How to choose a caregiver for your child – and get peace of mind

Birth planning occupies most of our thinking when we are pregnant. Then our baby is born and breastfeeding hits us, and just as we get the hang of that it’s time for the baby care plan! This is often fraught with anxiety and guilt, and the decision of what to do when you go back to work can be a daunting one.

Early childhood development

As occupational therapists, we believe that the formative years of your child’s development are best met with individual care. In their first 1 000 days, your baby’s brain reaches 80% of its adult size and experts agree that it’s the quality of their earliest relationships that form the architecture of their developing brain.

Babies can safely attach to more than one caregiver and it really helps that a nanny can provide care in your own home, follow their routine and care for your baby’s health. Did you know your baby could be sick every two weeks when exposed to a group environment such as a crèche? And often what you save in a nanny’s salary you pay for in doctors’ visits.

Having helped hundreds of moms navigate this, we know that choosing someone to look after and care for your little one can be scary, so we’ve got some tips and ideas on how best to make this decision.

1. Search: How to find someone?

Friends are a good way to start! Ask for recommendations from people who you trust and know. It is ideal to read the CVs of prospective caregivers, speak to their references, interview and arrange paid trial days for at least two or three candidates. This gives you the opportunity to observe the nanny in your home and with your child. The best CV does not mean the best match for your family.

It is a good idea to start this process at least one month before returning to work. This means you can interview and trial candidates for one week and then begin to have the person in your home while you’re still on leave. You can then take longer stretches away from your baby.

2. Stimulation: What are they doing all day?

Once you have found someone that you’re comfortable with, communicate well with, and trust with the care of your little one, the next question you might ask yourself is “What are they doing all day?” Meeting your baby’s physical needs should be only one aspect of the job.

It is important that your nanny and little one bond emotionally and progress developmentally. Your little one’s emotional and developmental needs will progress as they grow, and it is ideal to find a nanny who is willing to provide them with the correct stimulation.

“Your nanny does not have to know it all with regards to development, but she should be willing and excited to learn!”

Founder of Nanny ‘n Me, Lara Schoenfeld shares her experience. “I’ll never forget the day I showed our nanny how to finger paint with my son, James. Despite being wonderful with him, she had never attempted to use the paints that I had mentioned many times. Well, within a few moments she was more engrossed than he was! I asked her: ‘Have you ever painted before?’ She said: ‘No, I have never had the chance.’ And it dawned on me that she had never played with the toys and materials we have in our home and here I was expecting her to play and paint and build puzzles!”

Your nanny does not have to know it all with regards to development, but she should be willing and excited to learn! Seeing a need for a fun learning environment for nannies, Schoenfeld started Nanny ‘n Me which offers weekly groups where nannies can attend with the child they care for and engage in hands-on play together.

Children reading and playing with their nanny3. Safety: What happens if something happens?

Knowing that your nanny is equipped to deal with emergencies will give you great peace of mind when leaving your little one with them. Some tips to help with this include:

  • Put all the important emergency numbers on the fridge and ensure they are saved on everyone’s phones. Try and ensure that they are area-specific instead of general emergency numbers. There are also great apps such as Namola (free to download) to assist in emergency situations.
  • Ensure that your nanny knows your address. In case of an emergency, she will need to give specific details of where you stay.
  • First aid training is a great way to give your nanny confidence and you peace of mind.

4. Switching over: Tips for handing over and communication

As mentioned before, start by leaving your baby for longer intervals with your nanny while you are still on leave. Doesn’t a coffee or walk alone sound great?

  • Clear communication regarding your expectations and needs is vital. You will also need to communicate with her about these expectations as your little one’s needs change with time. Bear in mind it is unrealistic to expect your nanny to clean the house spotlessly and keep meticulously written notes of all the ins and outs of the day.
  • Feedback of the day is vital but try and help your nanny to streamline the process with an easier system. Email us at Nanny ‘n Me for our Nanny Notes page. It is a much easier ticking off feedback system for reporting the essentials.
  • Contract: Email us for a free sample contract and the minimum employment standards laid out by the Department of Labour. It’s important to be clear about your values and your ‘must and must nots’ e.g. cell phone usage at work; by what time to let you know she is sick, etc. Don’t forget you must register her for UIF too.

Lastly, consider this: you have an opportunity to change South Africa for the better! Not only are you providing employment, but the training your nanny receives enables and empowers her to be a better employee and caregiver as she learns about safety, play and development.

Email Nanny ‘n Me at info@nannynme.co.za for a full interview spreadsheet with loads of good questions to ask a potential candidate.

lara-schoenfeld-nanny-n-me
Nanny ’n me was started in Cape Town in April 2012 by Lara Schoenfeld, an Occupational Therapist and mom of three boys. With a passion for creativity, a love for little people and nannies as well as experiencing the struggle of being a working mom, the idea was born. There was also the realisation that most nannies have never had the opportunity as children to paint or to build puzzles themselves and may feel reticent to have to initiate such activities with the child they care for.