The Sitter Who Cried “Ferber”
An acquaintance of mine recently shared a horror story about leaving her five month old baby with a sitter for a few hours. The sitter was auditioning for a role as a permanent nanny, because the mother will return to work soon.
An hour into her outing, the mother started getting text messages from the sitter. The sitter expressed concern that the baby was crying inconsolably.
The mother responded with suggestions on how to help him calm down: walking with him in the sling, rubbing his back, bouncing him gently, giving him a bottle of breastmilk, singing to him.
Her mild feelings of discomfort soon led to the first twinges of panic when she received this text:
“He won’t stop screaming!”
When the sitter texted later that the baby was asleep, the mother felt some relief. Until she went to pick her son up and the sitter admitted “I had to let him cry it out – nothing else worked.”
When I heard this story, I was appalled that a caregiver would ever find it appropriate to leave a small baby alone in a room to scream and cry himself to sleep. Even if the sitter had chosen to “cry it out” with her own children, one would think that there is enough controversy about the practice that a childcare provider would make sure it was ok with the parent first.
Finding an AP-Friendly Caregiver
There are many resources available online to help parents make a list of questions to ask potential caregivers. Common questions include essential information such as whether the caregiver is trained and certified in first aid/CPR, how the caregiver ensures that the facility is a safe environment (Is the water temperature below 120 degrees? Are toys regularly checked for safety? etc.), the facility’s daily structure/routine, etc.
Parents who practice attachment (aka natural or responsive) parenting may have a few special questions and/or requests for their childcare providers. Following is a list of questions (based in part on AP principles) that you might want to discuss with potential childcare providers before you feel comfortable leaving your child in their care.
Pumping and continuing to nurture a healthy breastfeeding relationship may be one of a new mother’s biggest concerns when she returns to work. Here are a few questions that focus on feeding by caregivers:
- Am I welcome to come by and nurse my baby at any time (on breaks, before/after work, etc.)?
- When you give my baby pumped breastmilk, will you hold him?
- Do you ever have to prop bottles? (If the answer is yes, that is a red flag. Bottles should never be propped – it is a choking hazard.)
- Do you believe in feeding on a schedule, or will you give bottles as the baby wants them (“on demand”)?
- What kinds of foods and snacks do you prepare for children who eat solid foods? (Determine if the provider believes in serving whole, unprocessed foods, limited HFCS/sugar/artificial colors, etc.)
- Are children expected to finish all of their meals/snacks? (Are children forced to eat or does the caregiver trust the children’s own hunger signals?)
Your child will need to have a relationship based on trust and empathy with her caregiver, just as she will with her parents.
- How do you respond when an infant/toddler/child cries?
- How do you respond to children who are having a strong emotional reaction (a temper tantrum)?
- What do you do with babies when they are awake? (In other words, how long are infants kept in their cribs versus how long they are interacted with by caregivers and other children?)
There are opportunities to meet a child’s need for a compassionate and nurturing touch, even in situations where a caregiver is responsible for multiple children.
- Would you be willing to try wearing my infant in a carrier?
- How often are infants in your care in swings, jumpers, walkers, or similar devices?
- How do you get children in your care to sleep?
- Do you believe it is ever appropriate to let a child cry himself to sleep?
- Do you mold your schedule to the children in your care, or do you expect the children to fit themselves to your schedule?
- What positive steps do you take to foster a secure attachment to the children you care for?
- How do you help children learn appropriate behaviors? (Look for caregivers who model appropriate behavior, treat children like individuals, stay away from any harsh/punitive discipline technique, do not rely on time-out as a cure-all, etc.)
7. Health and Wellness
Many people who practice natural parenting will want to ask questions such as:
- Do you require children in your care to be vaccinated?
- Do you know how to properly care for an intact penis?
- Are you comfortable using cloth diapers?
- Do you require children to be out of diapers by a certain age?
- Do you let the children watch television? If so, what shows/channels and how much?
- How much time do you spend outside every day?
- Do you recycle? Do you encourage the children to help?
What other questions should AP/natural-minded parents ask potential caregivers? What were your “AP priorities” when choosing a childcare provider?
Photo credit: bonesdog