What is a Nanny? Differences Between Nannies, Babysitters, and Child Care Specialists

Oct 18, 2019 | Hiring an Employee

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What is a nanny? And how are they different from other child care providers? Nannies, babysitters, and child care specialists all provide supervision for children but their roles, expectations, and responsibilities are different. Here’s what you need to know about these caregivers to help guide your hiring decisions.

So you’re looking to hire an in-home caregiver for your child. Do you need a nanny or a babysitter? Or some kind of specialist? While a babysitter and a nanny are similar there are distinct differences that should guide your child care decisions. We’ll break down your options to help you make the right choice for your child.

A nanny’s role and expectations

A nanny is a full- or part-time professional caregiver who works in a family’s home usually while the parents work. Work-from-home and stay-at-home parents may hire nannies as well. A nanny is hired for a long term and will work year-round for a family. They should have a contract that details pay, benefits, and responsibilities.

Some nannies may be hired to care for a newborn and stay with the family until the child goes to school. And even then, a nanny may be kept on to help with after-school care.

A nanny could live on their own (live-out) and commute to the family’s home to care for children or they could live with the family (live-in). Usually, a live-in nanny will have a private bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen area separate from the family.

Nannies will typically have CPR and first aid training and advanced child care training either through their education, experience, or certifications (like the INA Nanny Credential Exam). They have chosen child care as their profession and are invested in your child’s mental, physical, and emotional growth and development.
A nanny will clean up after the children, do their laundry, and prepare their meals while they are in the nanny’s care. They will also drive your kids to and from school, appointments, practices, and lessons if needed. A nanny can also plan a daily schedule and activities for your children both inside the house like arts and crafts as well as outside the home such as trips to the library, park or museum.

Sometimes nannies will have skills that parents seek like speaking a second language, art or music training, or experience caring for children with special needs.

You could ask your nanny to run errands, do light housework, and family meal prep. Your nanny may agree to those duties (and could raise their hourly rate to accommodate your extra requests) and they should be spelled out in a work agreement. Remember a nanny is first and foremost a child care professional and not your housekeeper.

It’s not unusual for a nanny to become “part of the family” and be involved in your children’s lives long after their role as nanny has ended.

A babysitter’s role and expectations

There are several differences between a babysitter and a nanny. A babysitter provides temporary supervision for a child while the parents are out of the home. They may provide care on a regular basis – for example, every other Saturday night during the parents’ “date night” – but the coverage is only for a few hours at a time.
Babysitters may not have extensive education, training, and experience as a nanny. Babysitting may be a second job or something they do on a weekend to make extra money. Still, babysitters should be trained in CPR, know first aid, and have some basic child care skills.

A babysitter may have some activities planned and can help get children ready for bed. Due to the temporary nature of the job they may not develop bonds with your children as a nanny may.

A child care specialist role and expectations

They are some child caregivers who take on special roles and shouldn’t be considered nannies.

A newborn care specialist or baby nurse works for a family for the first few months of a newborn’s life. They may provide assistance and guidance on feeding; handling multiples or premature infants; newborn issues like colic, gas, excessive crying, and reflux; sleep training; and even how to set up a baby’s room. It’s important to note that newborn care specialists are not medically qualified nurses. However, organizations like the Newborn Care Specialist Association provide certifications and ongoing education.

A doula provides emotional and physical support for a woman during pregnancy and childbirth. They are not medically trained or actually deliver babies but some may provide postpartum care for the mother and baby.

Whether their title is a newborn care specialist, baby nurse or doula, the important thing to remember is that their role is for a short period of time. They’ll be with you for the first months of your newborn’s life but then their role ends. At that point, you may consider hiring a nanny.

Hiring a nanny?

Download Your Guide to Hiring a Nanny. In this new guide, we lay out the steps on how to hire a nanny the right way and maintain a strong relationship with your employee.

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