After being a caregiver for more than 10 years, I can confidently say that I’ve cared for children from newborns to 16-year olds. Last year, I was certain that I couldn’t be phased by sitting for an infant. That is, until I had to do it again for the first time in about a year. I received an email from a doctoral friend from my graduate school, Michael, and his wife, Laura, who were newly-minted parents to a gorgeous baby boy named Evan. Laura needed a break and, as a result, they needed a babysitter.
Excited about the prospect of holding a baby (we love the babies) and getting back in the swing of what we do here at SitterCycle, I accepted without hesitation. But, it had been a while…and some insecurities started to surface. How do I hold him again? How many parts of formula do I add to the water? What if this poor baby looks up and sees this strange woman who looks nothing like his mother after his nap and freaks out?!
His mother, Laura, was sweet and handed the reins over saying, “Michael says you’re like an expert nanny and you’ve done this before.” “Yeah. Haha,” I chuckled nervously. Laura went into the other room to nap and the show was on .And you know what? It was great!
While going through some very old motions that I was used to, like changing Evan’s diaper and feeding him his bottle, I realized that Evan was willing to work with me.
When I was nervous, he smiled and even laughed at my awkward jokes and my funny cross-eyed stares. His little whimpers let me know that he wanted to be picked up and not put down. I think caregivers often think of babies as the “hard ones” because we talk about them as helpless and fragile little people who can’t speak up. We’re afraid that we’ll mess up and mess the baby up in the process. But the truth is, babies, like all children, are incredibly resilient. As long as you are patient and listening for the cues, you’ll get it right in the end, even if you get it wrong initially. Here are some helpful tips:
1) Know what you need to know.I won’t lie that there are basics you need to master that I may take for granted. My little brother, Ade, was my guinea pig growing up. You do need to know how to make a bottle, feed a baby, change a diaper, administer CPR/first aid and bathe a baby under 9 months. All of those things have intricacies that come with the territory. Lucky for you all of these things are online/available through trainings. We’ll be posting them on SitterCycle soon. (If you have a specific topic you want to learn more about, we’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
2) Listen and ask questions! The baby you’re sitting for is just like any child with likes and dislikes. A baby can’t talk but they’ve already started building a personality. Ask as many questions of the parents as possible beyond the basics.
- How does he like to be held?
- Does she have a favorite blanket, and or toy she can’t sleep without.
- Does he have to have a sibling close by who might provide comfort?
These are all questions that I wish I had asked when I cared for 6-9 month old babies over the last two years. There are a lot more, so don’t be afraid to ask!
3) Keep calm and carry on. Seriously, chill. Getting nervous only makes sitting worse because it forces you to be reactionary, which does not a smart nanny make. More importantly, I’m convinced babies smell fear. If you want to stay ahead, just roll with it. Think through what the parents have told you and what you’re learning. The child will stop crying soon, will eat if hungry, etc. It will be okay. Note: if at any point you do not feel calm, please put the baby down and step away. Come back when you CAN keep calm and carry on.
4) Provide (and ask for) feedback! Remember, you’re not the only one that is learning especially if you’re working with first time parents. They want to hear what you have to hear and because of this awesome experience, Laura and I now have the opportunity to talk and learn from one another. This new knowledge is an opportunity to build your own skills, build your own bag of tricks, and more important build relationships with parents and their babies.
**We like to share stories, but also maintain privacy. All names have been protected!