Well Being

Alternatives to Babysitters for the Breastfeeding Family

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Welcome Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! (Psst, while you're here, please take a moment to vote in the new poll in the side bar about whether or not you vaccinate your children! And don't forget to check out the other carnival entries at the bottom of this post.) I've struggled with this month's carnival topic because I'm not at all ready for “Learning to Let Go.” In fact, I have a confession. And what will you think of me after I reveal this confession? Keep in mind that I'm just an attachment parenting mom, trying my best to satisfy the needs of each member of my family.

My confession: I've never hired a babysitter, not in five years of parenting. Now, that's not to say that my children have never stayed with anyone else, I've just never paid anyone else to take care of them in my home. I don't have a moral objection to it, I don't think that I'm the only one who can properly care for my children, I simply have resisted the idea. At first my baby refused to take a bottle, and as a stay-at-home mom I felt no need to force the issue. Then came separation anxiety. Then came the toddler who just wasn't ready to be apart from me for long periods of time (and how could I relax when I knew my child was unhappy at home?) So, I got creative. I didn't have any family in the area — they all lived out of state — so I had to take advantage of everything the community had to offer.

Today I'm sharing several tips for getting some “alone” time and even some “alone with husband” time, even if you're not ready, willing or able to hire a babysitter.

“Alone” Time without Really Being Alone (or, Life with a Newborn)

It helped for me to redefine “alone” time. I adjusted my attitude and appreciated the moments I got to do something I was interested in doing, like watching television, reading a book, or working on the computer, even as I was caring for a young baby.

1. The sling was my first tool for getting some time to get things done. The sling helped my daughter sleep better and longer, and gave me two hands to accomplish tasks I couldn't with a baby on my hip.

2. The glider was my go-to when I needed some down time. I found that I could entice my daughter to take longer naps if I nursed her to sleep, popped her off and had her rest on my chest while I watched glorious hours of guilt-free television. If my daughter woke up I could nurse her right back to sleep and get a little more precious time to myself (so to speak). Of course, if I hadn't had cable TV, a TiVo and free DVDs from the library, I could have taken that time to read a book, too.

3. The stroller allowed me to get exercise and fresh air. Many times it had the added benefit of lulling my daughter to sleep. I could leave her in the stroller (either inside the house or on the front porch for some more fresh air) and sit nearby doing whatever interested me.

4. For a while the car was the only way to get my child to nap! I would drive up the road to the ritzy neighborhood and daydream about living in one of those houses. Once my daughter drifted off to sleep, I'd begin my alone time. I could drive to the drive-thru for a chocolate milkshake, or sit with the windows rolled down at a local park and read a book, or drive home and transfer my daughter to her own bed. I know the experts say never to leave a child alone in a car, even if she's buckled in her car seat, but I couldn't see the harm in letting her stay in the car in a safe area (i.e., out of the hot sun, with all the windows rolled down) if I sat nearby with her in plain view.

5. Once my daughter was a toddler, the bath tub was my refuge. I found that my daughter was happy to play next to me as I lounged in a hot bath. I could read a magazine or book as she happily played with her dolls, “read” her own books or shredded the toilet paper (hey, anything for some “alone” time!) Eventually my daughter would climb in the bath with me. If I was lucky she would happily dump cups of water on my knees as I continued to read my book!

6. Okay, so there was ONE time where I paid someone to watch my kids in my own home, but I was still home too! When I had an important 3-hour communications skills class to take with some other mothers, we paid for a “mother's helper” to come stay with the kids in the next room. She wasn't a very good mother's helper — one of the kids wrote with marker on my carpeting!! — but no one got hurt and the adults completed the class.

7. One of the local movie theaters here designates a particular showing on Monday nights as “family night at the movies.” Those nights, families are encouraged to bring their young children to the movies. I think it's the perfect chance for parents of infant nurslings to get a night on the town.

8. During the summer several movie theater chains offer free G and PG-rated movies on weekday mornings. While there aren't that many movies I'm interested in having my children watch (or in seeing myself!) it can be a nice way to get a couple of hours of escape if the right movie is showing. Make it a playdate with some other moms!

Alternatives to Hiring a Babysitter

9. Eventually (around age 2) my children were ready to spend some time with a caregiver at the gym. I found it the ideal situation — I knew my kids were safe and I was nearby if they needed me. Finally I could truly relax and have some time to myself. I'd even take a minute to read a book by the pool before doing some laps!

10. I know a mother who takes advantage of the free babysitting at church. Some churches offer a “Mom's Day Out” where mothers can drop off their children for a few hours, but this mom took advantage of a scrapbooking session with other moms inside the church! That's a wonderful way to have trusted caregivers watch your children while you enjoy a fun activity without having to go too far away.

11. The local chapter of the International Moms Club often had mothers volunteer to watch children in the nursery while the rest of the mothers enjoyed various lectures on topics such as sun safety, nutrition, gardening, or even working with a personal shopper!

12. Occasionally I was able to have visiting family members help take care of the children. When my husband and I attended a wedding, we brought my mom along with us and she stayed with my nursling out in our travel trailer in the parking lot! At an out-of-state wedding in which I was the matron of honor, family members took shifts watching my daughter in the hotel room.

13. Among my friends there was one particular mom that I really respected and our children got along exceptionally well. I proposed a babysitting exchange, where I would watch her son for three hours one day and she would watch my daughter for three hours another day. Because my daughter was so comfortable with my friend, and she had a playmate to distract her, it was easy for me to get some time to myself for a movie, a nap, or some errands!

Other Articles on “Learning to Let Go”

There are some fantastic contributions to the carnival this month. Hear from stay at home moms, moms who work at home, and moms who work outside of the home! Check out these entries and keep checking back as more are added:

Letting Others Love Her at Momma's Angel

Returning to Work after Maternity Leave at Hepatitis-Epi

Leaving Ava for the First Time at Crunchy Domestic Goddess

Letting Go of Breastfeeding: A Child's Self-Weaning Milestone at The Joyful Mom

Can't, Shan't, Won't . . . but Must! at Breastfeeding Mums

The Stay at Home Dad at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog

Giving That First Bottle and Trusting Your Own Instincts at My Baby and More

Balancing Work and Home at Mama Knows Breast