Worrying is as much a part of new parenthood as diaper changes and sleepless nights. And while exhausted, hormone-addled moms can obsess about pretty much anything - from trimming tiny nails to the temperature of the bath water - certain fears plague parents the most. We asked readers to share their biggest anxieties on Parenting.com/babytalk. Although the responses may surprise you, they didn't shock William Sears, M.D., who calms nervous moms and dads every day in his pediatric practice (and who dealt with the same fears himself raising eight babies!). Here, he explains why we really don't need to worry so much.
Leaving the baby with a sitter
"I am so nervous to leave my seven-and-a-half-month-old son with anyone else. He's such a mama's boy right now, and I worry that he'd scream his head off the whole time. As a result, my husband and I haven't been out on a real date since he was born." -Rosalynn Gottschall, Forksville, PA
Mother after mother in my practice has said to me, "I really need a break, but I just can't leave my baby." I always tell them the same thing: "A happy, rested mother is the best mother." So if it takes a date with your husband or a trip to the gym to refuel your energy stores, go for it. That's right, sometimes it's in your baby's best interest for you to leave! And of course, going back to work is often a necessity. (When I was a struggling intern with two young kids, my wife, Martha, also worked so that we could make ends meet.) But the fact that you're afraid to leave your baby with someone else is a normal, good sign - it means you've developed a healthy, strong attachment to your child.
I've found that most moms have two fears when it comes to leaving their infant with another caregiver:
1) They're worried that nobody can care for their baby as well as they can; and 2) They're nervous that someone else might take that number-one spot in their baby's life. Let me reassure you that no one can replace Mom in a baby's eyes. And as long as you nurture the attachment you have with your child when you're together - through babywearing, nursing (if you've chosen to breastfeed), playing, and cuddling - that bond won't be easily forgotten when you go to the office or take some much-needed time to yourself.
If you're going back to work, there are many ways you can maintain your mom-baby bond on your end. Put up photos of your baby in your work space (as if you wouldn't!), pump your milk during the day and continue to nurse when home, and stay in close touch with your baby's caregiver(s) while you're gone.
As for finding someone who can care for your child the way you would if you were home, that's a bit trickier and takes some work. The only way you'll worry less is if you're comfortable with who (or where) you choose, and only you can make that call. You may not gel with the babysitter that your neighbor loves, and the daycare center that everyone raves about may not be the best fit for your child; don't feel like you're being picky.
Prescreen candidates by checking references. Then create a list of questions and write them down so you don't forget. To me, one of the most important things to ask is, "What will you do when my baby cries?" The answer you want is: "I would do my best to console him." A red-flag answer: "Oh, it's good for babies' lungs to cry sometimes, and I believe they should learn to soothe themselves." Baby training is the parents' decision, not a caregiver's.
If you opt for daycare, you also need to do your research. But even if a facility passes all the criteria (find the good-care signs to watch for on Parenting.com/babytalk, along with more tips on hiring a sitter), you still need to follow your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable with what you see or experience at a center, or if your baby seems angry or mopey when you pick him up, don't dismiss it. Look into it further or find an arrangement that leaves you with a better feeling.