Your Baby's Sitter

Whenever possible, let your child get to know the babysitter while you're there. Ideally, have the sitter spend time with him on several successive days before you leave them alone. If this isn't possible, allow yourself an extra hour or two for this get-acquainted period before you have to go out. During this first meeting, the sitter and your baby should get to know each other very gradually, using the following steps.

  1. Hold the baby on your lap while you and the sitter talk. Watch for clues that your child is at ease before you have the sitter make eye contact with him. Wait until the baby is looking at her or playing contentedly by himself.
  2. Have the sitter talk to the baby while he stays on your lap. She should not reach toward the child or try to touch him yet.
  3. Once the baby seems comfortable with the conversation, put him on the floor with a favorite toy, across from the sitter. Invite the sitter to slowly come closer and play with the toy. As the baby warms up to her, you can gradually move back.
  4. See what happens when you leave the room. If your baby doesn't notice you're missing, the introduction has gone well.

This leisurely introduction can be used with anyone who hasn't seen the child within the past few days, including relatives and friends. Adults often overwhelm babies by coming close and making funny noises or trying to take them from their mothers. Intervene when this occurs by explaining that your baby needs time to warm up to strangers and that he's more likely to respond well if they go slowly.

Excerpted from Caring for Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, Bantam 1999

© Copyright 2000 American Academy of Pediatrics