The Things Your Nanny Needs to Be Doing (At a Bare Minimum)
Let’s not tiptoe around that tired cliche that good help is hard to find: a good nanny is a fucking unicorn. A sparkly, rainbow-maned, barely-exists-in-your-imagination kind of unicorn.
So, assuming you’re going to continue hunting for one of those (and probably never find her/him), in the meantime, you’re probably making do with someone you like-don’t-love. Which is, of course, perfectly fine.
Here are our top eight nanny skills that will, if nothing else, keep your baby alive and healthy while you’re at work.
What does a good nanny do?
This seems almost too obvious, but trust us, it’s not. We’ve known about the powerful effects of proper handwashing in reducing illness for about two centuries. So, thorough handwashing that uses undiluted soap is non-negotiable. Not once a day, not twice a day, but every time a nanny comes in from outside and after every trip to the bathroom. It doesn’t mean your child won’t ever catch cold, but it will reduce the chances of rhinovirus (or other, virulent strains) finding their way into your home and through your baby’s underdeveloped immune system.
It’s important to note that, while helpful in a pinch, using hand sanitizer is no replacement for proper handwashing when it comes to killing germs and preventing illness.
Knows the emergency action plan.
An emergency action plan is helpful for any family, but for families with in-house childcare, it becomes absolutely essential. In times of sudden, acute stress — say, in the face of an unconscious child — our decision-making skills take a hit, particularly our strategic thinking. Instead, we descend into irrationality (“Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit!”).
Having a plan for when a child is unconscious or bleeding copiously allows a nanny to take action without having to stop and question. Lay out the plan, along with scenarios it is relevant to, early after hiring, write it out in a language she can read, and keep it in an agreed-upon location.
Follows the nap and feeding schedule.
This is actually not because it makes your life easier (although it will). It’s because food and sleep are pretty much the only things responsible for babies’ growth and development and following a rough schedule ensures they get enough of both. Sleep is so important to building neural networks that by the age of 2, a child should have spent the majority of her life snoozing. The danger here is the pervasive belief that the child will fall asleep naturally whenever she’s tired; she won’t.
On the food side, it’s more than just the obvious. A routine helps establish good eating habits, which is important amid a growing body of evidence that links childhood obesity to feeding practices in infancy. The important thing is that your nanny is following what you do when you’re home with the child.
Learns basic first aid.
According to The Swaddle‘s resident first aid expert, Keshinee Shah, “Learning first aid is based on practice, not the ability to read or write.” We’d recommend a certified first aid course conducted in the language your nanny is most familiar with. But at the very least, make sure she buys into the basic principles: Press on a wound to stop bleeding; wash a cut with soap and water; don’t put any weird kitchen items on burns, and don’t shove your fingers down a choking baby’s throat.
Sterilizes anything that goes in the baby’s mouth.
Like handwashing above, sterilization is a tried-and-true method of keeping babies healthy while their immune systems continue to mature. The important thing to make clear is when and with what to deploy this germ-busting tool. Anything that will make an appearance in your baby’s mouth (from chew toys to bottle nipples) needs to be dunked in a sterilization bag or boiled once in a while.
Speaks to the baby with adult language.
We’ve written before about how using baby talk with babies actively works against their language development and can set the stage for a word gap, with lifelong implications. Even if the nanny speaks a language different from what you desire as your child’s native tongue, there are still huge benefits. (If your nanny isn’t sure what to talk to the baby about, share these language games with her.)
Plays with anything other than electronic/digital toys.
Babies learn best through play, and as one of the primary caretakers spending hours every day with your child, your nanny’s foremost role might well be described as playmate-in-chief.
Asks you questions.
We’re guessing if you’re reading this site, you care at least a little bit about your child’s growth and development. But you’ve also got your own intuition, along with a healthy dose of parental neuroses, and even Supernanny can’t read your mind when it comes to color-coordinating infant socks, okay? So make sure she knows that questions are encouraged. You’d rather be answering questions than rearranging the sock drawer every evening.