Updated: Aug 4
Friday night was a pre-Valentine's Day date night with my hubs (and about 15 other couples from our church). We had a blast at the Central Diner in Robinson, PA. The food was delicious, and the prices were great for the huge portions! This isn't a food review post, though, so let's talk sleep. One of the major reasons that I was able to have a nice night out without worrying is that I knew my son was at home, sleeping peacefully just as he would be if we were there.
I sleep-trained our son at 5 months, and I haven't deviated from his schedule or routine much since then. Sure, there are the occasional holidays or special times where a little flexibility is a must. (The good news on that is a well-rested child can handle an odd day every now and then and bounce back with no problem!) For the most part, though, I have guarded his nap times and bedtime as if they were the finest jewels in the world. Seriously. Children thrive on schedules and routine, so they deserve to be guarded!
A date night isn't as enjoyable if you are worrying about whether or not your child will go to sleep okay with someone else. Coming home to find him still up and screaming due to being overtired can certainly make you think twice before going out again. However, every couple needs periodic date nights! If you haven't had one in a while, schedule it soon. You won't have an excuse after reading the rest of this post. (This also applies to having a babysitter during the day for nap time). So, how can I go out and not worry, you ask? Here are my tips for making sure your child will sleep normally with a babysitter.
Don't be afraid to be that mom who has everything written out. No binder is too large. Think Baby-Sitter's Club circa 1995. Your babysitter needs to know every detail of your child's bedtime routine and what times you normally do everything. As I said above, children thrive on routine and schedules, so you want to make sure your babysitter follows the same thing you do every other night.
Even the best babysitter out there will forget a detail or two when you've just spouted out 10 minutes-worth of directions to her all at once. She will appreciate having written notes to reference later. Make sure you include details like what you want her to do if your child cries when laid down or what volume you put the sound machine on. It's always a good idea to provide emergency numbers and such too, so just put it all in one place. Plus, she won't think you're so crazy if you include the WiFi password and steps to work the TV too.
Have everything set out and ready. Don't make your babysitter guess whether you'd put your child in the tight 9-month size pajamas or the huge 12-month ones he's swimming in (they really need a size in between those two). We put our little guy in a larger-size diaper for bed, so that is something I'd have laid out too. If your child sleeps with a special stuffed animal, blanket, or pacifier, make sure it is accounted for so your babysitter isn't frantically searching for it at bedtime, or worse, it can't be found and your child is forced to try and sleep without it.
Don't use a brand new babysitter for bedtime, if you can help it. Even the best sleeper could be caught off guard by a stranger trying to put him to bed. Use someone familiar when you have the option. We are fortunate to live near both of our mothers, so we usually try to get one of them before we get someone else. (Some grandmas tend to be a little soft on the rules and routines, though, so don't be afraid to still give them notes. *wink, wink).
If you don't have the family option, at least ask a new babysitter to come another day prior, to play with your little one first. That way he will be acquainted with her when the night comes. If you don't have the time for that, at least ask her to come early that night to get acquainted before you leave. She can play with him while you get ready...win win. Sometimes it helps if you take the time and all play together too. Your baby will notice that you are comfortable with this person, so it might make him feel more comfortable too.
Give your little one some extra time and snuggles before you leave. Separation anxiety can be a real factor in keeping your child up at night, especially if you aren't even on the premises. A little extra time spent with him before you leave can really help ease the anxiety.
If all of this sounds like a pipe dream you could never reach because YOU are the only one who can put your baby to sleep, then I can help! We can get your child sleeping independently in no time, so you can get back to enjoying time with your partner. I am a firm believer that your relationship can't just be thrown aside when children come along. Children are a gift from God, yes...but you still need to set aside time to be with your spouse. It is not only healthy, but essential, for keeping that relationship alive!
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Follow these four tips and hopefully your little one will go to bed normally and be sound asleep when you get home. If not, remember that it is not the end of the world. A well-rested child can handle an off day every now and then and bounce back just fine. Go enjoy your date - you deserve it.
Are there any other things you do to make bedtime with a babysitter go well? Comment and let me know!
~Ashley Bell, pediatric sleep consultant