One of the most common complaints from breastfeeding mothers, or more frequently, from their partners or wider families, is that no-one else can look after the baby.
In the early days, this may be true – a baby who is breastfed on demand can’t be left for long. However, as time goes on and the feeds space out and become more predictable, many of us appreciate being able to make a break for freedom now and again.
First of all, don’t feel bad about being glad to get away!
It is natural, and healthy, to enjoy time away from your baby. You can return to your little one feeling refreshed having had an important reminder that you are still yourself, and not just a milk machine.
Finding the right pump and bottles makes it so much easier to leave your baby with the confidence that they will be happy and well-fed until you return. If you are worrying about whether baby will take a particular bottle, or whether you have left enough milk, then it is going to be so much harder to relax. It helps to practice this side of things a few times before you leave baby for a longer period. So, start slow – for the first few times don’t go too far away or for too long.
Finding the right caregiver to look after your breastfed baby while you are out is another tricky issue, but here are a few guidelines to help you get it right, so you can relax and enjoy your time away from your little one with the confidence that they are in the right hands.
Ask yourself these questions, whether you are opting for a professional babysitter or a family member;
- Do I trust this person?
Ask yourself if you trust them – if they are a professional, do they have proven references or qualifications? If they are a family member, are you sure they will follow your instructions to the letter?
- Do they understand breastfeeding?
Does this person understand that a breastfed baby is fed differently to a formula-fed baby? Do they understand the concept of feeding on demand? Do they know how to hold your baby so that they will accept the bottle?
- Do they know how to prepare the milk?
If your care provider is used to making formula bottles, preparing breastmilk is going to be very different and new to them. Make sure they know how to defrost/prepare the milk and watch them do it to ensure they are getting it right.
- Are they encouraging of breastfeeding?
If someone encourages and promotes breastfeeding, they will take an interest and persevere when the going gets tough. Someone who had negative ideas about breastfeeding may be inclined to blame any difficulties on breastfeeding or even be tempted to ‘top-up’ with formula.
- Are they willing to listen and learn?
If the care provider seems offended by you wanting to see them prepare milk, they cut you off when you are talking about how important breastfeeding is, or seem dismissive of the long list of instructions you want to leave, then this is a major red flag. Never feel like you are asking too much of a care provider by having high standards. If they are worth hiring, they will be keen to listen and learn. The care provider should be glad to receive your instructions and happy to show you their ability. Any resentment or impatience they show is indicative of not really understanding your feelings, and this means you are likely to be an incompatible team.
The last point is to enjoy yourself. You may find that you long for some time away from your demanding little one and then think about them constantly when you are away. You might feel guilty that you have left them. You might absolutely love the time away and feel guilty that you enjoyed yourself so much. This is all normal, I promise!