in many ways "babysitting" is a misnomer; sitting on babies is no longer recommended by the APA
October 3, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

How old was your child when you first started leaving her with babysitters who weren't relatives? How long would you leave them for?
posted by gerryblog to Human Relations (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nine and a half weeks old. 8:00am-2:30pm M-F. She was a sitter I found on She was awesome.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:41 AM on October 3, 2012

Baby A was 16 weeks old when I started leaving him with a non-relative for 4 hours at a time. He was with a nanny, who we interviewed, did a background check on etc and I worked from home for the first week of her employment. At 20 weeks, I went back to work full time and our nanny took care of baby A for 8 hours a day.
posted by netsirk at 10:43 AM on October 3, 2012

Kid Zizzle started daycare at 11 weeks old -- does that count?

Baby Zizzle started daycare when she was 14 weeks old --- does that count?

Both were there M-F from about 7:30 or 8 am until between 4 or 5 pm. Still are! But in new places now.

If you mean babysitters for a night out? Well, we did that with Kid Zizzle when he was about 15 or 16 months for the first time? Mostly because we didn't have money to do it before then. We'd be gone three or four hours.

Haven't used a baby sitter for Baby Zizzle yet because, well, we have even less money to spend on babysitters.
posted by zizzle at 10:48 AM on October 3, 2012

Nanny at 12 weeks we found through sittercity, although a couple of close friends for an evening here or there before that.
posted by Oktober at 10:53 AM on October 3, 2012

at 6 months we started leaving her with the next door neighbor kid (who was 16) for date nights - generally 3-4 hours, most of which she was asleep for. Sometime before that she started "daycare" with a woman who we basically considered family.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:58 AM on October 3, 2012

(Talking about me n my sister).
We have a big family.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:58 AM on October 3, 2012

First kiddo started daycare at 9 weeks old.

Five months old for the first family baby sitter, about a year was the first non family baby sitter (maybe ten months?).

Sitter = more than 2 hours.

Next family baby sitter was probably at a couple years of age, and non babysitter as well. Pretty much did not do sitters at all until at least one kid was of talking age.
posted by tilde at 11:04 AM on October 3, 2012

I think you'll find that many two-job couples don't have a whole lot of choice in this matter. So the answer for millions of people is going to be (maximum maternity leave period in days) + 1 day old.
posted by ubiquity at 11:12 AM on October 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

Couple of months. If you're worried about the transition and have the flexibility to do so then you can ease into it by being there while the babysitter is there at first, then ducking out for a little while, then ducking out for longer, etc. Or you know, nap, since the little one probably isn't sleeping through the night yet.

I think all new parents, regardless of future daycare plans vs. staying home plans or whatever, need a minimum of 5 hours a week of babysitting time. It's a (relatively) small investment and a (relatively) easy adjustment if you put in place early -- and if it's normal for the kid through those first few years, then when the inevitable preschool / daycare / kindergarten etc. moment comes, it's going to be less stressful for all concerned.

Finding a good babysitter can of course be tricky, but we were always very lucky on that front.
posted by feckless at 11:20 AM on October 3, 2012

For a lot of people a babysitter is quite different from a nanny (interview, background check, trial period) or a daycare (interview, tour, non-private care with other adults around to help/make sure rules are followed).

At 3.5 my kid hasn't yet had a babysitter. Based on the experiences of my childhood, I'll wait till he's old enough to use a phone to call me for assistance.
posted by xo at 11:21 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think some mefites were babysitting my kiddo when she was around a year old or so? Of course, she was in daycare from 12 weeks, but that's not what I think you are asking.
posted by gaspode at 11:36 AM on October 3, 2012

We waited until the first was able to describe things and express whether he liked/didn't like/was scared of someone, so about two years old, for about 2-3 hours (dinner or a concert or something). After that, the younger ones have been probably 6 months old when we've started using non-family babysitters, figuring their big brother could report anything notable. We're blessed with an aunt nearby and regularly visiting grandparents, though.
posted by palliser at 11:38 AM on October 3, 2012

Number 1: 8 months old; one morning a week (9-1)
Number 2: 7 months old; five days a week, morning daycare (9am-12pm)
posted by cocoagirl at 11:49 AM on October 3, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all. Yes, I'm talking about babysitting and not nannies and not daycare. So the request is both less anxiety-producing (in the sense that it's only for a few hours every so often) and more anxiety-producing (in the sense that it would be informal, irregular, and somewhat ad hoc).
posted by gerryblog at 12:00 PM on October 3, 2012

We left our son with a sitter when he was about one month old for a few hours. I felt ok with it since (a) we had no family to help, (b) we needed to maintain a life outside Little Murrey, and (c) our sitter had more experience with caring for kids than I had at that point.
posted by murrey at 12:21 PM on October 3, 2012

We've left tiny-wee babies with non-relative baby sitters for a few hours in the evening. How old? idk, maybe a couple months?

These baby sitters were teachers at day care or older-brother's pre-school, though, so while not non-relatives, they were still people we knew.
posted by colin_l at 12:23 PM on October 3, 2012

When I was a stay-at-home parent, I didn't leave our son with a non-familial sitter until he was about nine months old, but that really was because we couldn't afford to go out on the town and pay for someone until then.

When our daughter was nine weeks old, we left her (and the three-year-old) with the 16-year-old neighbor girl for the first time. They all survived.
posted by cooker girl at 12:41 PM on October 3, 2012

As a teen babysitter I sat for squidgy babies up to pre-teens. Usually for the length of a nice dinner, home by midnightish.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:09 PM on October 3, 2012

To clarify my comment and now that I understand your question more:

We had family baby sit kid @ 5 months for an overnight. Based on later interaction (and a wee bit of first time momness on my part) this did not happen again until the child could speak / understand direction, a few years old. Subsequent children the same way; not a lot of "more than two hours" with family before six or so months of age, then not at all until the kid was more walking/talking age.

Part of it was that most family lives pretty far from us; opptys for leaving the kids longer than a couple of hours was far and few between. The rest of it beyond specific interaction issues was that everyone had babies our age so it's not like we were going to dump more on each other for a few hours respite - just bundle all the kids in a pile of toys and pillows on the floor and play board games at the kitchen table.
posted by tilde at 1:27 PM on October 3, 2012

We were lucky enough to have a part-time nanny who wanted more hours, so we didn't really hit this until recently. We have a four and a half year old and an almost-two year old, and we recently left them with the classic teenage girl from the neighborhood. It went great. The boys love her and we are having her back this weekend. We probably would have done this much earlier but for the nanny situation.
posted by ambrosia at 1:48 PM on October 3, 2012

3 weeks, I think it was? I hired a 20-something woman to come twice a week to babysit while I got some exercise. In theory she came for three hours, but she was only alone with baby for an hour - the rest of the time I was finishing nursing, showering, hovering nervously, etc! She was highly recommended on our local moms' listserv.
posted by yarly at 2:45 PM on October 3, 2012

Probably six weeks for a couple hours with some friends who are also our neighbors.

Being good friends, they're practically family so I don't know that that counts ...

... then around three months we had a college-student baby sitter who would watch my daughter for a couple hours a day.

It's been a good experience all around. YBMV, of course.
posted by Tevin at 2:46 PM on October 3, 2012

I left my daughter with various close friends a for a few hours, a few times a week from the very first weeks. I think she was almost 3 when I'd finally worn out everyone's good graces and had to hire a sitter. I talked to one of the moms in the housing co-op we lived in and asked if any of her kids babysat. Her 19 year old son was my regular babysitter for about a year and a half.

The first time I ever hired a stranger, my daughter was almost 6. I posted on the local university job sites and found a 20 year old that way. She provided references. That's the only time I've ever hired someone I had no social connections, at all.

My advice is to find a neighbourhood teenager, if at all possible. My thinking on it is that when you hire a kid who lives nearby, you kind of also get their parents as a free emergency back-up. (Speaking from experience as a former babysitter who once called my mom in tears because the infant I was babysitting would. not. stop. crying.)
posted by looli at 2:57 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just had our first babysat evening at 4.5 months.
posted by kestrel251 at 4:16 PM on October 3, 2012

I'm just tossing it out because I'm an outlier here, it seems, but my daughter wasn't left alone even with family until she was over two--that's years, not months.

I was lucky in that I was going to school (online) and working from home, so I was able to stay with her in a way that most people aren't, but I wanted to mention it just in case you were reluctant to leave and were feeling weird about it. I didn't like to leave, she didn't like it when I left, and so we just stayed together all the time. She's almost ten, now, and it doesn't seem to have harmed her at all--she's perfectly happy to stay home alone while I run to the store on the corner, she self-entertains, she's comfortably social with people... So, you know, normal kid, despite clingy babyhood.
posted by MeghanC at 5:38 PM on October 3, 2012

So far my three and a bit year old has had the following carer experiences:

my brother
my parents
my partner's brother (and his partner occasionally)
my partner's sisters
close friends (one couple and one dudefriend on his own with three kids while hungover) (I feel slightly guilty about that but I had an appointment)

And that's about it - most of that has been since she was two. Almost everything under two was slightly under duress - either I was in hospital or we were emotionally blackmailed into it my the aunts. I put my foot down after the last time because I was sick of them pushing my partner to 'do something nice for geek.a' where the nice was what they wanted, not what I wanted (particularly the 'birthday present' - I want to share my birthdays with the people I love most and that includes my child).

We haven't hired professional care and probably won't - we will soon be in the same neighbourhood as my partner's brother and we've sorted out that I will be looking after his kids occasionally so it'll be the same switched around. Some close friends have also volunteered for swapping care now and again but they're a bit further away so it'll be less 'date night' and more 'weekend away and swap date nights'.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:05 PM on October 3, 2012

I waited on the teenaged sitters until my kids were over 6 months, both times, because both of my kids were huge eaters and FRANTIC when hungry. Like, they panicked every time. Having been a teenaged sitter myself, who was very experienced with babies and did a big business, I felt like that would be a bit hard on a teenager. It was a bit hard on me as the mom!

I started with adult sitters at about 6 weeks or so, usually friends of mine with kids with whom I trade sitting.

(Probably in the neighborhood of 6 hours has been the outer limit, for a friend's wedding; 2 is more common. We mostly get sitters when my husband and I have overlapping evening meetings and can't quite make the scheduling work, or when we're going just out to dinner OR a movie. Life's never so exciting that we manage an AND in there. We'd definitely leave them more often/longer if we had more places to go; they looooooove the sitters.)

I think the best thing you can do for "occasional" sitters is find them through your network, if possible. Two of my teenaged sitters have moms who are my friends, so I know they're going to be diligent because a) I know they're good kids and b) I know their moms will rain down on them like the wrath of God if they're not. (And, yeah, like looli says, usually their moms are on emergency call, especially if they're new at it.) A third sitter I use is a local college student (daytime hours! yay!); I asked an acquaintancy-friend of mine who's an adviser in one of the departments there to let her students know I was looking and to recommend someone who might be interested. My resulting sitter (who is lovely!) came with a high personal recommendation from her adviser and there's that thread of responsibility in that I'm interconnected with other parts of her life. I also have generally had the sitter over to meet my kids first, to make sure they're comfortable with the kids and to get a sense of them in person. (And I mean, of course it's totally awkward to be interacting with small children while their parents observe and ask you questions, but allowances are made! I remember doing it myself.) We got a very good sense of how confident the various sitters were with kids at that age, and how comfortable our kids were with the sitter.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:24 PM on October 3, 2012

My kids were each around 10 months to a year old before I left them with adult babysitters for 1-3 hours. They were very occasionally babysat by their grandma a while before that - probably at around 5 months the first time. I would have opted for more babysitting if my parents had been willing or if I'd had friends or family who were into babysitting.

Most of my friends were in similar situations, except that they might have had close friends or grandparents babysit before that. However, I'm in Canada, where mat leave is a year and most of the people I knew exclusively breastfed on demand when their babes were small. I knew a few people who had a sitter for an hour or so twice a week once their babies were a few months old, too. I suspect you'll get different answers from people in the US, since there's no real mat leave there.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:20 PM on October 3, 2012

Oops. I also meant to say that I might have had a babysitter before then if I'd known people in my network. I tend to stick with babysitters my friends have used and I didn't quite have enough leads the first time around.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:22 PM on October 3, 2012

Early into the second month (maybe sooner) for short periods of time. 40-90mins. The sitter was our adult neighbor.

First longer term, 4-8 hours was probably at 3 months.

First overnight without the baby was 6 months (that was with relatives, but that was due to convenience not trust).

In my limited experience it was much easier early on than it is now with a toddler. While my wife and I had a lot of big feelings it's actually easier for a sitter to watch an immobile infant than a hell bent insanely fast toddler who knows about things like "mom not being home". ymmv.
posted by French Fry at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2012

Double checked with the wife it was actually the 1st week, not the second month.
posted by French Fry at 8:01 AM on October 8, 2012

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