Leaving your kids with a babysitter can be a challenge. Throw in the medical needs of food allergies and well, I’ve heard from a lot of food allergy moms that they just don’t ever leave their kids.
I get it.
This was a challenge I did not expect after my son’s food allergy diagnosis.
However, there is hope! It can be done, and we hope these tips help you to feel more confident and more prepared.
1. Set Up Your Home
If you keep your child’s food allergens in the home, or you are managing kiddos with different allergens, here are some things to think through:
- Are the allergens out of reach of the kids?
- Is there anything in the fridge/pantry that could be confused by the babysitter as a “safe food?”
- If kiddos have different allergies, how will the babysitter know which child can have what food?
2. No Food Brought In Rule
One request I do ask of anyone who is watching my kids is for them to not bring outside food into the house. We actually have this as a house rule of any guest and the reason is because my son is sensitive to cross-contact, which makes food labels challenging.
For more on food labels, check out our blog post, Food Labels and Food Allergies.
Because we have this rule, it’s important to provide food for the babysitter too or ask them to eat beforehand!
3. Talk About The Food
It’s definitely a good idea to get on the same page with the babysitter about what food can and cannot happen while you are gone.
We always have our kids eat before we leave and then we put out designated safe snacks for our kids to have while we are away. These are snacks they have had a million times and we leave enough for the babysitter to munch on as well.
If you will be away during a meal time, it can be helpful to coordinate with the babysitter ahead of time.
Is there food you are comfortable with them ordering for your kids and/or for themselves? Or do you want to provide all the food yourself?
4. Wash Hands On Arrival
A simple way to help keep everyone safe!
I ask any guest to simply wash up when they enter our home. People forget they were just eating a Butterfingers or that certain foods contain common allergen ingredients.
It’s hard for me to remember a time when I didn’t think twice about food, but that is the reality for people who do not have food allergies.
I do not expect people who do not live with food allergies to be as in tune with this issue as my family has to be.
But because people aren’t thinking about it, having them wash their hands with soap and water on arrival is a simple way to remove any potential allergens so everyone is safe and ready to play!
5. Review Emergency Care Plan
I definitely recommend reviewing the steps to take in an emergency with the babysitter before you leave.
We use the Emergency Care Plan from FARE and I print and leave a copy for the babysitter. It has a chart with signs and symptoms to look for and when to administer epinephrine.
FARE is the trusted source of information about food allergies and here is the link to their Emergency Care Plan.
I also recommend having the babysitter practice with the trainer that came with your epinephrine to show the babysitter how your injector works.
6. Have All Emergency Supplies Set Out
We leave everything for an emergency out in a designated spot (still out of reach of the kids).
For us, this includes:
- A copy of the Emergency Care Plan.
- Epinephrine for both of our kids. Our kids do have different dosage sizes so we store them in different colored cases so that it is easy to tell them apart. We love the cases from Allermates.
- Antihistamine with appropriate dose amounts clearly labeled.
7. Calling 9-1-1
Two important things your babysitter needs to know when calling 9-1-1 for anaphylaxis should he or she need to are:
- Where to send the ambulance
- Request the ambulance is equipped with epinephrine
In your emergency plan, be sure to have your home address (or the address of where your kids are being babysat) clearly written. Should emergency services be needed, your baby sitter will need to communicate clearly where they are to send help.
It would be so easy to assume the babysitter knows the address. Don’t assume this. Have it clearly written on the emergency care plan so that it is easy to follow in an emergency.
Remind your babysitter that he or she also needs to request an ambulance with epinephrine. As we discussed above, not all ambulances are equipped with it.
8. Charged Phones
This can be another easy one to overlook.
In a world where home landline’s are increasingly rare, it’s important that both your phone and the babysitter’s phone are charged.
One way to help is to ask the babysitter to bring a charger for their phone. If you have the same type of phone, you could also leave a charger out for them to use.
Obviously, you want both of your phone’s charged so that you can contact each other, but your babysitter needs to have a charged phone should emergency services need to be called.
9. Remember to Have a Good Time
As much as you prepare, it can still be really hard to leave your kids. I want to encourage you, especially those of you who never leave, that when you do find a trusted person, and you do decide to go out, to remember to have a good time.
As moms, we are always on. As food allergy moms, we never shut off. It can be really difficult to unplug even when we are away.
The time away is meant to refresh and recharge you, but it is all too easy to spend that time away sitting in worry. Here are some ideas to help.
Figure out ahead of time what would help you to be confident that things are going well.
For example, do you want the babysitter to only contact you in an emergency? That way if you don’t hear anything, you can trust that it’s going okay and stay focused on what you’re doing?
Does it work better for you to have the babysitter check in with you periodically to let you know how it’s going? That way you don’t spiral in your mind of what could possibly be happening?
Whatever will help you to be confident that your kids are safe is the right answer for you.
It Does Get Easier
I was so nervous the first time I ever left my son and I know how challenging this is. It is important for you to have time to recharge, and it is possible! But I also want to say that okay if you’re not ready yet. Give yourself some grace and some time.
We definitely cocooned around our son for the first few months after he was diagnosed with food allergies. That way we felt like we had some time to start to figure things out.
It can also be a challenge to find people that you truly trust to care for your child’s needs. I know some of you are managing family members who do not take food allergies seriously. Others of you may feel like you have no support in your circle for various reasons.
Is there someone, just one person, in your circle, who would be willing to learn about your child’s needs, that you could trust to follow your rules and boundaries?
Who would that person be for you?
For those of you who truly feel like there is no one, Care.com could be another option to find a caregiver in your area.
We won’t lie, there is a yearly fee for using their platform, but we have read some rave reviews of their services.
Care.com does background checks on the sitters and provides opportunities for them to have first aide training. You can vet the sitters based on their experience, price, and your needs.
I actually found an amazing family by posting on a local facebook moms group. I explained our situation and that I was looking for a reliable, older high school or college student and I asked if anyone had any ideas for how. I could get connected to someone. A mom responded and guess what, she has 3 daughters that age and the oldest has severe food allergies like my son. This means all 3 babysitters have first hand experience with managing life with food allergioes.
We got the families together and had the girls start babysitting. Honestly, it’s been life changing. For those of you who feel on an island, I’ve truly been there and I want to encourage you to keep looking and keep asking.
When you do find someone, I hope these tips help you to feel even more prepared to leave your child in someone else’s care.
As always, Katie and I are here for you, cheering you on.