feeling a mix of emotions if the time has finally come to leave your baby at another home overnight. Although it can be scary, getting some time away from your toddler or baby can be extremely beneficial to both you and your child. Establishing independence and overcoming separation anxiety is a big step in parenthood, as it gives you some time to remember who you were before becoming a mom or dad. Having a healthy amount of distance can even help strengthen your relationship with your child and will give other loved ones a chance to bond with your little one, whether it be a close friend or family member. So, how to prepare for such a bittersweet endeavor? Here are some steps to help you (and your baby) prepare for their first sleepover at another home!
Ensure a safe sleeping spot
One of the most important ways to prepare for your child to spend the night at someone else's house is to make sure they will have a safe place to sleep at the other home. You may need to send over a travel crib or bassinet, if the caregiver doesn’t already have one. Also try to get an idea of any other hazards that may exist at the other home such as pets and other kids. Be sure that any necessary baby proofing is done, if the home isn’t already baby proof. Sending your baby with a playpen that can double as their travel crib is the best idea. This way, if the home isn’t baby proof (which it likely won’t be unless the caregiver has children) there will always be a safe place for your baby to play and sleep.
Pack important comfort items
If your baby has special items that they use for comfort such as a stuffed animal, blanket, or pacifier, make sure they have these items when you send them over. Being in an unfamiliar place may be scary at first, so by having some familiar items, your baby will be a bit calmer since these items will remind them of home. Some other important items to send include a couple of changes of clothes, pajamas, diapers, and wipes.
Communicate all important concerns
Although you can’t be in complete control, it is important to communicate any important information to the caregiver. This may be as simple as thinking ahead and writing out a list of your concerns. It would be a great idea to give your loved one a run down of what your baby’s bedtime routine typically looks like to help them replicate this. If there are any specific methods you use to get your baby to fall asleep, such as singing to them, or rocking them, be sure to share this with whomever will be caring for your baby. Make sure the caregiver is made aware of any medical conditions that your baby has such as allergies, and pack any emergency medications if necessary.
How to determine the right timing
Ideally, between 4 and 9 months is the best time to leave your baby overnight for the first time. This is because before 4 months your baby will still be establishing breastfeeding and building a connection between both parents, so they’re a little too young to be away from you. After 9 months, most babies will develop separation anxiety and will likely have a hard time being away from their parents. If your child is over the age of 9 months and you plan to leave them overnight, you can explain to them that you will be leaving them overnight to help reinforce and prepare them. Some parents believe in “sneaking away” but this isn’t always the best idea, as it can catch children off guard and cause them to be even more upset.
How to have a night away without putting a halt on breastfeeding
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding is one of the most important things mothers can do for their children to ensure a healthy start to life. If you are still breastfeeding your baby, this doesn’t mean that you can’t leave them overnight, it might just mean that you need to take a few extra steps. Be sure to prepare your baby ahead of time by offering them milk in a bottle and getting them used to drinking milk this way before you leave. This will also help you get an idea of how much milk to add to each bottle, since this can be hard to gauge if your baby is exclusively breastfed. Send your baby with plenty of pumped milk and bottles so that they have a good amount of milk to drink, they may require extra milk for comfort if they become upset while away.
Also, you’ll need to make sure to pump while you’re away from your baby and store the milk in a refrigerator. Breastfeeding is a “supply and demand” mechanism, so if you don’t pump while you’re away from your baby, your body may take this as a sign to stop producing milk. Failing to empty the breast milk your body produces can result in complications such as mastitis or clogged ducts. So this is another reason why it is important to pump while away from your breastfed baby.
Remember that a healthy amount of space is good for you and your baby
It’s definitely scary to be away from your baby for any stretch of time, but keep in mind that a little space is good for everyone in the family. By getting some time away, you can gain a little of your independence back and remember who you were before the world of parenting entered your life. In addition, having extra time to bond with your partner is healthy for everyone in the family.
At the end of the day, you’re benefiting your own mental health, helping you feel more calm and happy while parenting your child. It’s also good for babies to get some time away from their parents (at the right age) and have some independence of their own. Plus, once you’re all back together, nothing beats the reunion!
Check out the Pop N’ Go Playpen for a safe, simple place for your baby to sleep and play.