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April 04, 2017

Leaving the baby for the first time: The vacation I almost skipped

Parenting Vacations
4katie_Gagnon_Vacation Ryan Gagnon/for PhillyVoice

Katie was all smiles at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida. After she got over her concerns about leaving her baby boy for the first time, she enjoyed a much-needed vacation with her husband.

When my husband asked me if I wanted to accompany him to Boca Raton for a work trip in March, I very quickly answered, YES! Who doesn’t want to get away to Florida after a long, cold winter? I spoke to Killian’s pediatrician about the trip at his 4-month checkup, inquiring if it was OK for us to leave our baby boy for five days just before his 6-month birthday. She was emphatic that not only was it OK, but it was a really good idea. She said that mothers need a break and it is important for couples to have some special time together. Hearing her approval was all I needed to become really excited for the vacation. I started looking forward to a warm, sunny beach; uninterrupted sleeping; poolside piña coladas; and, most of all, special time with my husband. But as the departure date grew closer, I became apprehensive and worried. In fact, I almost did not go.

My first concern was about leaving my son. I had only ever been away from him for a couple of hours, max. When I go to the grocery store, I am anxious to get home to him. Ridiculous, but true! I have not slept well in nearly six months, and I knew that I really needed this trip to recharge my battery. But the thought of being away from Killian made my stomach ache. The morning of our flight I woke up and thought, "Nope! Not going!" However, the words from our pediatrician rang in my head. My husband and parents reassured me that this would be good for me. I kissed my little boy goodbye and cried in the car.

Looking back, I am so glad that I did not succumb to my worries and cancel my trip. It was such a fun, special time with my husband. I came home rested and recharged.

My second concern was for my parents, who took care of Killian while we were away. They are incredible parents and grandparents, so I had no worry whatsoever about leaving Killian with them. Baby boy has spent a lot of time with his MomMom and Zada, they know his routine, and he is very comfortable in their home. But Killian was still not sleeping through the night. I worried that my mom and dad would be absolutely exhausted at the end of the week after long days with a tireless baby who is partial to 3 a.m. feedings. Of course, this worry was without merit; they had Killian sleeping through the night for the first time in his life! Their energy was better than mine and all three of them had a wonderful week together. You know how people say that the best part of being a grandparent is that the kids leave? Well, my parents feel exactly the opposite. My dad told us to extend our vacation!

My third, and most important, concern was for my son, specifically his feedings. Killian has been exclusively breastfed since he was born. Once I knew about our trip, I began stockpiling breast milk in the freezer, but the 100 ounces I had was not going to be enough. It was tough to judge how much Killian would need each day because I do not know how many ounces he ingests when he is nursing. He eats around seven times a day, so I ballparked five ounces for each feeding. That is 175 ounces for five days, not including the two ounces of breast milk that gets mixed into his daily rice cereal. Because I was short on milk, I realized that he would need to have formula for the first time in his life. I had mixed feelings about this. There is nothing wrong with feeding a baby formula; I was raised on it. But as the date approached, I wondered if a nursing mother should leave her baby just so she can sit on the beach with her husband and a fruity drink? Oh, the mom guilt! We tried Similac® formula a week before the trip to see if it agreed with him, which it did. On the advice of my doctor and a nurse, I asked my parents to use an ounce or two of breast milk with the formula so Killian would receive some of Mama’s milk at every feeding. They also served him at least two bottles of pure breast milk each day. Killian did very well on this program. He had a teeny bit of constipation, but he was not in any pain and it cleared up within a day of us arriving home.

Looking back, I am so glad that I did not succumb to my worries and cancel my trip. It was such a fun, special time with my husband. I came home rested and recharged. It was good for both Killian and his grandparents to spend a week together. I am thankful to our pediatrician who advised me to go; to my parents for their devotion to their grandson; to my sister Colleen for helping them out; to the incredible Boca Raton Resort & Club and its amazing spa; to my dear aunt and uncle in Fort Lauderdale who treated us to a boat ride, lobster dinner and stay at their gorgeous waterfront home; and to my husband for supporting me through my worries and giving me the gift of an unforgettable vacation with him.

When we arrived at my parents’ house after the trip, we jumped out of the car and ran inside. We could not wait to kiss our baby boy! The smiles on our faces as the three of us embraced synthesize my sentiments: Even though time away is important, being together is simply the best.

My Tips When Leaving Your Baby for the First Time:

1. Talk to your pediatrician. Have a conversation about your trip, including length of time and your baby’s needs. Seeking guidance from the experts is always wise.

2. Secure child care that you trust completely. You must ensure that your baby will be perfectly cared for while you are away. This is not only crucial for his well-being but also for your peace of mind.

3. Write down the baby’s schedule. Killian has a specific routine that my mom and dad were going to follow while we were away. In order to make it easy to remember everything, I emailed them some instructions. Give your caregivers the basics, like naps at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., without micromanaging.

4. Request updates. My husband and I would FaceTime with Killian a couple of times each day, and my parents would text us updates and photos. Seeing our son’s happy, smiling face heightened my relaxation.

5. Bring your breast pump. If you are a nursing mama, you will need to pump on vacation. Not only will it prevent engorgement, but it will help keep up your milk supply for when you arrive home. Even though I pumped on the trip, my milk was running a little low when we returned home. After a few days of nursing and pumping, I was back to normal.

6. Sleep as much as you can. I had room service in my bathrobe almost every night for dinner and went to sleep by 9 p.m. Getting a good night’s sleep was one of the best parts of my vacation.

Was it hard to leave your baby for the first time? Or were you overjoyed to have a break? Share with me in the comments section below or tweet me @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.

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