Finding an AP-Friendly Caregiver

December 21st, 2010 by Dionna | 53 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Consistent and Loving Care, Feed with Love and Respect, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Use Nurturing Touch

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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 is returning 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

Parents who practice attachment (aka natural or responsive) parenting may have a few special 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 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?

4. 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 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: clix


This post has been edited from the original version I wrote and published at API Speaks.

53 Responses to:
"Finding an AP-Friendly Caregiver"

  1. Olivia   OliviaStreaterL

    I would highly recommend reading Oliver James’ book, How not to F*** them up

    Essentially, he argues (and his argument has been MASSIVELY misinterpreted by a lot of men and women who seem to find him very threatening but that is another story) that what is best for the under-3s is to have a secure attachment to one caregiver and that that is what is most important, more than providing “stimulating learning” environments outside the home. However, and it is a very important but, this person does NOT necessarily have to be Mum. OK mum may be best but others are good to – dad, granny, other nanny.

    What IS important is to KNOW YOURSELF – who am I and what kind of a person am I, and therefore, what kind of mothering, or substitute mothering, will work best for me and my child? If, for whatever reason, you find it hard, or threatening, or depressing, or challenging to stay at home with a young baby or toddler, or if you need to work, fine, but he has very positive suggestions re finding alternative caregivers (as described above).

    Some people, for reasons that he analyses sensitively in the book, are not able to be with young babies. It does not help to demonise people and his approach is very pragmatic. He actually analyses the pros and cons of each type of parent as described in the book.

    I found it a profoundly validating and helpful book.

  2. Gina

    Isabel, you are welcome to feel that I am personally lacking qualities of understanding because I feel that newborns needs are best served when tended to by a parent.

    I don’t really feel that one could be a very good parent, or person, in general if the only answer we parroted all day long was “Whatever works for you! Rah rah rah!”. I have opinions on breast feeding, on baby wearing, on CIO, on Circumcision, on all sorts of things, else I would not do/not do them. Do you have feelings on those subjects? Is the SAH/WOH issue somehow so much holier and different than those issues that we can’t share our feelings on it without being labeled (judgmental! close minded! un-empathetic! uncaring!” by the “other” side? Must we pretend that all parenting choices are equally good in order to be a “good” attachment parent in your view? I disagree with that opinion.

    • Isabel North

      Gina, Did you not read my comment? I said you were entitled to your opinion, but it was the delivery of that opinion that offended so many on this board (note my feedback on WORD CHOICE). If you want to deliver your opinions in an offensive way, then I think you should be prepared to take the heat. And I never did say you were lacking qualities of understanding but rather encouraged you to CHANNEL your qualities that allow you to be an AP parent in the way you delivery your message. If anything, I think as AP parents we want to encourage more parents to be more AP in their child rearing ways and offer our opinions. But it doesn’t help when we decide to deliver our messages (i.e. word choice) in offensive and confrontational ways. Just please try and phrase things differently next time. You might get more people that are willing to hear you out. That is all I’m saying. Just

  3. Alicia @ Lactation Narration   LactNarration

    I work out of the home and I consider myself an AP parent. When my kids were babies, I nursed them at daycare on my lunch break daily, in addition to pumping at work. I have also continued to nurse both of them well past infancy despite being apart for work. I also co-sleep and let my kids reverse cycle. I think that doing these two things specifically, breastfeeding and co-sleeping, has really helped me be an attachment parent despite working full-time.

    My daycare provider is AP-friendly. She supports my breastfeeding, she feeds on-demand and encourages me to come by any time to nurse. She is understanding about sleep and will rock my little ones to sleep when they need it, or even lie down with them in her bed if necessary. She uses my cloth diapers as well. I trust that she respects my parental decisions and does her best to follow what I want for my kids, even in situations where it’s not what she would choose for her own family (such as extended rear-facing in the car for example). She loves my kids like family, and they love her too.

    I think that one thing that I looked for when searching for child-care providers, was continuity of care. I interviewed some centers where the kids switch rooms every few months it seems. Young infants, older infants, walkers, toddlers, twaddlers, early two’s, late two’s, potty-trained two’s, etc, etc. It was way too much moving around for my comfort. I felt that the kids wouldn’t even have time to get attached to their care-giver and their peers before being moved to another group. When we have used centers, we have opted for those with a continuity of care model. In this model, the child stays with the same teachers and peer group, and when the whole group is ready to transition to the next room, they do so together and with their teachers, for at least the first 3 years. I think this is a really good model for promoting attachment to care-givers (as well as peers), particularly in the early years.

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