Here’s a bit of a confession: despite living driving distance away from Minute Maid Park—the home of the Houston Astros—I’m not really a big fan of baseball. Several years ago, we were given tickets to a game. At the time, we had a 7 month old and a 2 year old. I couldn’t remember the last time we had a date night, and babysitting was offered alongside those tickets. So, despite my ambivalence toward the sport, we didn’t just walk to the car—we RAN!
My 7 month old was breastfeeding, but I had no concerns as he was already taking solids, too. There was plenty of breastmilk in the freezer if he needed beyond what I had pumped. Before walking out the door I grabbed my hand pump, prepared a couple of storage bottles, and threw some cool packs into my bag.
Regardless of my feelings toward baseball, my husband and I had a great time at the game! It was our first date in ages, and we were at peace knowing our kiddos were well taken care of by someone we trusted. Of course, when you are breastfeeding, your breasts really don’t let you forget you are breastfeeding a baby! When I needed to, I went to the bathroom (yes, the bathroom) to pump.
(Stay with me!)
We had so much fun, my husband and I didn’t want our date to end. My mother-in-law assured me that the kids were fine, and she was okay staying with them overnight. So, we decided to be spontaneous; we drove to Galveston, walked on the beach, got a hotel room, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Our first overnight by ourselves since our oldest was born!
Here are some important insights that I want to share with you from this 13-year-old happy memory:
Have a pinch hitter.
Start looking very early for a babysitter you can trust—even before you plan on spending time away from your baby. Many families have relatives to provide childcare during the day if both parents work outside the home, however, these daytime caregivers may not be available for date nights. Ask friends and family for their recommendations.
Be prepared for a curveball
Sometimes, flexibility is required. If you don’t have much of a choice for location (at the baseball game, I wasn’t willing to go all the way back to where our car was parked), the bathroom may be the place you need to go to in order to pump to relieve your breasts. It will be up to you whether or not to keep the milk. (See the graphic for my personal on-the-go pumping routine.)
Check your equipment
All breastfeeding moms, regardless of staying home or part time/full time work outside of the home, should have a good hand pump. When going anywhere, throw it in a bag with storage bottles, cool packs, microwave sterilizer bags, and hand sanitizer. My favorite, which worked for all 5 of my kids, was the Avent.
Keep your bases loaded
In anticipation of a date night, start pumping a couple of times a day about a week ahead to store the amount of milk you estimate baby will need when you are gone. Always aim to leave more than you think baby will need (and also to allow for spontaneous plans for an unexpected “extended” date night).
You might hit a Home Run
It’s okay to be spontaneous! If spontaneity is just too hard (it’s not my forte, either) PLAN regular time with your partner. Your relationship existed prior to the birth of your baby. Your time together will probably look different, but it is so important. Ignoring this relationship will make communication and parenting more challenging. Your breastfed baby absolutely needs you. But your partner does, too—and you need your partner!
Because we had an unplanned overnight date, I needed to use water bottles for storage. I rinsed them out with very hot water to sanitize them. At the hotel, I also used the microwave sterilizer bag for my pump, and then made sure I kept my milk cool on ice.
Yes, I thought about and missed my babies while we were gone, and was thrilled to see them when we returned, but I came home with renewed energy and a refreshed connection with my husband.