Choosing a Safe Caregiver

Always go over safety information with each person who is caring for your baby. Even close friends and family who love your baby need to know how to care for the baby properly. Before you leave your baby alone with someone else, consider these important points.

Be confident that whomever is watching your baby is the safest person other than you. Don’t assume that everyone close to you is as committed to your child’s safety as you are. Recent statistics of child abuse are frightening, therefore choosing a safe caregiver is one of the most important things you can do for your baby. In today’s world you can never be too careful when it comes to your child’s safety. There are too many cases of children hurt by caregivers and live-in partners. In 2007, there were an estimated 794,000 children determined to be victims of child abuse and neglect. Shockingly an estimated 1,760 children die every year due to child abuse and neglect and more than three-quarters of those who die were younger than 4 years old. The job of choosing a safe caregiver is not one to be taken lightly because you trust this person with the life of your child.

It is not safe to leave your baby alone with an adult who has been drinking or using drugs. Allowing someone to care for your child while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can place your child in unnecessary danger. A caregiver that has impaired judgment is not qualified to care for your child because he or she must always be alert and in the right state of mind to best be able to meet your baby’s needs.

It is not safe to leave your baby alone with an adult who has a short temper or lacks self-control. Someone with short temper should never be allowed to be a caregiver to your child. The caregiver that you choose should be able to handle pressure and stressful situations, such as crying and temper tantrums, with patience and control. Many cases of child abuse are a result of baby crying and a caregiver with a short temper who is inept to deal with the frustration.

It is recommended that caregivers have first aid training and know infant/child CPR. Your child will be with the caregiver for a large portion of the day, and he or she should be ready to handle any emergency that may come up until emergency professionals arrive. It is a good idea to make this a required skill that your baby’s caregiver possesses.

Be sure that a caregiver is aware of safe sleep practices. Safe sleep should be practiced every time your baby goes to sleep, even during naps. Make sure to educate the caregiver on how important it is to put your baby to sleep safely. Baby should always be placed in a crib on his or her back with no blankets, crib bumpers, toys, or pillows. See “Sleeping Safely” under Promoting Safe Sleep for a picture of a safe sleep environment, and for more information on why baby should sleep on his or her back.

Demonstrate simple soothing techniques that work best for your baby. No one knows your baby better than you, so be sure to share with the caregiver how your baby likes to be soothed. Communication between you and your baby’s caregiver is key to a positive relationship and you will want to share anything that may help the caregiver better care for your baby.

Be sure that a caregiver is aware of Shaken Baby Syndrome and the severe injuries that result when a baby is shaken. Shaking a baby will never calm a crying baby, it will only cause more harm or even death to a baby. Most of the time a baby’s cry can simply be solved with a diaper change, bottle, pacifier or just cuddling. Discuss strategies with your baby’s caregiver on handling crying when they are overwhelmed. Suggest calling a neighbor or placing the baby safely in the crib and walking away for a moment.

If you are taking your infant to a caregiver’s home, be sure that it is safe and a clean environment. Make sure that your baby will have a safe place to sleep, play and eat. The baby’s crib or playpen should be free from bumpers, soft toys, blankets or pillows. An adult bed, couch or car seats are not acceptable places for an infant to sleep. The baby’s play area should be clutter free and have toys appropriate for your child’s age. Be sure that the area where your baby will eat is clean and safe.

Leave your baby with a caregiver who is only watching your baby or a limited number of children so that he or she can give each child an adequate amount of attention. Each state regulates the childcare ratio and it is best to follow their recommendations even if your baby is at home with a caregiver. In the state of Florida the maximum number of infants/toddlers to one caregiver is four. Be aware of the other children that will also be in the home with your child to ensure that they are being taken care of properly as well.

Look for a caregiver who is a good communicator. Be sure that you receive reports on your baby’s day. Ask what your baby did and observe your baby’s behavior to be certain that your baby is being cared for properly. Your baby’s caregiver should be able to tell you everything that your baby did and communicate any concerns that he or she may have. Taking care of your baby is a team effort and everyone who looks after your baby should have the same priority in your baby’s well-being. Ask your caregiver what your baby ate, how long he or she slept, and if he or she had any bumps or falls.

Let a caregiver know where you are going. Be sure to leave your contact information and inform your caregiver that you can be reached at any point with questions or concerns regarding your baby. You may want to leave alternate names and numbers in the case that you are not immediately available. Remind a caregiver that it is OK to call for help if needed. Print out the form under the tab to the left called “Tell Your Caregiver” for a quick guide sheet to inform your caregiver about your whereabouts and important info about your baby.

Take your time to show a caregiver around your home and leave special instructions. Share as many details as you can to let the caregiver know about your baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule as well as your baby’s likes and dislikes. Your caregiver should know where to find baby’s milk, favorite toys, clothes and a first aid kit in the event of an emergency.

You are your baby’s most important protector, so be sure to trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, then it probably is. It is better to investigate an instinct or problem rather than ignore signs and have something happen to your child.

Copyright © 2010 Safe Baby
Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County, Inc.