When I had my daughter two years ago, there was a turning point where I realized I simply wasn’t going to be able to do it all. That meant I would be ditching the Complete Guide to Essential Oils that had been sitting untouched on my nightstand, and instead call on my very knowledgeable friend. Or I might occasionally buy puréed fruit squeeze packs instead of insisting upon always making my own. As a working mother, it also meant I sometimes needed the help of a caregiver. But I worried: Do babysitters affect how you bond with your baby?
"Humans can love and be attached to more than one person," says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and the author of The Power of Different, in an email interview with Romper. "Loving a babysitter does not mean your child won't love you as much."
Dr. Mayra Mendez, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John's Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, agrees, adding that the key is optimizing time when you are with your baby.
"Strong attachments between parents and baby are supported by the following components: spending quality time with baby that includes reading, singing, cuddling, holding, and providing nurturing responses that meet the baby’s needs," she tells Romper in an email interview. "Bonding begins in utero and continues to grow and strengthen during the early childhood period."
When it comes to hiring a caregiver, Saltz says it is important to be clear with a babysitter what your parenting style is and ask them for assurance that they will be comfortable implementing it. "Two quite different styles will make it hard for you and your baby," she says. "Topics include discipline, threshold for concern and limits, reaction to upset, and flexibility, or lack thereof, regarding scheduling."
Mendez says these discussions are important for creating consistency. "Babysitters can support shared bonding experiences with the baby and the parents by creating consistency in the baby’s environment and care," she adds. "A babysitter can positively impact parent-child bonding by reinforcing the secure bond already established between parent and child."
And Saltz and Mendez agree that hiring a babysitter can not only be beneficial to parents who are juggling a work-life balance, but also for those moments when they are just seeking a little TLC. "Parents who take time to engage in self care will have positive energy for their baby," says Mendez. "When parents believe their baby is being well cared for and place trust in the babysitter, they can parent confidently and effectively."
And, hey, if she’s an essential oils guru, too, then I’m sold.