Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
If you've been feeding and diapering your new baby for months, it's time for a break. But when you've never hired a babysitter before, it can certainly be an intimidating proposition.
Your mind probably fills with all of the things that could potentially go wrong if you leave your baby alone with a sitter. But with a little preparation, you can put the bulk of your worries to rest.
How do you prepare for your first babysitter? You'll need to mentally prepare yourself to leave your child alone with a sitter for the first time, as well as provide your babysitter with all the resources they'll need to succeed. You also want to plan in advance to make sure you have all the necessary supplies on hand.
In this article, you'll learn how to prepare your home, your child, and yourself for your first babysitter. Once you're set, you'll finally be ready to enjoy a dinner date or night out for the first time in months!
The first time that you leave your child alone with a babysitter, you don't have to make it into a day-long ordeal. New parents always find the first time using a babysitter to be the hardest. So if you're nervous, make it fairly quick. Just go to a close restaurant around the corner and back home for your first baby-free date. Once you get used to the freedom and build up some trust with your sitter, you'll feel more confident going away longer amounts of time and further from home.
Understand that it's natural to have some initial apprehension about leaving your child alone for the first time with a stranger, or even a friend or family member. So if you need to take some baby steps to feel better about it, try to take things as gradually as you can.
How often should you hire a babysitter? Find out here - How Often Do You Use a Babysitter?
If you're feeling any guilt about leaving your child at home with a babysitter, try your best to let go of it! Put things in perspective and remember that all parents will have someone else watch their children at some point. If not now, you definitely will need to learn to let go when it's time for daycare or preschool! So getting used to having a babysitter look after your child for a few hours is a great first step.
Know that you deserve some time away from your baby, and it doesn't make you a bad parent to want or need a break. Parenthood is very emotionally and physically draining. So give yourself permission to get a babysitter and get out of the house once and a while. Your baby will still be there when you get back!
Before you can prepare for your first babysitter, first you have to find the right one! You'll want someone who has a personality that you feel like you get along with, and that you have a good gut feeling about.
There is normally an abundance of young girls (and some boys) looking for their first babysitting jobs in any given area. They might make fine babysitters once your child is a bit older. But if you have a newborn infant, it's better to find an older and more experienced babysitter for your first time.
Ideally, you'll want a sitter who is 16 or older. That way they're likely to be more mature and responsible than a babysitter who is only 12 or 13. They'll also likely have more direct experience with changing diapers and feeding babies.
To start your search for a babysitter, I recommend asking around to family and friends to see if they have any babysitters they've used in the past who they recommend.
If you're not sure where to get started, check our complete guide: The Best Ways to Hire a Babysitter.
Don't be afraid to interview several potential babysitters to make sure you find someone who's the perfect fit. You may even want to pick two or three favorites and have them complete a paid "working interview" where they watch the baby while you're still at home doing chores or other things in another room. That will give you a good idea of what kind of babysitter they actually are in action.
After you interview your babysitter, you should have an hourly rate in mind that you plan to pay them for their services. Present them with this information when you offer them the job, rather than keeping them wondering until you get home from the first time they babysit.
If you aren't sure how much to pay them, ask around to other parents you know to see what the going rate for a babysitter is in your area. It can vary a lot even city by city.
Most sitters prefer to be paid in cash. Be sure you stop by the bank or an ATM a couple days beforehand, to make sure you have some cash on hand to pay them with. Nowadays a lot of people pay for everything with their debit or credit card, so you might not automatically have cash that you carry around.
See our complete guide to babysitter pay for all the details that parents often ask about.
Your babysitter probably already knows the basics, like to call 911 (or your country’s emergency number) if a true emergency arises. But it's a good idea to make a complete emergency contact list just in case. You can include things like the number for poison control, as well as the numbers of some family, neighbors or friends they can reach for help if you're not available.
You should also include your cell phone number as well as the number for your spouse. Just make sure to discuss with your babysitter whether you want to receive a phone call for minor things like if your baby isn't eating or sleeping, or if you only want to be contacted in case of an emergency. It's good to give some examples of what sorts of things you do or don't consider to be an emergency.
Let your babysitter know what your typical timings are for sleep, feedings, and changes. Write them a list or schedule in advance so they can refer to it and make sure they're staying on track. That way they won't be feeling pressured or wondering if it's out of the ordinary for your baby to not be eating or sleeping at a given time.
Leave room in your schedule for your babysitter to make notes, check off tasks, or make any modifications they feel are necessary.
If you're pumping, you'll want to make sure there is lots of extra milk in the fridge to spare. For some babies, I swear they seem to work-up more of an appetite when their parents aren't around.
For moms who have been exclusively breastfeeding, don't make your babysitter the first one to find out if your baby will take a bottle or not. Practice bottle feeding at least a few weeks before you plan to use your babysitter to get your child used to it, so your babysitter is less likely to struggle.
If you're feeding formula, there's less planning required. But you should still make sure that you have plenty stocked up, as your sitter is unlikely to be able to go to the store if they run out.
If you plan on feeding your babysitter, you'll want to work out the details in advance. Usually, it's the norm if your sitter is working around dinner time to provide them with something to eat.
You might just tell them there are leftovers in the fridge or freezer, or stock your cupboard full of basic snacks. It can be something as simple as some granola bars or bags of popcorn. If you're really nice, you might offer to order a pizza or some other kind of takeout for them!
Let your babysitter know what they are allowed to eat. And equally importantly, let them know what they can't eat. If they don't have permission to go into the fridge, make sure to let them know that. Especially if there's something really tasty in there you're hoping to eat the next day, because it would be a shame if it wasn't there when you got home!
Are you supposed to provide dinner for your babysitter? Find out what's the norm in this article - Do You Provide Dinner for Your Babysitter? and see our recommended food ideas that are easy to prepare.
Your information list should include most of the information your babysitter might want or need to know. Depending on how much information you want to share, it may be several pages long.
Some basic things you definitely want to include are:
You might also want to share some more optional stuff such as your WiFi and Netflix password, how to use the stove or washing machine, and where to find extra diapers, blankets, or other supplies.
For a full list of information to provide your babysitter with, check out this article - What Information Do You Leave for a Babysitter? and download our handy checklist.
The first time you have a new babysitter come to your house, it's good for them to show up 10 minutes early so that you can give them a tour and show them around your home.
This will show them where all the important things like your first-aid kit, circuit breaker, washing machines, home alarm, and other items are located which a babysitter might need to use at some point. As well as a basic layout of your house and where the washroom and other rooms are located.
A tour is great because it might also prompt you to think of things you hadn't written down on your information list, and it also gives your babysitter a chance to ask any questions of their own that they may have.
There are certain things you may want your babysitter to do or not do. And although some of them might seem obvious to you, they aren't necessarily so obvious to everyone else!
Some rules you may include are:
See our recommended list of babysitter rules that all parents should enforce.
You should decide on one central place that you plan to keep all of your paperwork related to the babysitter. Usually, the kitchen makes the most sense. You can either leave things on the counter or put some of it on the fridge with a magnet.
That way your babysitter knows where to go if there is any information they need answers to. All of your emergency contacts, information lists, calendars, house rules, and worksheets can be kept together. It also makes sense to leave a pen and pad of paper in case your babysitter needs to take any phone messages, or she just wants to write some notes during the course of their babysitting.
Even though it's pretty unlikely that your new babysitter will be leaving the home with your newborn, it doesn't hurt to have a spare set of keys to leave with them. If nothing else, they might need to lock up in case of an emergency, like if they need to take your child to the hospital.
If there are any rooms, drawers, or other things in your home that lock which the babysitter might need to open, be sure to leave an extra key for those as well.
Not feeling comfortable leaving a set of keys for your babysitter? You can leave them with a neighbor you trust or a relative who lives closeby instead if you prefer.
Your babysitter will have full access to your house, and will probably need to access most of the rooms over the course of their time there.
Take a walk around your home for any personal items that are just laying out that you might not want the babysitter to see. This can include stuff like open mail and bills, medication, or anything else in your home that you aren't comfortable with a stranger seeing.
It's unlikely that a babysitter will go snooping through your things anyway, but it's always good to just remove the temptation entirely.
After you get home, you'll want an update from the babysitter about how the night went.
You can ask them questions like how your child behaved, if there were any problems, or whether any questions came up that they want the answer to for next time.
Following up with your babysitter will also potentially point out any shortcomings, things you forgot about or overlooked, or general ways to make a better experience for both of you next time.
It sure might not always feel like it, but you're the responsible, mature adult in this situation. Your babysitter is likely a teenager with limited experience who will look to you for instruction and guidance on how to do their job.
Your babysitter is essentially almost your employee, so the more details and structure you can give them, the easier and more clear it will be for them in terms of how to perform their job duties and understand what you expect of them.
As a new parent, you're probably pretty torn between feeling exhausted and needing a break, but not feeling like you can trust anyone else with your baby. But using a babysitter is nothing to be afraid of. Especially if you've done your due diligence to properly interview them and complete a background check, and you feel like you've found someone that's a good fit.
Eventually, you will have done everything you can to prepare. So don't overthink it. If you've done everything discussed in this article, you're probably in a really great position to leave your baby with a babysitter for the first time. Now it's just time to take that first step out the door, and back to having a free evening every once and a while to get out of the house.
Written & Illustrated by:
Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
Published: 8 September 2019
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