Babysitting Infants: When It’s OK to Leave Your Baby

Most new moms face the dilemma of knowing the right time to leave their infant with a babysitter. Infants and babies have different care needs than older children, and feeling comfortable and free to spend a few hours away from home can be a challenge. Much of the decision-making process depends on the age and stage of your baby. Every mom and every baby is unique, so making the choice that is right for you is the most important thing. These suggestions can help you evaluate your baby’s current needs before leaving her for the first time.

Infants

Although infants sleep the majority of the time during the first few weeks, their care needs are specific. Breastfed infants and new moms often struggle with breastfeeding, and leaving your baby before she is nursing without difficulty is a bad idea. Breastfed infants can develop nipple confusion when going back and forth between bottle and breast, so if you want to get out for a while, go between feedings. As your infant grows, she will be able to go back and forth between bottle and breast for those times when you want to have lunch with friends, go grocery shopping by yourself, or have a date night with your partner. The best advice is to put off using a babysitter until you and your infant are completely comfortable with your breastfeeding routine. Nevada pediatrician Susan E.C. Sorenson, M.D. recommends not leaving your breastfed infant for at least 3 to 6 weeks, as it can take this long for the breastfeeding routine to smooth itself out. A bottle-fed infant can be left with a trusted caregiver at any point the mother feels comfortable.

Babies

Leaving a baby over the age of six weeks really depends on how comfortable you are with being away from your child for an extended period of time. Breastfed babies who go from bottle to breast fairly easily can be left with a babysitter as long as you provide expressed breast milk that can be used while you are away. If your breastfed baby is not comfortable drinking from a bottle, you will still need to time your outings for between feedings. The good news is that the period of time between feedings grows longer as your baby grows; so the time you can be out of the house increases. Never leave a breastfed baby with a babysitter unless you are sure she can drink from a bottle or you can make it back before her next feeding. The stress for both baby and babysitter waiting for mom to get home and nurse can be extreme. Do both a favor and get back in a timely way.

Choosing a Babysitter

Now that your baby is a bit older, nursing well, and going back and forth between bottle and breast with few problems, choosing a babysitter is your next hurdle. If you are going to leave your infant for a few hours, choose a trusted adult family member or close friend who has lots of experience with the youngest of babies. Never leave an infant with a teenager or someone who has no experience with babies under the age of 6 months. You need to feel confident that the person you choose knows what she is doing before you head out the door. The University of Michigan Health System recommends the following tips when choosing a sitter for your baby:

  • Use a trusted friend or family member whenever possible, or get babysitter recommendations from friends and family.
  • Trade childcare with friends who have children.
  • Do not hire a sitter who is under the age of 12.
  • Meet the sitter in advance and check references.
  • Make sure the sitter knows CPR and basic first aid.
  • Ask whether the sitter has taken the American Red Cross babysitter class, and if not, encourage her to take it before she sits for you.
  • Hire a potential babysitter as a “parent’s helper” and have her take care of your baby while you are at home before leaving her with the baby for the first time. This lets you supervise and observe the care the babysitter provides and gives you time to choose someone else if necessary.

Choosing the right sitter takes time. Knowing you have a sitter you can trust is well-worth the effort.

Patti Richards is wife, mother of three children, and caretaker of two dogs, two rabbits and a cat. A contributor to the Ross Feller Casey, LLP blog, Patti regularly enjoys writing articles on health, wellness and nutrition.

Comments

  1. Kristen Jeffery says:

    Welcome to the Social Fabric community!

  2. I’m thankful my parents help babysit once in awhile for my “day off”. Thanks for the quick outline.

    Carol

  3. Renee Fischer at GGM says:

    Thank you for this beautiful guide. i am sure many new parents out there will find this guide useful.

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