Everyday activities keep many parents so busy that they can't take their children with them everywhere.
That makes it key to find the right babysitter and make sure that the sitter can be entrusted with your child.
When you're looking for a babysitter, give yourself enough time to be choosy. You should:
Look for a sitter within your circle of friends, faith community, or neighborhood.
Look for a sitter who is age 13 or older and mature enough to handle basic household emergencies.
Look for someone who has experience working with children.
Have the sitter spend time with you before babysitting to meet the children and learn their routines.
Always check references.
Safe Sitter, a national organization devoted to training teens to become safe babysitters, strongly recommends that the sitter have had some babysitting training. This should include what to do if a child starts to choke, basic first aid, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Parents must also make sure that their home is a safe environment and has first aid supplies.
To make sure your sitter is ready for any situation that arises and knows how to get help, give the sitter this checklist for use in an emergency:
Address, with clear directions on how to locate your house
Children's names and ages:
Children's allergies, health history, and daily medicines:
Phone number where parent or guardian will be:
Address where parent or guardian can be reached:
Cell phone numbers:
Neighbor's name and phone number:
Local relative's name and phone number:
Local emergency phone number:
Healthcare provider's name:
Healthcare provider's phone number:
Insurance name and number:
Poison control center:
What time you will be home:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that, if your child is close to age 12, the sitter should be quite a bit older. This will help your child to see the sitter as being old enough to have authority. The AAP also suggests that, in addition to checking references, you also speak with the sitter's parents before hiring them so you can get a sense of how the teenager handles responsibility.
Show the sitter where the first aid supplies are kept and leave a first aid chart for easy reference. If your child takes medicines, write the name of the medicine down with specific instructions on how much to give, how to give it, and how to get your child's cooperation. The safest method is to pre-measure the medicine and then make certain all medicines are out of the children's reach.
Show your sitter the house and point out all entrances and exits, fire and burglar alarms, flashlights, and off-limits areas. Discuss exits in case of a fire and escape routines you may have practiced with your children. Remind the sitter that if there is a fire the children should be taken outside before calling 911.
As you leave, lock all doors and windows. Close blinds and curtains if it is after dark. Don't make arrangements for any deliveries while you are gone (including food). Tell the sitter not to go to the door and let anyone in, even if someone knocks. Reassure the sitter that it's OK to call you if anything unusual or concerning happens.
Make sure the sitter is clear on your "house rules" about what can be watched on TV, visitors, telephone use, smoking or drinking, and taking your child outside.
Taking the time to find the right sitter will let you enjoy your out-of-home activity with minimal worries about your child.
Here are guidelines from the AAP on how to reduce the risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and sleep-related deaths from birth to age 1 to share with your babysitter:
Place the baby on their back for all sleep or naps until the child is 1 year old. This can decrease the risk for SIDS, aspiration, and choking. Never place the baby on their side or stomach for sleep or naps. If the baby is awake, allow the child time on their tummy as long as there is supervision. This helps the child build strong tummy and neck muscles. This will also help minimize flattening of the head that can happen when babies spend so much time on their backs.
Offer the baby a pacifier for sleeping or naps. If the child is breastfeeding, don't give the baby a pacifier until breastfeeding has been fully established.
Use a firm mattress (covered by a tightly fitted sheet) to prevent gaps between the mattress and the sides of a crib, a play yard, or a bassinet. This can decrease the risk for entrapment, suffocation, and SIDS.
Share the room instead of your bed with the baby. Putting the baby in bed with you raises the risk for strangulation, suffocation, entrapment, and SIDS. Bed sharing is not recommended for twins or other multiples. The AAP recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents, close to their parents' bed, but in a separate bed or crib appropriate for infants. This sleeping arrangement is recommended ideally for the baby's first year but should at least be maintained for the first 6 months.
Don't use infant seats, car seats, strollers, infant carriers, and infant swings for routine sleep and daily naps. These may lead to blocking of an infant's airway or suffocation.
Don't place babies on a couch or armchair for sleep. Sleeping on a couch or armchair puts the infant at a much higher risk of death, including SIDS.
Don't use illegal drugs or alcohol. Don't allow smoking while babysitting. Don't allow the baby to be around anyone who is smoking.
Don't over bundle, overdress, or cover an infant's face or head. This will prevent them from getting overheated, reducing the risks for SIDS. Signs of overheating are sweating and the chest feeling hot.
Don't use loose bedding or soft objects—bumper pads, pillows, comforters, blankets—in an infant's crib or bassinet to help prevent suffocation, strangulation, entrapment, or SIDS.
Don't use cardiorespiratory monitors and commercial devices—wedges, positioners, and special mattresses—to help decrease the risk for SIDS and sleep-related infant deaths. These devices have not been shown to prevent SIDS. In rare cases, they have caused the death of an infant.
Always place cribs, bassinets, and play yards in hazard-free areas. Make sure there are no dangling cords, wires, or window coverings. This will reduce the risk for strangulation.