Babysitters

Babysitters are usually those trustworthy, local teenagers that you call when you want to head out to a dinner and movie sans baby. Family and friends are typical runner ups. Typically, a babysitter is temporary caregiver for your baby when you want to go out for an evening alone.

Trying to find a good babysitter can be tricky. You can always swap babysitting with other parents; your cost is a trade in your time and you know your sitter is well-versed in childcare. Alternately, ask your friends, neighbors, relatives, and other parents if they know or use a good babysitter. This will help you locate a sitter with a built-in reference. Call the student employment service at your local high school or college. Post fliers at the local schools, community centers, churches, or synagogues. You could even place an ad in the local paper or check the Yellow pages for a babysitting agency.

When choosing a babysitter, make sure you choose someone old enough to watch your baby. Your babysitter should be at least 11 years old, preferably closer to 14. You will want to see your babysitter in action. Invite your would-be sitter over to watch your baby while you do the laundry or make dinner. Watch her interact and play with your baby, see first hand how she deals with a cranky baby, and give her pointers. Ask her questions about why she likes to work with children or what activities or games she likes to play with babies and toddlers.

Always ask would-be babysitters for a list of references, and then call the parents on her list. You will want to know if your babysitter has much experience with babies and what other parents thought of her skills. You will also want to ask if she has smoked, consumed alcohol, swore, invited friends over for the night, or engaged in any other behaviors those parents did not like or appreciate.

Ask your potential sitter if she has completed a babysitting course or Infant CPR course which explains how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on babies and toddlers. If she hasn't, ask if she would be willing to complete either course and explain why it is important to you.

Your babysitter should be respectful of you and your house. You should trust her to follow any rules or routines you have outlined. Your sitter should be able to handle any emergency situation, know whom to call, and what procedures to follow to keep herself and your baby safe.

Once you have a chosen a babysitter, you want to make sure she is prepared for your night out. Provide her with your cell phone number, the address and phone number of where you'll be for the evening, and emergency phone numbers. Give her an outline of your baby's schedule. Provide a list of things your baby can or can't do, a list of snack options or bottle feeding instructions, and a bed time. Show her where your baby care supplies are located and where to find sleepers or pajamas. If there is anything off-limits—food, drinks, areas of the house—make those clear.

Babysitting rates vary, depending on where you live and how many children need to be watched. Most are usually paid hourly anywhere from $5 to $13 an hour. Ask other mothers or your babysitters references how much they pay to get an idea of the going rate in your area.

If you like your babysitter and you want to invite her back, treat her with respect. Don't ask your sitter to do your laundry or dinner dishes—she should tidy up any mess created in your absence and no more. At the end of the night, tell her what you liked and the areas where she excelled. Positive feedback reaffirms that she is doing a good job, increases her confidence, and shows her you want to keep an on-going dialogue. You also don't want your baby sitting in the vibrating chair in front of the TV all night while your sitter chats on the phone. An open dialogue at the end of the night can help you figure out what exactly happened while you were away.

Although such questions may seem intrusive and untrusting, there's no such thing as an intrusive or irrelevant question when it comes to your baby's safety and well-being. Ask questions, provide feedback, and always remain open and respectful of your babysitter. If she is comfortable in your home and with you, she will want to come back the next time you call.

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