Dear Carolyn: How do I get comfortable with the idea of leaving my baby with sitters — family members as well as qualified strangers? I’m OK when she’s with my husband; anyone else, and I’m a wreck. This isn’t great for my peace of mind, plus I’m sure it’s VERY annoying for the sitters, as I’m calling home practically every half-hour to make sure she’s still breathing.
Your attempts to ensure that your baby continues breathing introduce a small, needless and rather ironic risk to your child: Those frequent calls don’t improve anyone’s breathing but do take a sitter’s attention away from your baby.
If you must check in, do it once a day. Or, go all the way and admit the calls are for you, not the baby or the sitter, and don’t call unless it’s necessary.
Non-parents are often more careful with a child than a parent, because the stakes are higher when you mess up on someone else’s child.
The way you get comfortable with babysitters depends on whether your anxiety is clinical or just the product of an overactive imagination. The latter can be largely tamed by having your sitter — familial or hired — care for your baby when you’re home. Really hand over those reins, and see how responsibly, how uneventfully, your baby can be held, fed, changed, read to, rocked. Set up this exercise by saying you have a lot to do around the house and would love a hand with the baby for two or three hours. If that doesn’t calm you down, then consider getting screened for anxiety. Your OB-GYN or your baby’s pediatrician can help with a referral, if needed.