Summon the babysitter!

It’s been a long week. You need a night out. Time to call the babysitter.

But finding a good babysitter takes a little time, planning and research. If you’re looking for someone to take care of your child for a few hours, don’t wait until the last minute. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Look for a sitter within your circle of friends, church or community.
  • Look for a sitter who is 13 years or older and mature enough to handle basic household emergencies.
  • Look for someone who already works with children.
  • Have the sitter spend time with you before babysitting to meet the children and learn their routines.
  • Always check references.

Safe Sitter, a national organization that trains teens to become safe babysitters, strongly recommends that your sitter should have some babysitting training. This should include what to do if a child begins to choke, basic first aid and CPR.

Parents must also make sure that their home provides first aid supplies and a safe environment.

To make sure your sitter is ready for any situation that arises and knows how to get help, give the sitter this checklist for use in an emergency:

  • Family name:
  • Phone number:
  • Address:
  • Children’s names and ages:
  • Children’s allergies, medical history, and daily medicines:
  • Phone number where parent or guardian will be:
  • Address where parent or guardian can be reached:
  • Cell phone numbers:
  • Neighbor’s name and phone number:
  • Local relative’s phone number:
  • Local emergency phone number:
  • Healthcare provider’s name:
  • Healthcare provider’s phone number:
  • Insurance name and number:
  • Poison control center:
  • Police:
  • Ambulance:
  • Fire department:
  • What time you will be home:

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that if your child is close to age 12, the sitter should be several years older. This will help your child to see the sitter as an authority, rather than a peer. Not only should you check references, you should speak with the sitter’s parents before hiring so you can get a sense of how the teenager handles responsibility.

Finally, make certain the sitter is clear on your “house rules” regarding what can be watched on TV, visitors, telephone use, smoking or drinking and taking your child outside. Taking the time to find the right sitter will allow you to enjoy your night out without worrying about your child.

And if your child is age 1 or younger, make sure your babysitter knows about safe sleep positions:

Place the infant on his or her back for all sleep or naps until the child is 1-year-old. Never place the baby on his or her side or stomach for sleep or naps. If the baby is awake, allowing the child time on his or her tummy is OK as long as there is supervision. Avoid using loose bedding or soft objects — bumper pads, pillows, comforters, blankets — in an infant’s crib or bassinet to help prevent suffocation, strangulation, entrapment or SIDS.

Read more on this topic and others at University Health System’s Health Library.