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Some women would argue leaving your baby for the first time is one of mum’s toughest challenges. Others will say it comes naturally. We spoke to new mum Jennifer Shepherd about leaving her baby boy, Sam, for the first time.
The first time I left Sam was when he was 4 months old.
I was so nervous because I was still breastfeeding and I was really worried he wouldn’t get enough milk without me – even though I was only about 10 minutes down the road!
I put him to sleep at 8pm and went out with my friends. My husband Matt, who was babysitting, was worried too because he knew he wouldn’t be able to soothe him if he cried for milk.
So it took some time before I felt I could go out. I mean physically and logistically it was really hard to leave because I was literally Sam’s only source of food. But the older he got and after I started weaning him around 4 months, the longer he went without feeds meaning Matt felt more comfortable looking after him.
Being a new mum was so constant – I’d been breastfeeding from birth. I really needed a break after 4 months, even just for a few hours with friends.
Bottles, teats and sippy cups
I got invited to a hen do – a day and night away when Sam was 6 months old. I really needed to get him on the bottle.
At around 3 months, I’d begun trying to get him onto the bottle. I thought that by waiting to introduce the bottle, I was doing the right thing. It turns out I actually waited too long but I was scared that once he started bottle feeding, he wouldn’t take my breast.
I tried taking him to mum’s for half a day and hid upstairs for 5 hours while she tried to feed him out of a bottle – but it didn’t work. I could only stay at the hen do for the day and Matt had to drive to Cambridge with Sam in the car to pick me up.
I tried all types of different bottles, teats, sippy cups and spent so much money but none of it worked! Eventually Sam took a training bottle but I still breastfeed because I like it – and he clearly likes it a bit too much! I was worried I was doing it the wrong way and what people would think but after speaking to other mums I know I’m not the only one still breastfeeding.
Weddings, playgroups and milky rusks
At 7 months, we went to a wedding from 3pm ‘til 2am and I left Sam with my mum. She was really good with Sam; she made him drink milk mashed with banana and rusk biscuits soaked in milk. Mum was such a key element in leaving Sam behind and I’m totally comfortable with leaving him there, no worries. But I haven’t left him with a babysitter yet.
Sam is happy in anyone’s company though, he’s very sociable and I reckon this is because I started taking him to SureStart playgroups from 12 weeks. He’s been used to having lots of people around and I’m so proud of him, for the way he’s able to let me go.
Admittedly, I wasn’t happy with the thought of leaving him at a nursery at first but I was going back to work and my mum could only have him for two days maximum. I wanted to be the one who influences his personality and what he’s learning, you know?
I have an idea of how I want him to grow up. I want him to have manners, be polite and be with others that instill that kind of behaviour. When I saw the nursery, I felt reassured; it’s a lovely school and I knew he’d be learning, plus I think the social element is great. He plays with older children who he’s seen crawling and walking which I think is fantastic for his development.
It’s good for me as well. It can be relentless being a parent and you just have to keep going without time for yourself, so it’s good to have a break – even if it is to go to work.
Back to work
When I’m at work, I focus on work. I don’t want to sound ruthless but I don’t want to be too emotional, like you’d expect, because I know it’s not good for me or for Sam. I really believe this is because of my relationship with Sam; he’s not a crying baby, I really trust the people he’s with and that he will be okay without me. If he was bawling his eyes out every time I left, of course I’d feel differently. How you handle leaving your kid really varies from mother to mother and from child to child.
Obviously, I don’t like leaving him in the morning and as soon as I’m out the door I look forward to seeing him again. For the first two weeks, I phoned the nursery every single day. Maternity leave was the best time of my life but now I’ve got to get on with things.
I’m comfortable because I know Sam doesn’t miss me. He’s having fun and doing great – next he’ll be standing on his own two feet – all too soon enough!
Where to next?