At the beginning of your baby’s life, there will be barely a moment that they are out of your sight. But eventually, the time comes for parents to step back and have some baby-free time. A babysitter can help parents take some time back for themselves because while parenting is rewarding and wonderful, it can be challenging and exhausting, and taking a night off to do something for yourself can be a welcome and well-deserved break.
For many parents, leaving their baby in the care of somebody else for the first time can be very emotional. Parents may report feelings of guilt, stress, or anxiety – these feelings are normal in this situation, however, it’s important to remind yourself that there is no need to feel guilty! Once your family has eased into having a babysitter, you will likely come to appreciate and enjoy the time off.
So, how can new parents manage to leave their baby with a babysitter, and how can they make the transition smoother for the whole family? If your babysitter is a family member or friend, this will be an easier transition as you already have trust, and they will probably know the layout of the house and know the baby already. When you hire a babysitter that you don’t already know, try doing the following to help the process along.
Spend time with them in the house
Before you leave your little one with the new babysitter, it’s helpful to spend time together in the home. Consider making time to have the babysitter over for family mealtime so you can chat and get used to them in your space. You could even call this a paid trial, and have the babysitter change a diaper, bottle-feed or play with your little one if they’re awake, so you feel more confident in their abilities.
Give them a house tour
Ask your babysitter to come over early so you can give them a tour of the house before you head out. Point out all the baby supplies and first aid supplies and remember to run them through the little things like how to control the air conditioner, for example, or anything else they’ll need to keep the home comfortable.
Leave an emergency contact list
The babysitter should already have your contact number on their phone, but you can also leave them a list of backup numbers if they cannot reach you. This can include nearby family members, your family doctor, and of course, emergency services.
Leave a schedule
A lot of babies are used to a routine. Leaving your babysitter a schedule of when to do things can help ensure the night feels calmer for your little one. Be specific such as “6 pm: bath time, use the baby body wash next to the sink, pat skin dry after, put on a new nappy and dress in the bedclothes laid on the cot.” The sitter will likely be grateful for the step-by-step instructions!
Practice offering the bottle beforehand
Unless you’re only out for a very quick errand, your babysitter will need to feed your baby. You can prepare bottles of expressed breast milk or lay out the components for making bottles of formula safely. Leave the babysitter instructions about how to prepare or warm the milk.
If you’ve been breastfeeding up until now, practice some bottle feeds yourself first. Some babies switch between breast and bottle seamlessly, while others refuse bottles altogether. If your baby refuses, don't panic - there are many other ways you can feed a baby that is used to breastfeeding. You can try an infant feeding cup, a syringe, or feed your baby using a spoon. These methods are all a bit slower than a bottle, but also have benefits, such as ensuring they aren't fed too quickly and avoiding the risk of bottle preference.
You can also ask the sitter to practice a feeding your bub with you around, so your baby feels safer, and you can pass on any tidbits of information about your baby's feeding preferences.
No guilt needed!
Leaving your baby can be tough at first! You may feel sad or guilty. These feelings are ok, but will usually fade with time as you get used to having a babysitter. You don’t need to feel guilty because you are not doing anything wrong. Taking some time off for yourself to recharge can make you more attentive and energetic for your baby overall.
You can try easing into babysitting by starting with just short sessions. Consider having date night at a nearby restaurant so you can be home quickly or just asking the babysitter to stick around while you go to the gym and shower off there.
Over time, you will build trust with your babysitter. If you have a bad experience with a babysitter, you can simply ask them to move on and begin interviews for someone to take their place. Remember to spend some time with them before their first shift so you can build a rapport and see how they interact with your little one. Good luck and enjoy your time off!