Leaving Baby for the First Time: Handing Your 12 Week-Old Off to a Caregiver

How to prepare you and baby for separation

Tips for a successful departure from your baby

Leaving your new baby for the first time can stir up many emotions. The much desired break of being needed 24/7 is a relief. But the anxiety of wondering if anyone can care for your child as well as you, in addition to wondering what might go wrong, is real.

Perhaps the end of your three month maternity leave is approaching or maybe you are feeling like the fog is lifting enough that you can get away for a few hours with your girlfriends. The days of care-free spontaneity are over for awhile and several things need to be considered before leaving your baby with a caregiver.

Tips on how to break successfully from your 12 week-old baby

Prepare baby – allow opportunities for baby to know she will be okay without you and help her to feel comfortable around other people.

• Expose baby to others frequently. Let Dad or Grandma hold the baby while you take a much needed nap.
• Let someone else feed her a bottle on a regular basis.
• Take your time finding child care so both you and baby are comfortable and familiar with the new caregiver.

Prepare yourself – be ready physically, but also mentally.
• Make sure bottles, diapers, changes of clothes, pacifiers, favorite toys or anything baby might need is organized and easy for the caregiver to access.
• Trust that baby will be okay.
• Start small – go out to coffee nearby until you are comfortable with leaving baby for longer.

Preparing to return to work

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• If you plan to breastfeed, begin a pumping routine before going back to work and start storing milk in the freezer.
• Give yourself grace and allow time to get new routines figured out.
• Simplify your routine:

  • Lay out your clothes and pack the diaper bag the night before.
  • If possible, make time to play with baby before going to work.
  • Consider adding extra time into your morning schedule to be ready for unexpected things such as diaper blowouts.
  • Practice your morning routine before you actually have to go back to work.

• Take it slowly. Look into the possibility to go back half days or have a shortened work week at first.
• Be prepared with all you need for the day. Invest in a good breast pump, and breast pump bag with a small cooler to keep pumped milk cold with room for nursing pads, snacks and water.
• Try saying no for a while, especially while you are getting into a new rhythm. Limit obligations so you aren’t spread too thin between work and home, but be careful not to cut out everything or everyone.
• Start keeping your purse in the back seat next to your baby
• If necessary, discuss with your boss a pumping plan that works for you both (as well as finding a private location).

Preparing for the hand-off

• Make the caregiver aware of everything she needs to know about baby’s schedule, supplies and comfort techniques.
• Don’t just give baby over to caregiver and sneak away. Put her in a swing or down on the floor with some toys. Have the day care worker interact with the baby as you say “I love you and good bye” and then she can provide comfort if baby cries.

Don’t be surprised by your up and down emotions over this milestone. Whether you are going back to work or having a mommy’s day out, separation is hard, but necessary. For more advice and encouragement on being a working mom read To the Working Mom and To the Tired Working Mom.

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Annie Wiesman

Annie Wiesman

Annie Wiesman is the co-author of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” She is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who enjoys traveling, hiking in the mountains, and creating memories together with her husband and little girl.

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