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Emotionally Preparing to Leave Baby for the First Time
Work-Life Wellbeing

Emotionally Preparing to Leave Baby for the First Time

It’s a double whammy. Not only are you returning to the workplace, but you’re kissing your baby goodbye for the first time. And it’s not easy…but it’s often part of the blissfully challenging postpartum chapter. With a little helpful, thoughtful advice from our very wise Mommy's Bliss 360 expert and Licensed Mental Health Counselor & Certified Perinatal Mental Health Pro, Kate McReynolds, you can do this. And trust us, it’s so much fun to come back home to what really matters.

It’s no secret that planning to leave your baby for the first time can elicit a lot of heavy and complicated emotions – anxiety, grief, guilt, anger, and inadequacy are some big ones. Whether you’re meeting a friend for a long overdue coffee date, going to a personal appointment, running solo errands, traveling, or ​​returning to paid work…you might find yourself fighting the urge to cancel everything last minute and just stay with your baby because it feels like too much for both of you to handle.

Here are 10 tips to help you feel more prepared for navigating the big emotions that come with leaving your baby for the first time:

Reframe Feelings of Guilt into a Sense of Pride

Consider how taking time away from your baby and engaging in other things that also fill your cup can serve as a reflection of how much you value your own well-being. Identify the benefits of leaving your baby for the first time to help challenge feelings of guilt about leaving them. If you feel guilty for doing some self-care or spending too much time at the office, remember that pouring into your own cup and financially providing for your baby are not bad or “wrong” behaviors, and they’re things you could let yourself feel proud of instead.

Set Clear Expectations about Baby Updates

Be open and honest with the person caring for your baby about how you’re feeling and what you think you’ll need to feel supported through this tough experience. What are you feeling the most concerned about, and how do you want to stay updated on it? Would it feel helpful to have updates sent to you throughout the day, or would that make it more difficult for you to stay calm and grounded? Take time to reflect on the level of communication or types of updates you want and share those expectations ahead of time, so everyone knows what to expect when you leave.

Let Yourself Be a “Typical” Nervous Parent

Give yourself permission to call/text whoever is with your baby if you want an update. You have nothing to prove, you don't have to justify checking on your baby, and you don’t have to waste emotional energy wondering what the daycare staff or nanny thinks of you. Remind yourself that nervous parents are a normal part of their day, and they understand how challenging it can be to leave your baby for the first time (especially with someone brand new).

Share Your Childcare Preferences

Leaving your baby for the first time can feel extra challenging if it’s with someone new, such as a nanny or daycare teacher. Write out your childcare preferences to feel a sense of comfort in knowing the type of care your baby’s getting in your absence. Identify things that work well for your baby and pass that information on to whoever is taking care of them. For example, do they love being swaddled? Is there a specific pacifier that soothes them the best? How do you want naps and sleep handled? If you’re worried about being viewed as bossy or controlling, reframe those thoughts into something like, “I’m attuned to my baby’s needs and it’s my job to communicate those needs since they can’t yet.”

Be Flexible with Your Baby’s Routines

Drop the pressure to provide the caregiver with an exact timeline of when your baby needs a bottle or a nap. Since babies’ routines constantly change – and the caregiver won’t have their schedule memorized yet like you do – focusing less on exact schedules and more on general patterns can set the caregiver up for success and reduce your stress about it being done “exactly” the right way. For example, share details about how your baby will need a nap after being awake for two hours, and how they typically drink a full bottle every three hours.

Pack Ahead of Time

List out the items your baby will need if they’re going somewhere (like daycare or grandma’s house), and pack everything ahead of time. Completing this task and removing it from your mental load can prevent minor mistakes while multitasking/rushing (like forgetting to pack baby wipes or pacifier), significantly reduce stress/anxiety/overstimulation on the day of and help you to feel more present in the moment when it’s time to say, “see you soon.”

Develop a Grounding Practice

Learn and practice healthy coping strategies before you leave to reduce stress, feel more centered, and navigate other difficult emotions that may arise. For example:

  • Place one hand on your heart and one on your belly, then feel the rise and fall of your breath.
  • Find a hand-held item, like a small rock or a hair tie, and use it to fidget with as a way of releasing pent-up energy.
  • Look into guided visualizations, breathing exercises, meditations, or relaxing songs to help you feel relaxed and comforted.

Write It All Down

Get a special journal where you can write down thoughts or feelings throughout the day as a cathartic and therapeutic outlet. Sometimes getting everything out of your head and onto a piece of paper can help you feel more grounded and resilient later on, when you’re in the heat of a tough separation moment.

Use Coping Statements

Say positive affirmations to yourself as a way of counteracting any negative self-talk or stressful thoughts that pop into your head, and to help you start feeling more capable of coping with the separation from your baby. For example:

I am resilient
This is temporary
I can cope with big emotions
I am a good mom
I will get through this
I deserve to rest and take breaks

Remember How Far You’ve Come

Reflect on your very first day of being a mother and notice the shift between then and now. Remember how scary and overwhelming it felt, then remember how you started to feel a little more comfortable and capable as time passed. Remember how you felt totally clueless at first, then remember how you eventually felt confident and got the hang of things after doing it more and more. Use all of that as evidence to remind yourself that these big emotions are normal and temporary, and that you and your baby will adjust.

This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.

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