How to Find a Caregiver for Baby

By Ewa Harr, MA

From babysitters to nannies, the same rules apply

At some point, between the birth of your child and eighteen years from now, you will need to leave the house.  On one of these occasions, perhaps many, you may need to leave your child with someone else.  There is a lot you can do to prepare so you are not overcome with anxiety and panic as soon as you start the car in the driveway.

As you are counting down the days of your maternity leave and vacation time, as the in-laws leave town, and your sister goes back to work, it may dawn on you that you need to have someone available to take care of your new baby when your life starts up again.

As with everything involving your new baby, just think about letting someone else care for your newest and greatest treasure can bring up a lot of feelings, often mixed—hesitation, anxiety, eagerness, relief.  You know what you’re looking for—a childcare provider that is trustworthy, reliable, energetic, imaginative, patient, and kind.  You want someone that will use their common sense, handle an emergency calmly and effectively, someone who will make your child their priority.  Mary Poppins however, will not magically appear, so it’s up to you (and dad) to find her. 

The first thing to consider is how often and for how long you’ll need a caregiver.  Those parameters can help you come up with the shortlist for childcare.  The teenager up the street with lots of experience can probably cover the trip to the grocery store, but isn’t going to be able to cover every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00-2:00.  The graduate student au pair who is teaching your baby how to coo in French may not be available on weekends, especially when she’s been taking care of baby Monday through Friday.

Maybe you just need a break—to catch up on some sleep and regain some short term memory; to take a long, uninterrupted bath; to give your best friend a call and tell her all about being a new mommy. Maybe you need a Mommy’s Helper to do some work from home or give you a hand with the twins. Maybe you need a babysitter so you can have a date night with your partner for the first time in weeks. Maybe you are considering more permanent childcare like a nanny. Regardless of how much or how little someone will be taking care of your little one, here are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind when looking for that perfect person:

Having a newborn baby is a new experience for you; it shouldn’t be for your babysitter or nanny.

A person taking care of your newborn or infant should have experience with babies. They should know, for example, how to change diapers, to burp baby after feeding, and how to hold and position baby correctly. Don’t be afraid to ask about someone’s experience. A lot of caregivers are not mothers (or fathers) yet themselves, but may have a lot of experience with taking care of infants in their family, at a daycare, or through families they’ve worked with in the past. If you are a new mom without a lot of family in the area, you may be interested in seeking out a grandmother-type childcare provider that may be able to help you navigate some of the challenges of early motherhood.

Make a list.

Some moms jot down a couple key pieces of information (emergency contact info, doctor, etc.) for their babysitters. Some moms leave a list four pages long for their nannies. Either way, don’t be afraid to tell or write down how you want things done for your child’s caregiver.  It’s ok to leave a detailed list of instructions even if you’ll only be gone few hours. Remember, you know your baby’s needs best of all. Be specific. It may take your babysitter an hour to figure out that baby’s favorite pacifier is the one with the bunny on it if she has 10 to choose from.

Ask for a report.

It’s ok to ask your childcare provider for a breakdown of the time he or she spent with your child. How long did baby nap? Did he eat ½ or ¾ of his bottle? Was she fussy? Is there something you did that made him laugh or smile? Did you take a walk? It’s ok to call to check in as many times you need to. You can ask your babysitter to text you hourly updates. And if a report isn’t comprehensive enough, try a nanny cam. Nowadays, you can watch what is happening at home in real time on-line.

Trust your gut.

This is by far the most important rule. Even if a bunch of other moms in your mom’s group, yoga class, or book club have recommended Suzy, if you meet her and don’t feel she’s the right babysitter for you baby, trust your instincts. Sometimes for no apparently reason, babies take or don’t take to certain people, just like grownups.

If you aren’t confident about the person you are leaving your child with you are not going to relax, or get any work done, or enjoy your spouse’s company. The key to your peace of mind is to make sure you’ve found the right person both for you and for your baby.

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