Finding an AP-Friendly Caregiver

by Dionna on March 18, 2010

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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.

1. Feed with Love and Respect

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?)

2. Respond with Sensitivity

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?)

3. Use Nurturing Touch

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?

childcare4. Ensure Safe Sleep

  • 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?

5. Provide Consistent and Loving Care

  • 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?

6. Practice Positive Discipline

  • 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

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Dionna (20 Posts)

Dionna writes at Code Name: Mama, where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with a toddler/preschooler.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan March 18, 2010 at 9:44 am

Great article. Thank you for writing this. Finding an AP friendly child care provider is challenging. I have seen lots of interview lists for child care providers, but this is the first AP friendly one I have seen! This has always been a concern for me, I have relied on having the sitter shadow me for a few days (after an interview and background check) and I watch and get to know her and her attitudes before leaving her alone with the kids. But I will keep these questions in mind next time I need to interview a sitter! Hopefully I won’t need to, I’m hoping to keep my current one for a long time! :-)

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Ashly March 18, 2010 at 10:29 am

Ah I got goosebumps reading about your friend’s experience. Poor baby and poor mama — I’m sure she was hard on herself for a while after that.

Great list though – this is something I struggled with a lot. We went from a center to a one-on-one in-home and back to a (smaller) center. It’s so hard to trust someone else to do what you know you do best.

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Sheryl March 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Great post! What a comprehensive resource to use when trying to find AP friendly child care. My 2 yr old ds is currently at a home daycare 3 days a wk that is very AP friendly, and we are planning on hiring a part time nanny in the fall – I will definitely refer to this!
Whenever we leave our son with anyone – whether it is with his daycare provider or with an occassional babysitter, I always ensure that they understand that under no circumstances is CIO permitted!

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Heather March 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Ugh, that made me so mad when she told us about that! Although, I believe the sitter said “I used Ferber” and then went on to argue that it was “fine” since she used it with her own kids. So not only did she disrespect the mom, she kept it up! And the poor mom was at the dentist, so she couldn’t exactly go save her baby, she was IN the dentist’s chair when she got the Ferber text. Like she needed more stress? Ugh!

CIO should be legally the neglect that it is. It freaking causes brain damage that only shows up on MRIs and in behavior in adult life. Few parents realize how badly they’ve damaged their child as a result :( And to do it to someone else’s child is unconscionable. A sitter/nanny is paid to care for a child, not neglect them, mistreat them or try to force them to sleep because they don’t want to actually CARE for the child they’re being paid to care for.

And this is why I won’t use one and I won’t budge on that issue. I know that some that even say they will do those things don’t always actually follow through :( I’ve heard some unpleasant stories of showing up early to find their child wandering aimlessly, crying for attention from the caregiver that assured the parent that they would care for their child in an AP manner.

But what else is a working mom supposed to do? It’s just not right.

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Dionna @ Code Name: Mama March 18, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Susan – I searched high and low for AP friendly question lists before I wrote this. I know I’m missing some good questions, please share suggestions based on your experience!

Ashly – you are so right. It is incredibly hard to trust anyone else with your baby.

Sheryl – Isn’t it sad that we have to make sure someone else isn’t going to ignore our child’s cries when they are being paid to care for him/her?!

Heather – I took some creative liberties to keep the story short & sweet. It is horrible that people don’t view CIO as anything less than “normal.” :(

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Maya March 18, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Great article! This is very timely for us, as our sitter is moving in a couple of months. She’s been WONDERFUL and I dread having to find someone new :-/

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Kellie March 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I would also want to know what types of cleaners are being used in the facility, and how they are stored. I am not comfortable with my children being around bleach, or other harmful chemicals – even when they are supposedly being used appropriately!

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Dionna @ Code Name: Mama March 19, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Maya – that would be hard, especially if/since your child has already gotten attached to one sitter!

Kellie – good point! That would definitely go under the “Health & Wellness” category.

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Sharon October 22, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Great article. I will use this as a guide when we interview caregivers. Sharon

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Callie December 2, 2011 at 9:24 am

Thanks for this post! I wish I would have seen it when generating our list of questions for care providers 4 months ago. We found the perfect home daycare where the provider practices AP with her own kids and was open to our AP/NP quirks (i.e. baby-led solids, cloth diapering, exclusive breastfeeding – including dropping by during the day, and elimination communication). I might suggest adding EC to your questions list, as that was something we thought we might have to compromise on but she was open to it and now the 2-year-olds are more interested in the potty after watching my 11-month-old use it!

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Runa October 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Funny, I’m on the other end of this! I’m a childcare provider/preschool teacher and I draw very heavily from AP philosophies. I haven’t been able to find work in an environment where I feel like my methods are accepted, and other child care givers tend to scoff at me and call me incompetent :(

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