Friday, May 06, 2005

How To Choose A Sitter For Your Baby

What busy parent could not use a night out on the town without the baby? Although you may be luck enough to have family and friends who are more than willing to baby-sit while you enjoy a much needed parent's night out, there will come a time when you have to actually hire a sitter.

As a loving parent you may wonder how to choose an experienced, trustworthy sitter for your baby. There are so many horror stories concerning children who have been harmed by a trusted adult, that you may feel afraid to trust anyone new. It is important to remember that the majority of potential sitters are not out to harm your child. Child abusers are, thankfully, in the minority and while nothing is guaranteed, careful selection of a sitter for your baby is half the battle.

Here are some ways to choose a sitter for your baby:

Ask for recommendations. One of the best ways to find a sitter you can trust is by asking for referrals from your family and friends. Chances are if they have used and been satisfied with a sitter, you will too.

Other good places to look for a sitter are your church, local recreational center, school, and place of business. If you have friends with teenage children, ask if they would be available to baby-sit.

Check references. Often people ignore references, only call one person on the list, or even worse, never ask for references. Do get references and do call. You never know what important information you may learn by calling.

Training is key. Make sure the baby sitter you are considering is trained in First Aid and CPR. If the sitter doesn't have the training, but you are really sold on using her, go ahead and pay for her to get certified in this area. Instead of thinking about this as an extra expense, think how much more comfortable you will feel knowing your sitter is capable of handling health emergencies. Check your local library, recreational center, or Red Cross chapter to find out if they offer babysitter-training classes. These classes offer good preparation for new sitters.

Observe your sitter. Invite your sitter over a few times before you leave her completely alone with your child. This will give you time to observe her with your baby, as well as time for your baby to get to know the sitter in your presence. Watch how she interacts with your child. Leave the room for a little while and come back later. Observe how your child acts in her presences after they've spent a few minutes alone. Chat with her about what she would do in certain emergency situations, such as an accident, illness, or fire. Discuss your expectations, rules, and child rearing philosophy. Observe her body language for signs of her being open and receptive to what you are saying. Trust your instincts. If something just doesn't seem right do not hire her.

Start Early. Have your sitter arrive early on the first day she will be babysitting your baby. Spend time showing her where she can find all of baby's essentials. Show her where you have posted emergency numbers such as your cell phone number, additional emergency contact number, the number for baby's pediatrician, and local poison control center. Make sure your sitter is well versed in what to do in case of fire or other emergency.

Do check in. Call your sitter at least once to make sure things are okay. Call more than once if you like, since it will probably make you feel better when you are using a new sitter, but don't call so much you disrupt you child's night.

Observe again. When you return home observe how your child interacts with the sitter after spending this time alone with her. Although it can sometimes take a little time for your baby to get used to a new person your baby should not seem genuinely frightened of the sitter.

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