aybe you are a newfound aunt or uncle, or perhaps your best friend has just delivered her first child — either way, at some point in every person’s life, a baby will enter the picture, whether it is yours or not. Not all of us are intrinsically parental by nature, but that doesn’t mean that those who feel a bit of anxiety regarding childcare cannot conquer their fears and become a competent and quality caretaker for children of all sizes.

Even if you are someone who is not quite ready to jump into having children — or are one of the many adults who do not intend on becoming parents — you could still find yourself having to help out with a friend or family member’s child at some point in your life. The responsibility that caring for a baby that is not your own may cause a bit of a mini freakout, but take a deep breath and believe us when we tell you that you can learn to take care of a baby.

Think of it like this: babysitting or helping out with a baby, while still necessitates you to fulfill all of a baby’s basic care needs, really only takes a small, small fraction of work that full-time parenting requires. Assisting in the care of a friend of a family member’s baby is no easy task, but you do not have to worry about the many costs — economic, emotional, and social — that come with becoming and being a parent.

So, with these things in mind, relax and open your mind up to the idea that you are capable of offering care for a baby if someone in your life needs your help. Whether it be a regular babysitting gig for your sibling or one-time cover for a friend, here are the tools and knowledge that will make you a pro when it comes to baby basics.

Photo of woman holding a baby
Holding a baby is a lot less scary than your high school childhood education classes made it out to be.

Holding fears about holding babies?

Here is how to properly hold a baby.

We often have a bit of fear when it comes to holding a baby. You may be haunted by those robotic baby dolls from high school childhood education classes that were extremely fragile and fussy (and put your grade at risk). While these dolls are helpful in instilling the idea that even improper holding can be harmful, they can often damage the confidence in one’s own ability when it comes to something as elementary as holding a baby by discounting the fact that babies on their own are pretty darn resilient.

When it comes to holding a baby, specifically a newborn, supporting his or her head and neck is important, as babies less than three months old do not have the strength to do so on their own. However, this is a problem that can be solved by simply using one hand to support the head and neck and the other to hold the baby’s bottom. This technique of holding will let you know that the baby is properly being supported by your hands. (And if you’re caring for a child who is older than three months, he or she will already be able to support him or herself with a remarkable amount of strength!)

For anyone who is still looking for a little more guidance in this subject of holding a baby, there are plenty of pictured examples of safe holding positions online that will give you a little more specific instructions and methods.

What do I feed this thing?

Here is a quick guide for feeding a baby of all ages.

The baby is in your hands, everything has been going smoothly, but then you remember, I’ve gotta feed this thing! Feeding a baby may sound like a daunting task, but believe it or not, babies know when they are hungry or full just like us. And they often will let you know too! To let you know it’s feeding time, an infant may tell you by smacking his or her lips or moving his or her hands towards the mouth. And when a baby resists or turns away from a food source, that most likely means he or she is done and full. Don’t try to overfeed or make a child finish a portion that you’ve set out: even young babies are programmed to know how much they need.

The best advice we can give you when it comes to feeding a baby who you’re temporarily caring for is to ASK THE PARENTS! Chances are the child’s parents have already given you a bag full of formulas, bottled milks, jars, or pouches that take the question of feeding out of your hands. If this is not the case, make sure you explicitly ask what the baby is able to eat or what the parents like the baby to be eating, especially if the baby has moved into the solid food stage.

Remember: taking care of someone else’s child should not mean making the decisions and calls regarding the baby’s health and wellness by yourself — parents have the answers! Following parents’ wishes takes the choices off of your shoulders and lets you worry only about when to feed a child, an indication that we previously established will often be given to you by the baby. And do not be afraid to call or text (or use the internet) if you need some extra support!

Photo of woman changing a baby's diaper
Changing a baby is often one of the most dreaded tasks of childcare, but it doesn’t need to be that way.

Oh no! How do I change a diaper?

Here is how to keep a baby’s diaper fresh and clean.

The moment you have been dreading has finally arrived. The smell that you were trying to avoid has managed to fill your room, and you must change the diaper. Changing a baby’s diaper is something that many prospective and current caregivers, parents or not, fear a little bit, as it seems a lot more complicated than it is.

The first step in changing a baby’s diaper is getting everything you need together. This means having a supply of diapers, wipes (or a warm towel), a changing mat (or clean, designated area to change the diaper), ointment, and an extra outfit in case of a messy blowout. All of these things — save for the changing area itself — should be given to you in a diaper bag that the parent has provided, but if any of them are missing, make sure to find a way to get them if you have the chance!

The next steps are, of course, those that deal with actually changing the baby. This may vary depending on whether the child wears cloth or disposable diapers, but the basics remain the same.

Start out by washing your hands and then laying the baby down on the clean change station. Then, unfasten or remove the diaper from the baby’s bottom. Put the diaper in a plastic bag or pail in order to keep everything clean and tidy. The next thing you want to do is grab your wipes or warm cloth towel and thoroughly clean the baby, watching for red spots or rashes to later treat with ointment. Once the baby is clean, slide the fresh diaper underneath its bottom and apply any ointment if necessary. All that’s left is to close the diaper up and clean up, making sure to wash both your hands and the baby’s.

For a more visual guide, check out this video that shows you exactly how to change a baby’s diaper!

Keeping a little one entertained

Here is what you can do to bring some fun into any baby’s life.

While newborns may not require a lot of efforts in the department of fun and games, older babies often benefit from and enjoy quality entertainment time. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a bunch of toys or material things to keep the baby’s attention, but rather that there are probably plenty of things online or in your home that can entertain a child of any age.

A good option for someone watching any age baby is reading! You don’t even have to own a children's book to read to a child, with many great resources online providing you with high-quality reading materials for a baby to enjoy! Because of their language-learning capabilities and tendencies, babies of all ages love being talked to or sung to, making reading a perfect choice for someone looking to entertain a baby. And you can know that this will help develop and teach the baby important language skills and lessons!

Photo of baby smiling on a bed
Babies don’t have to come with fear or anxiety and can become a real source of joy for anyone with the privilege of having one in his or her life.

Hopefully these basics of caring for a baby have given you a little more peace of mind when it comes to the subject of babies. Preparing for and learning how to properly be a responsible caregiver to any baby is something that everyone ought to learn how to do, because you will never know when or where you will be called to help out with a baby. Knowing the fundamental tenets of caring for a baby — holding, feeding, changing, teaching — will give you the confidence you need whenever you receive that fateful call.

And if you’re still a little unsure, take advantage of the countless resources at your hands in this digital age, with entire websites devoted to providing details on how to care for a baby at any age or stage in its development!

Jul 27, 2020

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