Babies 101
June 3, 2011 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Can a babysitter with no experience babysitting infants teach herself how to care for babies?

Asking for a friend who's considering a summer job caring for an infant.

She's babysat toddlers before, and is planning on reading websites and watching youtube videos etc. to learn. She's smart and had an impressive resume, so I guess the parents trust that.

Second issue: She's worried about going through a help wanted listing without ever having met these people.

1. Do you think that an individual who has experience watching toddlers can figure out how to watch a 9 month old baby?

2. Would it be safe to do so with a strange family whom she's never met?
posted by sunnychef88 to Work & Money (25 answers total)
Speaking as the parent of an infant, infant care is not the sort of thing I'd want someone to learn by trying it out for the first time with my kid. Sure, I learned that way, but I'm the parent, yaknow?
posted by The World Famous at 4:16 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are millions upon millions of people who birth infants who have never ever cared for one before - of course your friend can learn.
posted by tristeza at 4:17 PM on June 3, 2011

1. Tons of people figure out how to care for babies with no experience. Most of them are first time parents.

2. As long as she knows infant first aid & CPR, sure.

Unasked 3. Parents are probably going to be reluctant to choose a babysitter with no practical experience with infant care even with an "impressive resume." Can she get some hands-on experience somewhere?
posted by asciident at 4:22 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

She could spend a couple of weeks "volunteering" with a new mother, it would be great for all concerned.

If she doesn't choose to do something like this, and get that hands on experience... speaking as a parent, I wouldn't hire her...
posted by tomswift at 4:25 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

How old is your friend? I babysat a lot when I was a teenager, and the biggest difference that I noticed between infants and older babies/kids is that you can't soothe an infant like you'd soothe the others. You can pick up a two year old and play with it, make stupid faces, sing to it, etc, and it will cheer right up. An upset x-month old is going to scream and scream and scream, and you can feed it and change it and try to make it comfortable--but sometimes, if you're not that baby's parent, you won't be able to do a darn thing to make it happy. (It gets better, though, as the kid gets used to you.) That's something that an older person might know even without having cared for infants before, but that I definitely did not know at the time. Really threw me for a loop.

I would recommend that your friend sign up for an infant and child CPR course (and maybe even a babysitting course, if she's so inclined) with the Red Cross. Simply knowing that I had the skills to save a baby's life in the (rare and terrible) event that something might occur gave me more confidence in babysitting overall.
posted by phunniemee at 4:28 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

She told me the parents are already interested in hiring her. They really need someone I guess. Would it be bad for her to take the job?
posted by sunnychef88 at 4:29 PM on June 3, 2011

Babies vary wildly in their difficulty. Some babies are really easy and some babies are not.

It will help enormously if the baby is used to taking bottles. I wouldn't want to be the first person to try to get a baby to take a bottle. I also wouldn't want to deal with a baby who hates to sleep. I've done both, and they're highly stressful even with baby experience. If you've been there you know it's normal and can deal with it much more easily than someone who is already low in confidence and experience.

It can be a rough age for stranger anxiety/separation anxiety, which can lead to a lot of senseless crying.

In terms of preparation, youtube videos aren't really going to help. Instead, she needs a good idea of exactly what and how much this specific baby eats. That's probably the number one biggest difference between toddlers and babies, because toddlers don't take formula/breastmilk. She also needs to know how to put the baby to sleep, which can be very idiosyncratic.

If she's not used to breastmilk, she needs to know how to handle it/defrost it.

My worry wouldn't be that the parents will kidnap her or anything; I'd be more worried that she'd be stuck with a screaming baby who hates new people and refuses to eat or sleep and she'll have no clue what to do.

So summary: a trial week would be a good thing for everyone, and while general baby knowledge is good, specific baby knowledge is the best.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:35 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I learned this way when I was 14 or 15. It really wasn't that big of an issue. But I had my mom down the street (literally 4 houses away) that I could call at any time with a question or emergency situation (it never came to that). I also knew basic first aid from health class in high school.
posted by jschu at 4:35 PM on June 3, 2011

I hired teenagers with no prior baby experience for my baby. I generally had them come to the house for an hour or so first to meet me and the baby and so I could show them how to care for MY baby. If everything clicked well, we went ahead, usually with a short two-hour first assignment. I had a cell phone, they had a cell phone, I wasn't far away, and -- for me, kind-of a key point -- I knew their parents. And I was confident that they'd either call me or their moms if there was any problem.

If the parents are comfortable with her, I wouldn't worry too much. If I were her I might see if I could drop by and have the parents walk me through their baby's preferred care routine, let the baby get to know me, etc., before flying solo.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:42 PM on June 3, 2011

She is 25, for reference.
posted by sunnychef88 at 4:44 PM on June 3, 2011

As long as she has been upfront with the parents and they know exactly what her experience is, then heck yes. The best sitter/nanny I ever hired (and who ended up staying with our family for 2 years) started watching my 2 month old with no prior infant experience.
posted by ellenaim at 4:52 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh please! The species would never have survived otherwise. The parents know this young woman is responsible, she's babysat toddlers before, she's 25 for f--'s sake and people have cellphones. I babysat infants at 14 and my only prior experience was with my younger siblings.

Parents these days are insane.
posted by Maias at 4:54 PM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

She is 25, for reference.

That makes a huge difference, actually. She can totally learn by doing, but she should get a little experience before going solo.
posted by The World Famous at 5:02 PM on June 3, 2011

Sure she can, for many of the good reasons given. But if there's a playgroup, park or drop-in place where moms and caregivers with kids that age congregate, she'd be wise to spend time there, for extra support and practical education on the job.

The good thing is that after a long day of caring for the kiddo, she gets to go home (or out) and recharge, unlike the baby's mom.
posted by peagood at 5:17 PM on June 3, 2011

Caring for a 9 month old is not even remotely like caring for a newborn. Can she change a diaper? Follow feeding instructions from parents? Then she has the minimum qualifications. I think the one thing that is important is you can't just set & forget a child at that age; you have to engage them in play, so it is actually a surprising amount of work, but hopefully enjoyable and rewarding work. If she can prove herself to be an interested and active babysitter, then of course she can handle it.
posted by contessa at 5:20 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

In grad school, I babysat a friend's 7-month old without prior infant experience. It was fine. Mostly pretty boring. Turned into a long-term gig, which got much harder when the baby became a toddler and started having tantrums and, you know, a will of its own.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:39 PM on June 3, 2011

Eyebrows McGee makes sense, and it accords with my babysitting infants when I was a young teenager (admittedly, that was nother era). It's not a big deal. The main thing is she is responsible and follows instructions. Taking care of a little kid is not rocket science. They don't do that much. (I'm not a parent, but come on, it's not that different from taking care of any other healthy little animal for a short while.)
posted by Listener at 6:23 PM on June 3, 2011

We hired a babysitter with no infant experience to help watch our 6 month old. We were new parents and figured if we could figure it out we could help someone else do so. The sitter we hired struck us and genuinely kind and patient, which were the right qualities to have. It worked out well.
posted by procrastination at 6:43 PM on June 3, 2011

25 yo--Good grief--I'd have hired her in a heart beat!

It's not like she doesn't have experience. Toddlers are way harder to handle than a nine month old. She'll be just fine.

I would recommend she read a good book on what to expect from that age group, and definitely a CPR/first aid course--even if it's just a two-evenings course. Other than that, have her spend an afternoon with mom getting used to kiddo and finding out where things are kept, etc. Even though the house will be familiar, the baby's old enough to appreciate getting to know your friend before mom/dad are completely gone for the day.

Nine months is a fun age.
All will be good.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:34 PM on June 3, 2011

We hired a babysitter with no infant experience to help watch our 6 month old. We were new parents and figured if we could figure it out we could help someone else do so. The sitter we hired struck us and genuinely kind and patient, which were the right qualities to have. It worked out well.

Same here with our (then) eight (I think) month old. Like other people, we did a shortish first session with one of us available to show the sitter our routine and where things were, and to be nearby and on call for the rest of the visit. It's worked out extremely well. It's several months later, the sitter is still looking after our daughter several hours a week, and we all adore her.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:57 PM on June 3, 2011

Yes, she will learn as she goes. Just as one thing to look out for, in terms of that age in particular: she should get detailed feeding instructions, because different babies have wildly varying abilities to handle solids at that age (mine have all still been on purees, whereas I've seen friends' children chowing down on shredded chicken).
posted by palliser at 8:02 PM on June 3, 2011

Believe it or not, there was a time when people would hire eleven year olds to babysit their newborns, and nobody batted an eyelash.
posted by padraigin at 8:03 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was a babysitting kid, I took a cheap Red Cross babysitting certification class that covered the how-not-to-kill-the-baby stuff. I assume they still offer such things. If I remember right, it was just a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Another option is to read a few Babysitters' Club books. But I'm pretty sure Kristy and the gang all took similar classes.
posted by asperity at 9:42 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've also known people to get a start (at a lower rate) taking care of babies while the parents are around if needed in an emergency, but taking some time around the house for themselves.
posted by JiBB at 10:44 PM on June 3, 2011

It sounds like question 2 is really about your friend's safety, not so much the baby's. I wouldn't formally accept the job until I met the family. Do a meet and greet, see their home, watch how they relate to you, the baby, each other - then listen to your gut.

If your friend wants an extra layer of security, she can set up predetermined check-in times with someone the first time or two she reports to work. If she doesn't call in at the predetermined time, the person knows something is wrong. She just needs to make sure not to get busy with baby stuff and miss her time - very easy to do with a baby.
posted by jeoc at 1:51 PM on June 4, 2011

« Older Late night Chicago restaurant recomendations?   |   Are you sure that it wasn't porn? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.