One of the feelings I struggled with the most when returning to work after LoveBug was born was the lack of control I now had in my child's life. Even though I would ask certain things of her caregivers (always a family member), the truth was that the caregiver was going to do whatever she was going to do and I wouldn't be there to stop her. Most of the time, everything was okay...but there were a few times when my will was deliberately went against or I was left out of the loop by a lack of communication.
As Mommies, we need to remember that we are the best person for our child. It doesn't matter if we aren't the ones who can be with our babies every day. We are still our baby's mommy. Over the last year, I have learned that something as simple as packing the diaper bag differently each day can help give me back my rightful sense of control. I may not be there to protect my child, but darnit, I will do everything within my power to provide my child with the best experience possible and to know everything I can about her day!
Here are some things that I add to our bag to ease the transition and enhance the communication for both baby and myself:
1) Photo of mommy and daddy. LoveBug has been able to recognize her mommy and daddy through photos since she was very young. Part of her daily routine at Mimi's house now is to find our wedding photo, point to her Ma and her Da, and give us kisses! Now do I know that this actually helps her bonding with us? Nope, I don't have any idea if it helps in any way...but it sure does make me feel better, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if she likes knowing that she can see me at any time of the day that she wants to. This gives HER a sense of control!
2) Mama's milk. It makes me feel a whole lot better knowing I'm providing the ultimate nutrition for my child, and I know that she prefers the taste over anything else (at least until she was about 1-year-old. Now she drinks other things during the day and doesn't use a bottle). Being able to still give my child something so precious to both of us even when I can't be with her is amazing!
3) Cloth diapers. I like to use CD's for so many reasons, but for this particular blog entry, I like to use them because then I know exactly how many diaper changes she had during the day. Using CD's also tells me how much urine she excreted (by how saturated the diaper inserts are), and the consistency and frequency of any bowel movements (even though these are dumped out before the diapers are given back).
4) Something that smells like mom. When LoveBug was very young, I'd send a worn shirt for her to snuggle against while she was sleeping. There IS research to back up the whole mom-baby scent thing. :-) It helps the bonding process, and also relaxes the baby more when sleeping. Now that LoveBug is older, she doesn't need a shirt anymore, but I will let her take something of mine with her if she grabs it and puts it into her bag.
5) A keep-track notebook. I've seen commercial versions of these, but the idea is simple enough for you to make yourself. The idea is to create a place for the caregiver to write down details of your baby's day as well as any notes for you about questions, concerns, special moments, or upcoming events. You could use a blank notebook and just write the day's date at the top of the page, or better yet, create your own template and put it into a three-ring binder.
The template can break the day down by time (LH column) and add event icons across the top of the page (like a bottle, a diaper, a crib for napping, a toy for playing, etc.). Then, the caregiver can simply check the boxes as appropriate throughout the day, or write details (like "bm" in the diaper box if your child had a stool). You'll be able to quickly tell how many diapers your baby went through and for how long she napped. Another idea is to put the icons on the LH side of the page (in a column going down) and have the caregiver write the times in boxes across the paper horizontally along with any pertinent notes.
However you choose to do it, having a written record of your baby's day will make your life easier. It's difficult to rely on someone's memory to recall what your child ate, how much, and when. I also find it's hard for me to remember to ask about every detail...until I'm home and my child throws up...then I am immediately wondering what happened during the day!
6) Contact information. Including a luggage tag with your child's and your information on both the diaper bag and car seat is a great idea just in case of an emergency. Be sure to limit your child's information to only what's necessary (who wants a creepy stalker knowing these things?). Your tag may look like this:
Name: LoveBug; DOB 10/2008
Mother and Father: Rachel and Ron
H: (555) 555-5555; W: (555) 555-5551
Being a paramedic, how great it would be to have this information readily available every time I showed up to a car accident where there's a kid in a car seat and the parent is unconscious or taken away in a separate vehicle!
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