Babysitting for infants (children under 1 year old) is very demanding and a huge responsibility for a babysitter. Babysitters should complete a babysitting safety course such as Safe Sitter®, and babysitters need to have at least 2 years’ experience babysitting older infants and children before accepting a babysitting job for an infant less than 6 months old.
Once you have the necessary experience, you need to be prepared for the care you will provide when babysitting for an infant to help you decide if you should accept the job. There are eight things you must know about infants to help you decide if you are ready for the responsibility of babysitting an infant.
- Infants must be carried. Infants cannot walk and rely on you to carry them. You must be comfortable safely lifting an infant and carrying him or her around the house. Newborns do not have strong neck muscles and require you to support the head when holding or carrying the child.
- Infants cannot recognize danger. As an infant reaches 8 months old, he or she will be able to sit upright and may start to crawl. Infants require constant watching and as they develop teeth, they tend to put things in their mouths. Make sure the infant does not have access to anything in the house smaller than his or her fist to avoid a choking incident.
- Infants cannot talk. Infants will make cooing sounds like “ahh” and “ooh” and communicate by crying. When an infant begins to cry, check to be sure the infant is not hungry, wet, sleepy, or in pain. Always comfort an infant when he or she begins to cry. Cuddling, gently rocking, softly talking, slowly walking an infant, or offering a pacifier are great ways to provide comfort to a crying infant.
- Infants require patience on your part. Infants are too young to know or follow rules and are very curious. Infants drop things like toys, food, or their bottle and expect you to pick those things up over and over again. It is common for an infant to use cups and spoons as toys to bang, rattle, or chew during mealtime.
- Infants wear diapers and need frequent changes. You need to know how to safely change and dispose of a diaper when you babysit for an infant. Infants need their diaper changed before putting the child to bed for naps and nighttime and also when getting the child up. Check out How to Change a Diaper to review the 10 steps to change a diaper.
- Infants sleep on their back. Always place infants to sleep on his or her back when putting the infant to bed, even for short naps. Make sure the crib is empty and remove any pillows, blankets, or toys that may be in the bed.
- Infants take bottles and need to be fed baby food. Only give an infant food that is provided by their parent. Have them demonstrate how to prepare bottles and check the bottle temperature. If the infant is eating baby food, secure the child with safety straps in the highchair when feeding the child.
- Infants have short attention spans. Infants are frequently interested in a toy or activity for only a few minutes at a time. They like soft noises and being walked and talked to. Nursery games such as Peek-a-Boo and Patty-Cake will safely entertain infants. You can also play Hide-and-Seek with objects, roll a ball to an infant, or take a stroller ride if the weather is nice.
Employers with infants may want to schedule a one-hour training/observations session before they leave you alone to babysit their infant. Use this time to learn the infant’s personality and discover the comforting techniques that work best with the infant.