This blog post is sponsored by Philips Avent. The opinions expressed are my own.
When was the first time you left your nursling with a babysitter?
Even leaving my first two children with my husband (decidedly NOT a babysitter) and his non-milk-producing nipples was stressful for me in those first six months of all mama milk, all the time.
I didn’t devote much energy to introducing bottles of pumped milk to my first two children because the need for another caregiver to feed them just wasn’t there, and I had blissfully successful breastfeeding from day one.
With the twins, I would not have survived without bottles. Whereas my first two relied on me alone to feed them, the twins even received bottles from helpful strangers in line at a voting station one day!
As incredible as it may seem, I have been able to leave newborn twins in the care of others with greater ease than my first two singletons! Bottle-feeding them a combination of my expressed milk and formula was the winning formula for us, and that’s what successful parenting in those first 1000 days is all about: figuring out what works to help your family thrive.
When my cousin and his wife first approached me to ask if I would babysit their infant daughter (hereinafter referred to as Miss Cousin Cub) once a week so mama could go back to work, I was honoured and bemused. Bemused because, of course the lady with four kids including baby twins is the natural choice for a babysitter; honored because the lady with four kids including baby twins is deemed the one trusted to take care of their little girl.
But you know what? I have to be home, looking after my kids anyway—what’s one more?! (Side note: I was also not-so-secretly thrilled to have a smaller baby to use as a car seat and cloth diaper model.)
Miss Cousin Cub is a bottle and breastfeeding champion. Being an optometrist and small business owner, and therefore not the beneficiary of maternity leave, her mama did a fantastic and necessary job of mixing breastfeeding with bottle-feeding expressed milk. I was impressed!
And now that I’ve been babysitting Miss Cousin Cub since she was about four months old, I’ve got some tips for when and if your nursling spends time with a babysitter in those early days.
1- Overstock the diaper bag
Send more diapers than baby is likely to need, and always send at least one spare outfit.
Miss Cousin Cub is with me for about six hours and comes with at least four cloth diapers. (Her mama reads my blog, so I’m always thrilled to open the diaper bag and see her Maman Loup-approved stash.)
When my kids need diapers packed for any reason, I always pack one diaper per two hours, plus one extra. You just never know! Whether it’s a diaper leak, spit up, or shaking your bottle onto your lap like a maraca, a change of clothes is always handy.
2- Have a plan for emergencies
Give the caregiver your baby’s key medical information, such as family doctor’s name and number as well as their provincial health number. Hope this is never needed, but provide it just in case.
3- Send comfort objects
Whether it’s a favourite toy, blanket or soother, send along a few things that are familiar to baby to help set them at ease. Miss Cousin Cub’s favourite toy, which is constantly being stolen from her by her twin cousins, is a wing-flapping dragon.
4- Choose a caregiver you trust
I am proud to be Miss Cousin Cub’s babysitter because I know how much this means her parents trust me.
I know how intimidating it is to find a caregiver for your children. In Calgary, we don’t have any family except my long-lost cousin and his wife (we share the same great grandparents, and met once as children). When we found each other it was like winning the jackpot. Until they selfishly decided to have their own baby (jerks!), I had trusted, reliable and loving babysitters for MY kids! Now that I’M the babysitter, they know they can drop her with me and head to the clinic without a second thought or worry, and I know how priceless that is.
5- Practice the breast-to-bottle-and-back ballet
The mistake I made when attempting to introduce bottles to my older kids was that I didn’t do it at all until I needed to. In other words, I didn’t incorporate bottles into our feeding routine because I didn’t really need to, which left me frustrated when I’d leave a random bottle with my husband or my mom and neither baby would take it.
Knowing that mama would be returning to work while still breastfeeding, Miss Cousin Cub got used to taking bottles or breast indiscriminately early on. If this is a goal for your family, I would strongly recommend meeting with a lactation consultant (even prenatally) to set you on the right path to meeting your family’s feeding goals. Although some babies seem to do well going back and forth between breast and bottle, others struggle, and like everything parenting, things that we think should come naturally are often a challenge!
Miss Cousin Cub became accustomed to taking a bottle from her papa, her grandparents, family friends and me. (She’s a social gal!)
The Philips Avent Anti-Colic Bottle with AirFree vent is the first bottle that Miss Cousin Cub took willingly from me while I was babysitting. I also discovered that she does not like to be fed in a reclined position, and she likes to be in control of the bottle. Because her twin cousins like to steal her bottle, we found the best place for her to enjoy her milk in peace is sitting up in the stroller where they can’t reach her.
She might be teeny tiny, but she’s a big girl: she likes to hold her own bottle, and the wider shape of the Avent Anti-Colic Bottle is easier for her to grasp. The nipple stays full of milk so she’s not ingesting air.
This bottle is designed for more upright feeding, and the air-free vent helps reduce issues like colic, gas and reflux. Now that’s she’s started baby-led weaning, I can give her sips of her milk while she’s in her high chair too.
When I used this bottle for the twins, my favourite thing about it was how easy it was to clean. The air-free vent is not required, so if baby has outgrown any gas issues, you can use it without and not experience leaks (an issue I have experienced with other vented systems).
If you’re wondering how to start, Avent has a few tips on introducing the bottle.
6- Be Patient
It’s stressful for babies to be away from their parents, and it takes time to get used to a new caregiver, even if she is a famous mommy blogger.
Miss Cousin Cub took a while to warm up to me, and since I watch her only occasionally the process took a bit longer. As long as you trust that your baby’s caregiver is making sure baby feels safe and protected, don’t worry if there are tears at first.
If you’re into babywearing and your caregiver is willing to learn (or happens to be a babywearing aficionado with a wide collection of carriers in her bedroom), this is a great way to help baby feel secure and bond with their new caregiver. Wearing Miss Cousin Cub allows me to take care of all her cousins while also keeping her feeling safe.
Did your baby have success switching from breast to bottle for babysitters?