My parents and in-laws will be taking care of my baby once I go back to work. I’ve already heard crazy suggestions like “put rice cereal in bottle, he’ll sleep longer!” and this concerns me. How do I get them to care for my baby the way I want them to without seeing ungrateful or rude?
Well, first of all, how lucky you are that you have family available and willing to care for your child. Leaving one’s baby to go back-to-work is not easy; knowing he’s in trusted hands will make that transition a bit smoother for you. Since you mentioned that more than one set of grandparents will be helping with the care, I suggest you type up a few lists of instructions or ideas…with the intention of guiding the supervision and making things more consistent and easier for the caretakers. It could be awfully confusing for your little guy if one grandparent holds him through every nap while the other puts him in a crib; or if one feeds him solids in the morning and the other waits for you to come home in the evening. A schedule, even a flexible one, is important for babies.
To start, it might be helpful if you document your days with your baby for a week or so. This will give you a clearer understanding of what actually happens each day (ie. when does baby wake, sleep, eat, etc). From there you can create a “schedule” for the grandparents. You might note: He likes to go back to sleep after being awake for an hour and a half…so look at the clock when he wakes up to gage when he will need to go to sleep again. Or you might find that he regularly naps for about an hour at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm…easy enough. Before going back to work, create routines around sleep that the grandparents can do at your house – or theirs. Some sleep routines may involve swaddling, rocking, walking, feeding, darkening the room, massage, etc. Be sure the caretakers understand your routines and can manage them.
Secondly, give them ideas for ways to entertain your baby! You don’t want to discover that your child is sitting in front of the tv all day because grandma has no toys! It’s a good idea to buy some duplicate activity mats or toys so that baby can play while you’re at work. It’s not a bad idea to type up a list of “ways to engage baby” that might involve: play music, read books, dance, go for a walk, swing, practice tummy time, etc. It’s not that you’re trying to be a controlling parent, you’re simply trying to give them ideas! They haven’t parented a newborn in 30 years…and things have changed a lot 🙂
Finally, be clear on things that really matter…like your child’s eating! For the first year, the most important part of your child’s diet is breast milk or formula. Does the caretaker know how to defrost the milk, warm the bottle…how many ounces to give, when to discard a bottle, rules around re-heating, etc.?? These things should be written out to avoid questions or mistakes! And, once you’ve introduced solids (which typically happens between 4-6 months of age), you definitely want to keep a list of foods he has tried (with success) and foods that you will not introduce again. I actually had a green list (YES, he loves them!) and a red list (NO, it caused a rash, gassiness, etc) on my fridge for all caretakers. It was clear and simple.
I will add that anyone who gets FREE HELP from family/friends is extremely lucky. Baby is lucky too that others love him so much that they’d give up hours of their time to care for him! So, in some regards, I’d embrace the whole: what happens at grandma’s stays at grandma’s. She may not do things exactly like you…and that’s ok. However, she should be respectful of how you parent and share the same values. If you do not want your child watching any tv, for example, then the tv shouldn’t be on all day. However, if she needs a little break and allows 30 minutes of television, don’t freak out. I’ve learned over the years to let some things go…in the name of love and free childcare.
Don’t forget to show appreciation to your generous family members. Take them out for lunch, make a baby photo album, write them sweet notes…what they are doing is a BIG deal…and you don’t ever want them to feel taken advantage of. Also, if a strain is put on your relationship, consider alternative forms of childcare. Nothing is more important than maintaining healthy relationships with your parents and in-laws…especially now that you share this unconditional love for baby.