Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Finding a sitter for your baby

Leaving your newborn with a babysitter for the first time can be a difficult experience. If you don't have a close friend or family member available to watch your baby, how do you go about finding a reliable babysitter that you can trust? Here are some tips:

-- Ask around. Word of mouth referrals are a great way to find babysitters. Ask other parents or friends about the sitters they use. If you are looking for a full time sitter while you go to work, that may be harder to find-- you may need to post an ad in the newspaper for a nanny or check online for some of the many nanny and babysitter referral websites.

-- Post an ad at a local college. The great thing about college students is that most of them will drive to your house. College students may charge a bit more per hour than say, the 13 year old girl next door, but you can feel confident that your baby is in the hands of a more mature sitter (great if you're a worry wart, like me).

-- Check references. Don't leave your baby with a stranger until you have checked his or her references out thoroughly. An experienced nanny should provide you with a resume and a list of references. For college students or younger sitters, ask for the name of one or two previous charges and call them to make sure that the sitter was reliable.

One you do find a sitter, remember the following:

-- Invite the sitter over ahead of time to meet your baby. Also, take the time to show the sitter around your house, where you keep things, etc.

-- Ask the sitter beforehand what he or she charges per hour. You would be surprised at the vast range that babysitters charge. While younger sitters may be happy with five dollars or less per per hour, college students may ask for upwards of ten dollars per hour. Professional nannies will usually charge you a more substantial daily fee.

-- Leave your cell phone number with the sitter (as well as the number of the place you are going to in case your cell doesn't work).

-- Leave the phone number for your baby's pediatrician in case of an emergency.

-- Leave instructions for feeding the baby and baby's sleep schedule. In fact, if you are leaving your baby for the entire day, it's best to give your sitter a rough outline of a typical day for your baby. Don't expert your sitter to follow it to the tee, but it will give him or her idea of what
your baby's usual schedule is.

Preparing your baby for a day away from you:

If you rarely leave your baby's side, the first time away may be difficult for the both of you. Prepare your baby by leaving him or her with a sitter for an hour or so the first few times. You can gradually work up to leaving baby for longer periods of time as he or she gets used to the babysitter.

Finally, take the time to find a sitter that both you and your baby love and trust-- so you can get away and still have some peace of mind.

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