A question I get asked often about postpartum is “when can I leave my baby to get a hair cut/have a massage/have some quiet time/visit with my friends and how do I do it?"
The answer to that question will be very different for every parent, but in general you can feel free to step out whenever you feel ready to do so. The timing will be different for everyone based on your comfort level and your baby’s temperament. Some parents will go out for shorter periods of time soon after baby is born, and some will choose to stay with their baby for one to two months (or longer) postpartum before introducing any sort of separation.
The key here is to feel secure in the decision, and make sure your baby is with a loving caregiver while you are gone. Taking care of yourself when you have a baby is SO important, and getting out of the house on your own for a few hours may be an important part of that.
So what can you do to make it go as smooth as possible?
If you are only going out for 1-2 hours, you can do this without leaving pumped breastmilk if you feed your baby right before you leave. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can express some breastmilk before your outing to give you peace of mind that your baby will have your milk if they need it. (It's not unusual to have to express a few times over the course of a day to have enough milk so start the day before in 10-15 minute sessions)
If you are planning to go out for a longer period of time, then you may need to express breastmilk a few days ahead of time to ensure there is enough milk for your baby while you’re gone and bring a pump with you to express milk through any missed feedings. This ensures that while you are separated from your baby you will preserve your milk production, and also will give you a jump start on having milk for the next outing because you can save it in the freezer.)
When you are preparing to go out without your baby if you have some nerves about it, it’s a great idea to plan shorter local outings first to see how things go and be close to home if necessary. You can go for a walk, read a book at a coffee shop, meet a friend for coffee or do anything else that fills your cup.
Another great option if what you really want is time alone in your house is to have someone take your baby out for a walk while you have some alone time. That way, if baby needs to nurse, they can simply be brought back home to you. This can be a great option, especially if its still the early postpartum period for you. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your baby can easily access you if your partner is not able to soothe them.
Here are some unexpected benefits of going out alone:
Bonding and Flexibility
If you’re leaving them with your non-breastfeeding partner, this gives them the opportunity to spend some time bonding and figuring things out together. This can be so wonderful for their relationship and can help set you up to have a more flexible baby who is used to being cared for by other caregivers in their life. This will give you more freedom as they get older. This also goes a long way in helping your partner feel confident in their role as a parent.
The biology of being a parent, especially a breastfeeding parent makes it so hard for us not to step in and help our partners when the baby is distressed or crying. This has the unintended side effect of making a parent feel incompetent, and also sends the baby the message that they cannot feel safe in the other caregiver's arms. When we leave the house, you escape the strong pull to intervene, and give your partner the chance to exercise their parenting skills and get in touch with their intuition.
Self-care if so important, especially when you are the primary caregiver of a completely dependent baby. Getting out of the house for even one hour may be exactly what you need to refill your cup and come back to your baby out of a place of emotional generosity.
It can be exhausting at times and it’s important to remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. If getting out of the house is priority for you feeling good, then rest assured that it can happen in a way that benefits everyone.
Trust your intuition
If you do not feel ready to leave your baby then don’t. The only reason to leave is out of necessity or because you want to. Ignore outside pressures and trust your inner guide to lead the way for you.
If you feel that you want some time to yourself but you face anxiety about how your baby will cope try these steps:
1. Feed the baby right before you leave
2. Leave them with a loving care giver
3. Start with a short outing- half an hour or whatever makes you feel comfortable and build up to longer times as desired!
When did you first leave your baby?