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Bye, Bye, Baby: Leaving Your Baby With a Sitter For the First Time

Tiffany Smith
July 24, 2017

How to prepare the sitter and yourself.

As your social and work schedules return to normal, you're probably going to have to have a sitter take care of baby, at least when grandma and grandpa are busy. This may bring about a normal, yet emotional reaction, in you known as "The Babysitter Blues." Read on for some tips on how to handle this transition.

Timing

Your baby is ready for sitter when you are. For many parents, this is when a baby is about six months old. If it's longer for you, that's fine. Just like your child, you may need to take baby steps towards independence:

  • Start out small. Work up to leaving for extended periods of time. Hire a mother's helper to watch the baby for half an hour to an hour while you go upstairs to dress, bathe, cook dinner, or do the laundry.
  • Next, try longer visits. Take an hour or two to walk and exercise with the dog, go to a yoga class or hair appointment, or do errands and shopping.
  • Eventually, you'll be ready for a half day, day, or evening out away from your child. Only you and your partner will know when this time arrives, and that's OK.

Preparing the sitter or mother's helper

When you're ready to hire outside help, follow these easy steps:

  • Do an initial phone interview, and then follow up with a face-to-face one so you can assess the caregiver in person. See how she interacts with your child. Be sure to carefully check all references.
  • On the first day she's scheduled to work, ask her to come over a half hour before you leave. This way your child can see you interact with the sitter, and sitter and child can become acquainted.
  • Show the sitter where your list of emergency contact information is. Tell her the circumstances under which she should call you, a neighbor, a doctor, and so on.
  • Point out the food and drinks she can help herself to. (If you have a cake that's for tomorrow's office party, let her know it's off limits, etc.)
  • Give her a list of activities that will divert your child's attention in the minutes right after you leave.
  • When you're ready to go, do so swiftly. Don't dawdle.

The bottom line

If you take your time and communicate carefully, you'll grow to find peace of mind when you leave your child with a sitter. Both you and your child will find fuller, richer lives through independence and meaningful relationships with the right child care providers.

Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter @tiffanyiswrite.

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