This article will provide tips on how to prepare for leaving kids with Grandparents…
As Charlie was born whilst we were living in the USA we rarely had Grandparents around to babysit for us until after his first birthday when we returned to live in the UK. Neither of our parents live near by, my parents in law are 2.5 hours away and my parents are 3.5 hours away (on a good run). Regular child care assistance therefore is impractical however we are incredibly fortunate that for special occasions like weddings or a weekend away they enjoy, (or at least seem to enjoy!) spending some one on one time with their grand children.
In December we had some complimentary BA flights to Berlin to use and just a couple of weeks later we were at Center Parcs for another weekend away. (We are not mean parents honestly, we would normally take them with us however on this occasion it was a birthday celebration with a group of childless family and friends!)
We had never left both boys before and it was also going to be the longest we had both been away from baby Harry, so we were understandably very apprehensive. In November I started to do my best impression of a dairy cow and built up a supply of milk in the freezer! I bought a Medela Swing Electric Breastpump which I found really easy to use and definitely a worthwhile investment. Without it I would certainly have got fed up of my manual pump and decided against going away without baby.
Expressing the milk turned out to be the easy part, trying to get baby Harry to drink the milk from a bottle was an absolute nightmare. I honestly thought we were never going to get away and then a friend recommended trying the Medela Calma Solitaire bottle which allows baby to use a similar sucking behaviour to when on the breast and on the first try it was a success. HURRAH! (Thank you Emma if you are reading this!) I was so relieved and suddenly excited that I could start to look forward to a couple of child free days at the Berlin Christmas markets. (The link above includes both a swing electric pump and Calma bottle)
How to prepare for leaving kids with Grandparents…
Grandparents’ House or Home?
To ensure that the boys were able to keep to their routines and sleep in their own beds we asked our parents to look after the boys at our house. In preparation for going away for a couple of nights I had pureed some baby food so my freezer was full of sweet potato and expressed milk for Harry who was only six months old at the time. I had also written a LONG (seriously it was four pages long) list of instructions containing baby Harry’s and Charlie’s routine. I have kept my notes and put them in the boys memory box, they are actually quite amusing to look back on! I included what baby Harry wears to go to bed (so he would not overheat), what to do if he had a sniffly nose, a list of Charlie’s favourite foods (as he is quite fussy I felt it was easier to list exactly what he would eat…. I wanted it to be a pain free experience for my parents/in law so that they may offer to do it again).
I even included tips like ‘make sure Charlie has a wee each time you leave the house to avoid accidents’, ‘Charlie will tell you he has a biscuit and does exercises before he goes to bed… he doesn’t, he is making it up to extend bedtime!’ We have fallen for this trick before. I made sure to include the telephone number for our doctors surgery (if my parents had been looking after them whilst Charlie was at nursery I also would have called ahead to let them know that Grandparents were picking them up).
The night before we were leaving to go to Berlin, baby Harry had a terrible night. I am sure he could sense that something was happening and he just would not settle. His cold also seemed to return and we were seriously considering not going. My Mum however was absolutely fabulous and told us not to worry and go and have a good time.
I am so pleased that we did go, it was our first time abroad alone since having children. The Christmas markets were incredible, we enjoyed mulled wine and stuffed our faces with crepes and bratwurst in an attempt to warm up (it was so bitterly cold). Of course the boys were our main topic on conversation. (Do all parents do this when they are away from their kids?) and we enjoyed seeing photos of them having a blast with Nanna and Grandad via Whatsapp. (A highly recommended app for sending free images).
Important things to demonstrate to Grandparents before leaving them in charge of your kids
1. Tour of house
Take them for a tour around your house pointing out where they can find all the essentials – baby clothes, nappies, your extra supplies of wipes/formula, baby/child medication, thermometer, etc
2. Favourite items
Ensure they know which are your childs’ favourite toys, books, blankie, dummy, etc.
3. How to assemble and dissemble your push chair.
Seriously I know we can do it with our eyes closed whilst holding baby on hip however all push chairs are different and some can be quite tricky. Make sure Grandparents actually have a go doing it themselves so they are unlikely to forget.
4. Car seat
Similar to above, show Grandparents how to take car seat out of car and (if applicable) place into and take out of travel system. (Six months after my parents in law took Charlie as a baby out whilst I had a much needed break, they admitted that they had been unable to get the car seat out of the car and as baby was asleep they didn’t want to wake him. They therefore sat in a car park until he awoke and then went for a drive and brought him back home. They were too embarrassed to admit it at the time but it did teach me to always demonstrate how to use all of the baby kit!)
5.How to use highchair
Place baby in and out of high chair, showing which straps you use and how detach and attach the tray.
6. How to work swing/bouncy seat
Place baby in and out of swing/bouncy seat/any other devices you may have that calm your baby and therefore may give Grandparents a much needed rest whilst you are away!
7. Defrost baby food
Show how to safely defrost your baby’s food and if you use a microwave for defrosting food make sure they are also shown how to use this. I always label my baby’s food so that Grandparents know which contain meat and fish and therefore know which ones they need to be particularly careful about when defrosting and reheating.
8. Defrost breast milk
Show how to safely defrost breast milk, the Medela website is an excellent source of information.
9.How to sterilize bottles
As I only occasionally give my baby bottles I use microwave bags. These Medela bags are fantastic, so easy to use and can be reused up to 20 times each. If you use a machine to sterlize bottles make sure you demonstrate how to use it.
10.How to use baby monitor
Show location of baby monitor and demonstrate how to use it. Make sure you let them know what any alarms mean i.e. movement monitor alarm, temperature sensor alarm, etc
11. Contact details for doctors and hospital
Run them through to your doctors surgery and ensure they know which hospital to go to in case of an emergency.
12. Run through emergency procedures
Talk them through child CPR and what to do if your child chokes. (I have recently been on a refresher infant CPR and choking course and so have a poster I was given in class taped to the inside of a kitchen cupboard door. This is useful for me as a quick refresher but also useful for grandparents who have not needed to know infant CPR for years).
13. Demonstrate how to use television and/or tablets
Lastly but definitely not because it is least important….show them how to operate your TV and/or tablets and select the correct channel for CBeebies/Disney channel!
Benefits of quality grown up time
We try not to worry about our boys whilst we are away as we know they are being looked after by Grandparents whom love them dearly. I find that they are usually spoilt rotten and allowed to eat many more sweet things than my husband and I would ever let them eat. (My mum has been known to give them ice cream with their strawberries for breakfast… seriously!) but once in a while this will not harm them.
From our experience, we always appreciate our kids more when we have had some time away from them and leaving them with Grandparents also gives them chance to bond. We always try to show our appreciation to our parents by filling the fridge with favourite foods and wine and bringing back a little something as a gesture of thanks… by doing so we hope they will offer to have the kids again. (We can live in hope eh?!)
Have you left your children with Grandparents whilst you enjoyed some quality grown up time? Can you add any tips to my list above?
Check out our other helpful guides here – Tips from a Flight Attendant: Flying comfortably with children, Essential packing list for first holiday with baby, 7 do’s and don’ts for first time camping with kids.
Image of Grandparents copyright Flickr.com/jdecker12