It’s hard work caring for infants. Are you prepared? You shouldn’t accept the responsibility of caring for an infant under 6 months old until you’ve had at least two years’ experience with older babies and children, but even infants 6 months and older need extra care and attention. What makes babysitting for infants so much different than caring for an older child?
Diaper changing: When it comes to diapering, make it safe and quick. Infants may wiggle around, and this makes changing diapers a challenge and possibly dangerous. Prevent a squirmy infant from falling by changing diapers on a pad or a towel placed on the floor. Be prepared by putting the supplies you need (clean diaper, wet wipes, safe toys) within easy reach so your attention isn’t taken off the infant. Keep the infant entertained (and easier to change) by singing a song, reciting a nursery rhyme, or playing “Where is your mouth, eyes, nose?” When you’re done, always remember to wash your hands.
Entertaining: Infants have short attention spans. They’re usually only interested in a toy or activity for a few minutes at a time. Be patient. Don’t expect more from an infant than he’s able to give. There are many simple nursery games that you can play with infants to keep them engaged and smiling, such as Peek-A-Boo and Patty Cake. Make a game where the infant drops an unbreakable object and you pick it up. Roll a ball to the infant. Walk around the house looking at and naming things. If the weather is nice, and you’ve been given permission by the parents, take the infant for a stroller ride.
Feeding: Infants under 6 months take bottles. Older infants may need to be fed baby food. Always check with the parents for the feeding schedule and what the infant should be fed. When feeding older infants, be careful to give small amounts of food and drink at a time. Infants and young children don’t have the ability to chew food well, so you must avoid feeding them anything that may cause them to choke. And, just as you should do when diapering, it’s important to wash your hands before preparing bottles, snacks, and meals.
Stress Level: Infants require constant watching! They depend completely on you for their care. They can’t recognize the danger and don’t understand rules so this requires patience on your part. Crying is the most common behaviour challenge, but there are lots of ways to help soothe an infant. You can speak softly while cuddling or gently rocking them, or you can give them a pacifier. Infants also like to be held while you slowly walk with them.
If you’re new to babysitting, it’s best to start by watching preschoolers (3-4 years old). You’ll get great experience caring for kids and this will help you work your way toward the challenge and responsibility of caring for infants.