A night away from your breastfed baby, or any baby for that matter, should be on your own terms. It should be when you feel ready.
When I had my first baby I definitely felt a little pressured in to having a night away from him before I was ready. I wasn't ready to be separated from my breastfed baby, but didn't have the confidence to speak up and say that at the time. In fact, I don't really think I understood how I felt. I actually felt guilty on some level. Guilty that I didn't want to go to a family wedding because it meant being separated from my very small baby. For this reason I want to start by saying that a night away from your breastfed baby, or any baby for that matter, should be on your own terms. It should be when you feel ready.
Fast forward five years and I have just had my very first night away from my second breastfed baby. She is seven and a half months old and while I was anxious about being away from her I definitely felt ready. I would go as far as saying that I was excited. The prospect of spending a whole day and night away with my husband felt like a total novelty. It was the wedding of really good friends of ours and as I said, it was on my terms.
For the night away to be a success I had to be really organized and control everything that I could control. That was a big part in allowing myself to relax. If I knew that everything was taken care of I could properly switch off and let my hair down.
Here are some of the things that helped me manage a night away from my breastfed baby
- Solids - This made the world of difference because it meant that my child was not solely reliant on milk for nutrition. There is a lot to be said for a bit of fruit or a baby yoghurt "buying" you thirty minutes when previous to that breastmilk was the only remedy. We were lucky that the wedding fell when it did because my daughter was seven and a half months and well established on solids (we began weaning her at six months)
- Milk - It was touch and go for a while but eventually we managed to get my daughter to take a bottle. Leaving it until the last minute is not something I would recommend. You may need to decide on a pumping schedule and introducing a small bottle as regularly as you can to familiarize the baby with the idea while also ensuring they do not refuse the breast. Remember that when your baby is older a beaker or sippy cup could be used to feed them the milk.
- Write A List - This is the only way I could get on top of packing for my daughter. You might be surprised by the amount of things you will need to pack for a baby. So many of them fall in to the "what if" category but it's better to be looking at them than for them, I say.
- Communicate - it is so important to speak openly and honestly about your fears, reservations and parenting style with the person who is taking care of your baby. It may be a family friend or a relative and if they know your habits and routines regarding food, sleep and responding to your babies needs it will help you feel at ease.
- Don't Forget The Pump - I very nearly forgot that the pumping didn't stop when I went away for the night. I couldn't have managed with simply hand-expressing for comfort. I was away from my baby for a full twenty four hours and had to pump a couple of times.
- Ditch The Guilt - Many people feel guilty about wanting or needing a night away but I'm talking about feeling guilty for "not relaxing" because you are enquiring about your baby and thinking about them a lot while you are away from them. That is totally natural and there is nothing to feel guilty about. You do you.