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Third-Shift Childcare

The Numbers

There are more than 73 million children in the country under the age of 18, and of these, 57 percent of all the infants have working parents. Plus, there are 9.9 million single mothers in the nation. Just thinking about all the parents out there that may work the overnight shift in hospitals, factories, convenience stores, and other settings makes it easy to see how quality overnight care is essential to the health of the child, not to mention peace of mind for the working parent.

The US Census Bureau reports that 52 million US children live in homes with two parents, possibly leaving one parent able to watch the child overnight while the other one works. But what are the other 21 million parents supposed to do when many of them work the overnight shift and don’t have another parent to rely upon to watch the child? These parents still need to find quality childcare. Help is out there, but parents will need to be a bit more proactive in seeking it out, because it won’t come as easy as it does for those seeking daycare.

A Few Extra Z’s

Not only do some parents work the third shift and need someone to watch over their children as they sleep, but some others may find it a fine way to get caught up on some much-deserved sleep themselves. Christina Norris, a mom from Daytona Beach, Florida, recently started offering overnight babysitting services to parents, because she thinks it could benefit even those looking to catch up on some sleep.

“Having a 9-month-old baby at home, I have a lot of empathy for other mothers struggling to get a good night’s rest,” Norris says. “I often think if only I could get one night a week of uninterrupted sleep, I would feel 900 times better. Yet, my baby hasn’t yet spent a night away from me.”

Norris likes the idea of overnight care and says that if she could afford it, she’d like to have it one night per week to catch up on sleep and get a break. “For single mothers especially, it can be draining and somewhat depressing to never have any help,” Norris says. “This is where overnight babysitters can be saviors.”

What to Consider

“It’s usually easier to do overnights with older children because they understand better,” says Jennifer McKoy, a Modesto, California-based nanny who offers overnight childcare services. “With younger children, such as toddlers and babies, they tend to get nervous when being put to bed by someone other than their parents.”

How a child will react to overnight care and having someone beyond a parent put them to bed is just one thing to consider. But it can be a big issue with some younger children. Dr. Dave Olson, a pediatrician in Traverse City, Michigan, agrees. “The logistics of overnight childcare are difficult, due to the fact that most childcare facilities are closed at the time,” he says. “I would wonder if a friend or relative would be a better option.”

Dr. Olson explains that the sleep issue basically boils down, in most cases, to the concept he refers to as the “last waking memory.” This, as he says, means that kids remember the setting they fell asleep in and need this setting to fall back asleep when they wake up for the myriad of reasons they do. “So if they fall asleep in a mother’s arms, when they wake up they will need a mother’s arms to fall back to sleep,” he says. To help alleviate this problem, he suggests putting the kids to bed drowsy, but not awake. “This habit will be very important in a nighttime childcare setting.”

5 Other Issues to Consider

Other issues to consider when looking for quality overnight care include the following:

  1. Options: Of course, finding a trusted friend or relative with whom the child is familiar is likely the best route to take. Exhaust these sources first before looking for outside resources.
  2. Location: Having the child go to sleep in his own bed is not only comforting, but also helps him maintain a good routine. If there is a way to have him sleep in his own bed at his house it is helpful. Some family members or sitters will agree to provide the service at the child’s residence.
  3. Licensed: For any parents that need to look beyond family and friends, there are many nannies, babysitters, and even some childcare centers that offer overnight services. Be sure to investigate their credentials to ensure they are licensed and meet other state requirements. Try to get referrals from trusted sources, before turning to phone books and online ads.
  4. Routine: Regardless of where a child falls asleep and who she is with, it will bring her a lot of comfort if there is a routine that is followed each night. This routine can include such things as brushing teeth, reading a book, etc. Speak with the childcare provider to ensure this helpful measure will be put in place and followed. Depending on where the parent is working and the age of the child, having her call the parent to say goodnight may also be a good option to add to the routine.
  5. SIDS: Around one in five deaths that occur from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) happen while with a childcare provider. Because of this, it’s imperative that parents of infants seeking overnight care ensure that the provider has received proper training in SIDS prevention. Courses in this are often offered at local American Red Cross locations, as well as through school- and city-run babysitter training courses.

The Next Day

For those parents working the overnight shift, they may end up getting off work about the time their child is waking up. After working all night, they may not be ready to face a long day of taking care of a baby or toddler. This is another concern for parents on this shift, who may be too exhausted to feel like they are fully alert to watch their children. If this is the case, it may be advantageous to arrange for a couple of hours of sleep prior to taking over the care of the child.

For most providers, overnight service also comes at a premium that parents will need to weigh against what they are earning to see if it is worth doing. For McKoy, that premium rate has not stopped parents who need a good nanny they can trust to care for the kids overnight.

“When parents find out I’m willing to do overnights, they usually first ask what I charge, which is $100 from the hours of 5 PM to 9 AM and then $12 an hour after that,” she says. “There have also been many parents who do not need overnights, and want someone who is just willing to stay very late, like until 2 AM, which is also fine with me.”

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