No one wants to think there will be an emergency when a babysitter is home with a child, and most likely it won’t happen. But it’s best to be prepared. Here’s a brief list of steps both parents and sitters can take to be ready.
1. Write down your home address. It sounds basic, but many parents forget. Before you leave for the night, make sure your sitter knows where you’ve written it down. She’ll need it if she needs to call 911. Also necessary: Your cell number and where you’ll be for the next few hours.
2. Be clear about food and/or medication instructions. You know your child best, so don’t tell the sitter to prepare a food (such as hot dogs) if there is a major risk of choking. Also be certain to make the sitter aware of any food allergies. And if your child really needs medication, be super clear about how much, when, and how to put it away. Better yet, give your child the meds before you leave or when you return. This way, there’s no room for error.
3. Make certain your sitter knows the basics. Tell her you’d rather her call 911 than wait around for half an hour if you’re not answering your cell phone. Also, printing out basic CPR instructions is never a bad idea. Tape them to the inside of an upper cabinet or keep them in a top desk drawer. Or, find a sitter that already has child and infant CPR certification, first aid training, or has taken a babysitting course. If you already have a favorite sitter, offer to pay for classes to get them trained.
1. Know your numbers. The parents’ cell numbers, 911, and Poison Control. Try the parents first, but you can call 911 for most emergencies, and if you’re fearful, better to err on the safe side. The 911 operators will ask you for the home address and guide you through the process. Also, if you think a child has ingested medicine or hazardous cleaning products, call Poison Control. In the United States, the toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222.
2. Prevent choking. Found objects are definitely a choking hazard, so find and put away anything small you see when you arrive, but everyday foods can also be a choking risk. Make sure to follow all the parents’ instructions regarding food, but also be aware of these foods that might pose a challenge. Always watch children while they are eating and if you see them choking or turning blue, try the Heimlich maneuver (if you know it) or call 911.
- hot dogs (be sure to cut length-wise AND width-wise)
- carrots (cut into small pieces)
- hard candy
3. Take a babysitting and/or CPR course. Parents love a super-qualified sitter. Many local community centers as well as the Red Cross offer babysitting classes that cover all of the above, including first aid and child/infant CPR. You’ll feel even more comfortable babysitting when you know you’re prepared.