Family Handbook Ideas for Au Pairs Caring For Infants

by cv harquail on June 25, 2014

Caring for an infant, especially when the parents are brand-new to parenting, can pose special challenges for an Au Pair.

4246893004_fca548b43a_bAu Pairs in these situations will already be ‘infant-qualified’  — meaning that they’ve had direct experience with infants and will know how to do all the basics.  But because parents are still feeling their way with the new baby as a physical creature AND in their roles as parents, there are usually unanticipated details that you have to sort out together.

For me, with my first baby, it was perfume. I couldn’t bear having the baby smell like some grown-up’s perfume, whether it was the baby’s grandmother’s scent or the au pairs. I put that detail in my family handbook — but ALAS only after the problem occurred. And I think I was probably overly-freaked out towards my poor, loving mom-in-law.

If you were advising a brand new mom, with a brand new infant and a brand new au pair, what would you suggest that she add to her family handbook?

As this mom asks:

Hello Aupair Mom!

I am going to be a first time au pair mom in June this year (and a first time mom as well – with our first baby!) and am very excited to meet our au pair from Colombia, who will be joining us one week before our baby boy is due. I am an avid follower of your blog, and I thought I would ask your opinion on something I am struggling with.

I recently started putting together ideas for our household handbook, and the examples I found on your blog really helped. However, all of the examples are catered towards older toddlers/children with certain likes, dislikes schedules etc.

Do you happen to have any example of a household handbook for a little baby? As this is our first experience with a baby and with an au pair, we don’t know where to start!



Image of adorable baby, Attribution by abbybatchelder


TexasHM June 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Probably a dumb question but why have the AP come one week before baby? They can’t watch the baby until he’s 12 weeks old anyway so what is she going to do for the first 13 weeks? Any thought of delaying her arrival so you can adjust to new baby and new routine before throwing an AP into the mix? The problem with infants is its hard to put specifics in a handbook because they change all the time. We have two docs – one that has kid information (likes, activities, etc) and our handbook which is more policies (vacation, sick days, emergencies, car care and usage, education info, etc).

NoVA Twin Mom June 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm

We had our first au pair when our twins were newborns. She was supposed to start when the girls were two months old and about a month before I went back to work – but our girls came early, so she arrived on her scheduled date but the girls turned three months old and I went back to work about a week after she arrived!

I know we emphasize the importance of a handbook, but a lot of what you’re going to need to communicate you’re not even going to know until your baby gets here! Is he high maintenance or easy-going, for example. Does he love the rock and play and hate the swing, or vice versa?

I’d start working on the parts of the handbook you know now. When do you want your au pair to take vacation? Can it be anytime as long as you have a few weeks notice, or does she need to take specific weeks to match your schedule? Should she take one week in the first six months and one week in the second six months?

What are your car rules – can she drive in her off time? Only if she gets a license from your state? Can other au pairs ride with her? How many? Can she drive to your “nearby” city (however nearby that might be) or should she take the car to a train and take the train in? Do you have a GPS she can use? What should she do if she runs out of gas? When should she fill the tank – and how should she pay for it?

Will you provide her with a cell phone? We do, as part of our family plan. Others have different solutions. Particularly with a newborn, you may want her to have instant access to you this way.

What part of the world is your au pair from? You’ll need to decide how much familiarity she may have with American appliances (maybe consult your LCC on this) and therefore how much info you’ll need to include in your handbook on this. We’ve had mostly au pairs from Europe, for example, none of whom have had any familiarity with our rice cooker (my husband is from the Philippines, so we use it a LOT.) When I studied abroad in Germany, no one I knew had a dryer (although I understand that may be changing) so an au pair from Germany may need some help with a dryer. So you may want to include instructions for unfamiliar appliances in the handbook so she can be a little more independent.

If any of your appliances have a quirk – explain in the handbook. Our refrigerator, for example, beeps if the door has been left open and the temperature rises. one of our past au pairs listened to the thing beeping all afternoon because she didn’t know what the sound was. (That one didn’t last long for other reasons, but this was an indication of her “lack of self-starter-ness”). Our dishwasher closes really, really hard – so this is something I might mention.

Speaking of dishwashers, if you have one, you might want to touch on the difference between dishsoap and dishwasher soap.

Does your house have an alarm system? If so, what will she have to do to arm/disarm that system? Do you live in an HOA with a pool (or have other access to a pool)? Will your au pair be able to use the pool? What are the pool hours and will she need ID? Can/may she bring the baby there? Or is that something you want to wait to decide?

How will you pay her? We find direct deposit through our bank’s bill paying service to be most efficient; others find other solutions. What day will you pay her? Telling her this up front may incentivize her to get a bank account open. And if there’s overlap when you’re home (as there will be if she arrives before the baby is born and you’re in the US) HEAVILY encourage her to get her bank account open and Social Security Card requested before you go back to work.

Where do the local au pairs hang out? Is there a local mall? Where is the next biggest mall? Where do you go grocery shopping, get a cheap haircut, get your nails done cheaply, etc? Where is the local hospital – both for her or for your baby? Where is the pediatrician’s office? Definitely put the addresses into your handbook; consider adding little maps.

Where do you think she might want to take the baby (with your permission?) A library (they have baby storytime by us)? A Baby sign language class? A local park on a walk with the stroller? If she takes the stroller out should she use a sunshade? A bug net? How do you feel about sunscreen on the baby? (this likely depends on where you are and what your pediatrician says).

What do you think you’ll want her to do while the baby naps? Can she use the computer if she keeps the monitor with her? Seriously consider getting another monitor “receiver” for the au pair to carry with her – that way when you leave “yours” in your room while you’re gone she doesn’t have to decide whether or not to go in your room to retrieve it.

What about computer use during other times? Cellphones at the dinner table? :)

Are there baby-specific items that come with manuals that you might want to put in a pocket with your handbook? Our handbook is in a three ring binder so we could put manuals in the pockets of the cover/back. The car seat manual, instructions about how to collapse the stroller (I wound up putting bright red nail polish on the button you pushed to collapse the stroller, I told my husband it was for the au pair but it really helped him too), maybe manuals for the monitor or the electronic thermometer?

Start an emergency contact sheet for the fridge (or other central place) – your cell, partner’s cell, work phone for both, neighbor’s name/phone, 911 and when to call (the emergency number is different in other countries, so yes, write down that 911 calls the police and fire department and an ambulance, some countries even have different numbers for different emergencies), pediatrician’s number (that one’s more for you), address of the house (she won’t be able to remember that in an emergency).

Other things that you might not know yet but will want to include, so maybe put in placeholders –
1. When do you want her to call you? You’ll know more once you see her with your baby, but when a temperature reaches ____ degrees, should she call you? If she sees blood, should she call you?
2. What calms the baby?
3. What should she absolutely not give the baby to eat? In the beginning that’s obvious to us, but other cultures think other things. Remember, even here in the US 40 years ago, bourbon on a pacifier was OK to calm a baby :). Later there may be more debate- do you want to hold off on peanuts until the baby is one, for example?
4. Do you use a pacifier?

I’ll probably think of more, but I think you need to focus less on the baby care right now until you have a better sense of what the baby is like – and focus more on “living with HM and HD”. Good luck!

NoVA Twin Mom June 25, 2014 at 4:03 pm

One more thing – anything you write about babycare, I’d emphasize is subject to change. Go ahead and write that in. Because what works one day/week may not work the next, and you’ll want the flexibility to change your instructions. Warning your au pair up front that that may happen will make it easier to make changes later.

NoVA Twin Mom June 25, 2014 at 5:38 pm

And another – if you pump, show her what the pump parts look like and set up in advance who will clean them (my advice would be NOT her. That seems to me like a HM/HD role). Warn her if you store them in the refrigerator. Show her a membrane so if she finds one anywhere she knows it’s important and where to put it. And whether you BF or FF, post somewhere the “how long can it stand out, be refrigerated, and be frozen” rules. You don’t want her to dump anything prematurely but you don’t want anything re-refrigerated that shouldn’t have been either.

Schmetterfink July 1, 2014 at 7:41 am

“When I studied abroad in Germany, no one I knew had a dryer (although I understand that may be changing) so an au pair from Germany may need some help with a dryer.”

When did you study abroad o.O
My grandma “always” had a dryer (always meaning “as long as I can remember” so at least since the mid/late 80s) as did we and as soon as I could afford one (and had the room) I got one. Especially in apartments you will usually find a dryer and even most homes with gardens will have one, even if it’s only used in the winter time. Northern Germany at least. And we are usually a tad backwards ;)

However (!), do not expect your au pair to know how specific appliances in your home work! Even if they have used a similar machine at home they might differ considerably. Do explain how your washer/dryer work (especially if you have a top loader). Which setting you like your machines to be set to. How cold is “cold”, how hot is “hot” (if your washer only has cold/warm/hot), as most German au pairs will be used to degrees given (e.g. delicates are washed at 30°C, towels at 60 or 90°C). How much laundry detergent to use? Dryer sheets aren’t widely known in Germany for example (though they do exist). Separate colors or not (just white/dark)? May she throw her clothes in with yours/kid’s clothes (yes, there are families who do mind).

Concerning car use – is she allowed to drive with the baby? Would you allow a friend to pick her and the baby up with their car (provided she took the car seat)? How far away may she take the baby if she is allowed to drive?

Many rules in the family handbook will come up due to specific things that happen that you hadn’t thought of before. If the child isn’t born yet, you might not know what to put in the handbook until the au pair has been with you for months as your family dynamics will change (and I have seen au pairs be send into rematch because mom couldn’t deal with a stranger in the house, ‘stealing’ her baby…)

NBHostMom June 25, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I’m also a bit confused as to why she’s arriving so soon? Personally, I found those first weeks with my new baby (especially baby #1) emotional and also very special. Given that I’m more on the private side, I’m not sure I’d want an au pair at home during that special bonding time.

My confusion aside…to answer the question asked, I think TexasHM is on the right track. A handbook for family rules, policies etc etc should be easier to put together now. As for baby care, you can cover some generic items now such as baby sleeping his/her back, carrying the baby monitor during naps etc, but I guarantee anything specific (feeding, sleeping, diaper changing…) will change several times over between when baby first arrives to when the baby is old enough for the au pair to care for the baby solo. Maybe the best approach is to set the expectation that you’ll be constantly giving handbook updates as baby enters new stages of development?

One more tip… my favorite rule: “you wake it, you take it” :)

WarmStateMomma June 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm

We say something similar in my house! “You wake it, you bought it.”

Ditto on laying out all the safety rules very clearly. Don’t count on any of these to be common sense in the AP’s home country, especially for someone who is not a parent and may have never cared for an actual infant. The age limit is 2 for the infant-qualified experience; caring for my 18-mo toddler is nothing like caring for her as a newborn.

WarmStateMomma June 25, 2014 at 4:13 pm

This is probably too much, but my daughter is 18 months and we are on AP#2, so here goes:

You’ve already set her arrival date and probably can’t change it at this point, but I’d be worried about setting expectations with the AP. She needs concrete work to do from the beginning (see the posts on this site about having your AP start during maternity leave or on the eve of a family vacation). Find stuff for her to do that is actual work. Organize the baby’s room, clean the clothes/toys, whatever. (Even if it’s already been done.) Once you’re home with the baby, the AP should have regular times to care for the baby when you are available for emergencies (in compliance with program regulations for newborns) but not “on duty.” This is when you can catch up on much-needed sleep and the AP’s expectations about work are solidified.

Our first AP arrived when I had a week left of maternity leave and I tried too hard to be warm and friendly, instead of helping her set realistic expectations. Thanks to the advice on this blog, I had AP#2 participating in family life (dishes, learning baby’s habits, etc.) right away and alone with the baby on the Monday after her arrival. It made a huge difference for the AP and me.

One problem we had with our first AP is that she had the notion that babies should be encouraged to sleep as often as possible and never allowed to cry. So our baby was sleeping until 5am before the AP arrived but then started waking 4-7 times each night within a few weeks of the AP’s arrival. The AP cared about the baby, but thought her ideas were “gentler” than ours. After we talked about it, she’d tell us that the baby was sleeping less during the day but the night time trauma told a different story. The AP had no idea that long periods of uninterrupted sleep are good for brain development and wouldn’t change her ways until we showed her info from the American Association of Pediatrics (or something similar). The first four months with the AP were miserable because we weren’t sleeping, the AP was silently judging us for letting the baby cry for 15 minutes at bedtime (hovering outside the baby’s room with an anguished look on her face), and I was angry with the AP for messing up the baby’s sleep patterns (and mine).

The same AP considered broth (she called it “soup”) to be a meal for a young baby. The baby missed some meals before we figured this out and we now provide a list of appropriate foods, which we update as our daughter’s needs change. We did give a lot of homemade purees in those early months and froze them into ice cubes for easy, varied feeding. This was a great task for the AP during those many hours when the baby is sleeping…

Be ready for cultural differences in parenting and be ready to put your foot down. Also be ready to explain the health benefit of your decision so the AP won’t roll her eyes and do her own thing behind your back.

If you haven’t already, consider asking the AP to speak only Spanish to the baby. You’d be surprised at how much the baby will learn in the first year – his listening comprehension will far exceed his actual spoken vocabulary. The AP may want to improve her English, but the baby won’t be able to help with that anyway.
If you’re going to have a no-screens policy or anything like that, be clear about it up front so it doesn’t come across as punitive later.

Send your AP a schedule for her first 2 weeks with you (mine was a week, but your situation is more complicated) and add regular times for feedback sessions. This way, she is expecting you to redirect some of her activity and it won’t seem harsh.

This probably sounds too negative because we had a difficult year with our first AP, but she loved our baby very much. I also think that cultural differences won’t be as severe with an AP from Latin America (ours are from China). Best of luck to you!

NoVA Twin Mom June 25, 2014 at 5:32 pm

I have more – though this is a combination oc advice and handbook guidelines.

You havs to give her an “out.” Give her a safe place to put the baby if he won’t stop crying and tell her to take a break. For example, specifically state “if they baby’s crying gets to be too much for you, you can put him in his crib alone to cry for a few minutes while you’re in another room but nearby. Then set a timer for ten minutes and come back when the time is up.” Then model it for her while you’re still home. Beyond this, specifically tell her that if any day gets to be too much, she is to call you or your partner to come home. Tell her that doing this once won’t mean rematch – but will prompt a discussion about strategies. Doing it often will result in rematch discussions, though. And you have to mean it. Which is why you have to start getting used to the idea now.

Our first au pair, who was “practically perfect in every way,” did have to do this- once. But knowing she had that out made her more willing to work with two infants every day. When she called me at work, I told her I was leaving immediately but it would take me an hour or so to get home. I also told he’d she could put the babies in front of the tv (we allow screen time within reason) and stay in her room for a little while as long as she kept an ear out for them.

The fact that she knew I was on my way home diffused the situation and everything was ok when I got there, but it was an important lesson for her -she could be honest and I wouldn’t blow my stack. And everything was fine from then on because she’d cleared that hurdle.

Should be working June 25, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Great idea–not just for babies either. Au pairs of preteens could have this “out” too. I wish *I* had it.

NoVA Twin Mom June 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm

You’re right – I probably need to introduce it with our new au pair arriving in less than a month!

WarmStateMomma June 25, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Yes! Good point.

Dorsi June 25, 2014 at 10:36 pm

I have had three APs with during various maternity leaves. It will be harder to allow them to take care of the baby than you think (at least it was for me), though it is perfectly allowed as long as there is a responsible adult in the house. Especially if you are breast feeding, there is not a lot an AP can do in the early weeks (or a husband, sometimes). I wish I had learned earlier to put in ear plugs and take a nap.

A few things:
Help her get started on her classes right away. You want her education finished before you go back to work.
Get the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. That has become standard, best practice baby care in the US, but is not known everywhere else. I might actually share with her a lot of DVDs about baby care that fit with my philosophy. (I.E. the crappy hospital one on back to sleep). Other important topics where there is a lot of cultural variation — PURPLE crying, shaken baby prevention, what babies are fed (in US nothing but milk/formula for the first 6 months). A lot of the hospital DVDs are available in multiple languages are are designed for people who do not have a lot of education (or competence in English).
Find some way to communicate car seat standards. If she is driving, have her install and uninstall the seat, and take it to a free car seat check clinic.

Emerald City HM June 26, 2014 at 1:09 am

Our first au pair started when our oldest was 5 months old. We generally had her follow the EASY method (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You). Under each section we put tips. Under eat was breast milk rules, like how to heat and checking temp. Under activity were some ideas on games to play and wet specified that we wanted the au pair to read to our daughter and speak in Spanish. Under sleep were some tips that she could use and general signs of sleepiness. Under You was first a list of baby chores to do and then activities she was allowed to do (internet, tv, etc.) And things she was not allowed to do (sleep, shower).

CapitolHostMom June 26, 2014 at 9:53 am

We also used the EASY method. But ensure the Au pair understands some days no method works and that’s not a referendum on their au pair skills. They are babies for crying out loud, not a math equation. ;)

Emerald City HM June 26, 2014 at 11:05 am

Oh yes, it’s important to specify this type of stuff is more about of a guideline instead of a rule. As our daughter got older it became more EAEAEASY, hahaha.

But make sure to note what the rules are. No leaving baby in car, don’t put the car seat on top of a grocery cart, and so on.

Luann June 26, 2014 at 4:38 am

I’m really surprised some commenters can’t get their heads around having the au pair arrive a week before your due date. It’s brilliant!

Just because you can’t leave the house when she’s working before 12 weeks doesn’t mean you don’t need any help taking care of a newborn. Ever been desperate for another warm loving set of arms that could soothe the baby as well as you when it’s 4 am and you STILL have not gotten to sleep yourself (and your husband just can’t help this time because he’s got an 8 am meeting)?

Do you know how much a postpartum doula or overnight baby nurse costs? $30-$50/hour. And some services send a different person every time. I also had a very difficult c-section recovery and struggled with pain when walking for 6 weeks – some days I literally would not go downstairs because I couldn’t mange it while holding the baby.

If I had been wise enough to have had an au pair as soon as my first was born I’m fairly confident I could have avoided the postpartum depression that resulted from my rough start to motherhood. I was alone with my baby, sleep deprived in ways I didn’t know we’re possible, and frequently had feelings of inability to escape – couldnt even put him down for a minute without him totally dissolving, day or night. I can’t believe I made it through without any help.

Second time around I knew sturuggling through it alone was not a badge of honor I wanted to earn again., and we got our first au pair (who came well warned there would be nighttime duty as well). She mostly took care of the baby and me, and even made me lmeals and kept water and snacks at my bedside table for my ravenous-breastfeeding appetite (as she said, this is how you feed a newborn: you keep the mama fed!) I didn’t ask her to do this, it was all her own generosity (and common sense ). She would take the baby when she knew I hadn’t gotten enough sleep and was getting zany and command me “now you only have 90 minutes before he wakes again and your job is to sleep. No email! ” then she’d put the baby in the wrap and do the laundry. She was literally the angel that made it possible to actually enjoy having an infant.

TexasHM June 26, 2014 at 11:32 am

I can’t get my head around it because its against the program rules. An AP cannot care for a child under 12 weeks old period. No judgment, people are going to do what they are going to do but we follow the program rules and therefore my first thought was I didn’t understand what the AP was going to be doing for 13 weeks. We just hosted an AP whose family was kicked out of the program because they had her helping with the newborn (among other reasons). Newborn was 8 weeks old. Yes, she could potentially do baby laundry, clean toys, bottles, etc but that certainly doesn’t take 45 hours per week and I would be concerned she would be terribly bored. Plus there are the other things mentioned – first time mom, getting to know baby, routine, I was guessing there would probably be famil/friends that would want to visit/help the first month, etc. Just figured it would make more sense to let the dust settle before bringing AP in but you are right – if she intends to have AP care for the child against the program rules then it makes perfect sense why AP would come right away. The education route is a good idea – get those credits knocked out but again, we tend to try to align education credits with the year so having her take all her credits in the first few months would be a little tricky to manage if you ended up in rematch.

WarmStateMomma June 26, 2014 at 11:39 am

@TexasHM: My understanding was that the AP can care for a newborn, but another responsible adult must be on the premises. Baby 2 arrives in December and our plan is to have the AP primarily care for our toddler while I recover and bond with Baby 2. But I also imagined the AP watching both at home while I get some sleep.

hOstCDmom June 26, 2014 at 11:42 am

TexasHM – I’m not sure that having an AP care for a baby under 3 months *IF* the HP or other responsible adult is always present is a violation of the State Dept. Regs. The CFR doesn’t specify that, although some agency rules might.

Au pair placement. Sponsors shall secure, prior to the au pair’s departure from the home country, a host family placement for each participant. Sponsors shall not:

Ҥ62.31 Au pairs.
(e) Au pair placement. Sponsors shall secure, prior to the au pair’s departure from the home country, a host family placement for each participant. Sponsors shall not:

(1) Place an au pair with a family unless the family has specifically agreed that a parent or other responsible adult will remain in the home for the first three days following the au pair’s arrival;

(2) Place an au pair with a family having a child aged less than three months unless a parent or other responsible adult is present in the home;”

TexasHM June 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

I wonder if this is another area that is varied a bit per agency. We looking at hosting an AP when I was preggo with kid #2 but agency at the time (APIA) was clear no AP care until after kid was 12 weeks old. Recent AP that we hosted in rematch her removal was for several reasons but part of it was caring for newborn less than 12 weeks old but I believe they left her alone at least once so maybe that was the trigger vs her caring for the newborn in general. I will definitely ask our LC too. I know a current APIA family that just had a baby and they are strictly watching the current AP to make sure she doesn’t care for baby until 12 weeks – they hired a private nanny just for the baby for 3 months so they could keep the AP.

Dorsi June 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

I was with APIA when my first was born, matched before I gave birth, and had her in the house from 7 weeks old. She started caring for the baby around 9 weeks, while I worked evenings, and my husband was working from home. We were religious about not leaving her alone with the baby until exactly 12 weeks, and never had any issues.

TexasHM June 26, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Get this – tangent but related – there is a family here right now that had a non-IQ AP that was extending, they got pregnant, agency (APIA) told them a month before baby was due that AP would have to go into rematch and leave the home. HPs got a lawyer and fought it, AP was allowed to stay but there were lots of hoops (she spent all last weekend at another infant care training) and she is still not allowed to care for baby until 12 weeks which is why they hired the part time nanny for the first 3 months. They were told even if she was IQ she couldn’t care for baby at all until 12 weeks so there is clearly a lot of variation and confusion around this even within agencies!

WarmStateMomma June 26, 2014 at 12:30 pm

My LCC with APC knows we are expecting another baby and hasn’t mentioned that the AP would have to leave when the baby arrived. He just congratulated me and asked how the AP handled the news.

Caring for my newborn (other than the night time feedings) was soooo easy compared to caring for my toddler now. The AP will be the one to wrangle the willful toddler on outings while I snuggle a sleeping baby on the couch. (That sounds awesome, actually.)

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 8:53 am

Interesting! I looked this up on APCs site and found this: Can an Infant Specialized au pair care for an infant under three months old?
According to Department of State guidelines, an au pair cannot be the sole care provider of any infant under the age of three months. Infant Specialized au pairs have extensive knowledge and training in caring for infants, 0-12 months of age, and can assist in any aspect of childcare for a child, 0-3 months of age, while a parent or other designated caregiver is present. After the child is 3 months old, the Infant Specialized au pair can be the sole care provider for the child.

I just emailed the interchange LC to ask what their policy is, APIA is no care period under 12 weeks.

hOstCDmom June 27, 2014 at 8:59 am

Texas HM — your matrix idea is a good one! Because while we don’t have infants, so this differentiating factor between agencies wouldn’t matter to us, it could be VERY IMPORTANT to another family! Same re the 1.5 days off/week (consecutive, or not) rule. The State Dept Regs are the minimum floor, but the agencies obviously raise the floor — either intentionally, or through their varying “interpretations” of the Regs. But the devil is in the details…

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 10:08 am

Definitely! I contacted a few of the agencies and got the same response almost verbatim “present” in the state department guidelines means directly supervising. Aka – you can watch the AP change a diaper, feed the baby, play the with baby, etc but can’t leave the room the AP needs to be supervised and you need to be “present” with him/her at all times until they are 12 weeks of age. If someone had 12 weeks maternity leave this could work theoretically because you would be there and could supervise and she could help out with baby chores and hold the baby while you make a call, pump, etc in the same room but the real advantage would have been in being able to have him/her take baby for 15 minutes so you can shower or take a quick nap neither of which are ok with APIA, APC or Interexchange. I can ask CC but based on their info on their website it sounds like they take exactly the same stance. Remember a lot of this comes from the Louise Woodward case – the IQ requirement and no unsupervised care under 12 weeks both come from that tragedy.

NoVA Twin Mom June 26, 2014 at 11:47 am

And I’m remembering that they wouldn’t even let us put our kids’ names officially into the program until *after* they were born. Because until they WERE born, there wasn’t anyone for the au pair to take care of. I’m also wondering if our au pair could even go to the Embassy for her visa interview until after the babies were born – they may have made her wait until there was a birthdate. For second or third kids, there would be the first kid there as the “charge” even if the second wasn’t technically in existence yet.

So the idea that the Department of State would issue a visa to a young woman to become an au pair for a family without any kids seems odd. But it’s possible the OP isn’t in the US.

TexasHM June 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I wondered about that as well. We had the question awhile back about could someone pose as a host family and would they have to prove they had children. God forbid what if something really terrible happened?! Or if like TACL mentioned if there was a special need they might want/need a different AP! Anyway I wish the OP all the best, its obviously a hard question to answer or it wouldn’t be on here and as much as I feel like I know the program I swear I still learn something new everyday years later! Almost makes me want to create a matrix of the agencies and their policies because there is so much gray area and I think had I known some of these things upfront I would have originally gone with a different agency. I know many have mentioned the consecutive days off rule (or lack thereof) has affected their agency choice – I would think this would be another one for families that want maternity leave help and I would have LOVED that when I was on maternity leave and didn’t have family help.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 26, 2014 at 7:15 am

My first AP was a pediatric intensive care nurse, and while she had the childcare portion down pat, she did not know how to let children play for themselves because she was not accustomed to it, but on timing of feeding and caring for a child with special needs and a 5-month-old, she was better than I.

While I recommend looking at the sample handbooks on this site, keep your handbook simple. While in theory you have an idea of what your parenting style will be, you really won’t have a clue until you meet your newborn and learn his or her personality. (I was completely surprised by my firstborn – we didn’t have a clue about her special needs because the ammnio did not indicate a problem – ack!)

Assuming that your AP really does arrive a week before your baby, then take some time with her to make sure everything is washed and the room is ready. If the baby arrives at the same time as she, then she can pitch in with the last-minute preparations.

Do make a schedule for her. You will want to bond with the baby, but she can help with the mounds of laundry the baby produces, holding the baby so you can take a nap, etc.

Be aware of cultural differences that will become more important the older your infant gets. Our Brazilian AP did everything for child #2, to the point that he was developmentally behind in learning some self-help skills “because it was easier for her.”

I was very jealous of my AP on my first day back at work! Not so jealous now that they’re teenagers!!

CAHostMom June 26, 2014 at 7:21 am

Seems you have received a lot of fantastic advice already. I’ll just echo the advice that was posted above about giving your AP an out if she gets overwhelmed. Our only rematch was an AP who just had no idea what she was getting into (caring for an infant) and in hindsight likely fabricated ALL of her infant care “experience”.

Since you are going to be experiencing all of this together (with her being there from day 1) try to remember to think about how you would want her to handle the situations that you are facing for the first time as well, and then communicate that to her.

Pay super close attention when you communicate. Ask questions that she has to answer so that you can confirm that she understood. Language was an issue with our one Colombian AP and it’s really important that she understand what you are telling her when it comes to caring for your baby. I’d recommend maybe translating to Spanish the most-important-super-critical things in your handbook even if she does speak English.

Good luck!!

CapitolHostMom June 26, 2014 at 9:51 am

Our first Au pair arrived when baby one was 5 weeks old. Looking back, it’s like she wrote that portion of the handbook for me! I was definitely not an infant qualified mom at that point, haha. I agree with the moms who say babies change too frequently too write instructions. Each week it’s a whole new ball game. Nevertheless, suggestions: give her written instructions each week. She MUST write down everything in that baby journal the agency gives them. And I mean every nap, poop, sleep, bottle. Also, have her download the Wonder Years App so she can understand what baby is learning and experiencing each week. Good luck!!

WarmStateMomma June 26, 2014 at 9:57 am

The “out” is super practical. AP#1 broke some glass and didn’t know what to do, so she picked up a few big pieces and left the rest on the floor. She didn’t tell anyone about it and I discovered it that evening when I cut my foot twice. It turns out, the AP didn’t have the sense to put the crying baby in the crib while she cleaned up the broken glass. The baby was walking by then and put everything in her mouth. Ditto for our two dogs (we have “labra-goats”).

In the AP’s mind, it would be cruel to let the baby cry alone in her crib. I was furious the second time the same AP did this (in two weeks!) because we’d already discussed the danger. She said she watched the baby, but I know the dogs were on their own. (Luckily, she was leaving shortly after this episode anyway.) The handbook now explicitly says that in this kind of situation, the AP should leave the baby in the crib (even if she’s crying) and put the dogs in another room or outside.

I also include a page in my handbook with a VERY short list of automatic rematch situations to distinguish between the life-and-death rules and the other rules. So the AP gets that leaving the baby alone in the bath/car is way more serious than keeping the baby from playing on the coffee table. We have a lot more safety rules in the US than other countries and if we’re honest with ourselves, some are simply more important than others.

And for newborns – my 2 infant-qualified APs had no idea that you wouldn’t leave a bunch of blankets and soft toys in their cribs. Explain the risk (suffocation) when you explain the rule so she gets why it’s important. Maybe put a little reminder sign on the crib.

And reserve the right to change up how you do things as you get to know your baby. I read loads of baby books before my daughter was born and that baby didn’t comply with many of the techniques “all babies” were supposed to love (swaddling – ha!). Your son will be his own little person and you’ll all learn as you go. It will be amazing and challenging and I wish you so much good luck.

We have a free Shutterfly “share” site to share photos and stories with friends and family (it’s invite-only access). In those early days, if you need tasks for your AP, ask her to take, upload and share baby photos for you because the extended family will be eager for loads of photos and you may not be up to it yourself.

If you send me an email to, I’ll send you my handbook and daily log. It was written for AP#2’s arrival when my daughter was 15 mo.

NoVA Twin Mom June 26, 2014 at 10:54 am

Facebook. The same au pair that couldn’t figure out why the refrigerator was beeping would post pictures of my kids to Facebook with reckless abandon – that I only saw because she tagged me in them. Right after APIA’s orientation, where I am told she was specifically told not to. (This, also, was not the eventual reason for rematch. In retrospect there were SO many signs we didn’t see…)

Go over with your au pair what she can post to Facebook. We have our au pairs text cute pictures of the kids to me, then *I* upload them to Facebook. I tag our au pair in the photos, so her family can see the fun she’s having with our kids and in the US – but not without going through me. We do make some exceptions for if we’re all out together and all in the picture and she asks me “can I post this one?” – but again, I’ve seen the picture in advance. Pictures with just her? Not a problem, she can post those all she wants. But other families have rules about sharing names and addresses (and even pictures of the outside of the house, I think).

Figure out what your rules will be and let her know in advance.

justnine June 27, 2014 at 4:30 am

Hi! I’m not totally new to this aupairmom site, but it’s actually my first comment :)
When I arrived in my family, I had a toddler and a baby was on the way! 3 months after my arrival the baby was born and I just loved it! Of course most of the time I was with the older one, but during the day (nap time, playdates) I was happy to take care of the newborn, so my HM could get some things done, have some time for herself or just take a nap :) I have a ton of experiences with newbornsnand I could not imagine to take care of older kids. I already was an AuPair for 2 years and since I decided to go back end of this year (nov/dec/jan) I can not wait to find a family with newborns or toddlers :) I had a great time and also, some of my tips were a little awkward for my HM to try out, she never hesitated to give it a shot and was thankful, when it worked out :)

And for me, it was great to go to the hospital just a few hours later, the little angel was born and holding him for the first time, it just made me and the family havong an even stronger relationship to each other and I’m really happy I could experience that! :)

justnine June 27, 2014 at 4:31 am

Oh, and I really had no rules or a handbook, … we were just kind of trying out how it works best for us and it did.

NOVA Running Mommy June 27, 2014 at 2:10 pm

It really seems like you got some wonderful advice already. We had our first Au Pair come when my son was 10 weeks old; he is now 4. So far, all my Au Pairs have watched infants. I am echoing what one mom said, being a first time mom, I had no idea what to expect, so really my 1st Au Pair and I learned together.

I had a thorough handbook, but it changed often with my sons daily, weekly and monthly milestones. We communicated constantly throughout the day via text; I only ever once received a phone call and it was about our dogs accidentally getting out.

We do have social media rules in our house, and very similar to NOVA Twin Mom; they cannot post pics of my children without me knowing and they can never use their real names. Even on Facebook, etc., I have never used my kids names nor their real birth dates.

If you are interested in seeing my handbook and what I provide to my Au Pairs, you can go to contact me via website in the contact and I will reach out to you.

Good luck!

Mimi June 27, 2014 at 3:18 pm

I also find it puzzling that for your first child you wouldn’t want time to bond and learn about being a new parent on your own. My concern would also be an AP imitating mistakes or behaviors you realize you’ve had to change, in addition to not knowing how your baby’s temperament is going to shape their care. There’s a lot to learn as a first time mom, even for experienced caregivers. Having to do that with an audience can’t be easy… However, I’ll have my first AP here for my impending maternity leave, so maybe I’ll change my tune about that. (Her primary responsibility will still be my other kids for the rest of the summer then transitioning them to start school in the fall before I go back to work and the baby is her primary duty.)

Having said that, there’s lots of great advice here. I would echo the idea of the ‘out’ for the AP and the infant care guides in her native language along with a list of the ‘deal-breakers’ that others mentioned (sleep position, feeding, bath info, etc.). It will also be important to find things to keep the AP engaged if you do find yourself being less reliant on her for help. The shutterfly idea is great along with any baby book details you want to collect or scrapbooking you may want to do.

ChiTownMama July 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Hi! New to posting here, but I’ve been lurking for months, gobbling up all this great information! I have a newborn son and our au pair arrives next week. I had a flexible start date set to be when the baby was 8 weeks old. In the matching process I had this set as a range and started looking very early because I knew that it would make it harder to find an au pair. There were a couple of au pairs who wanted a set date, but we found one who was fine with the flexible date. The 8 week lead time was plenty to wrap up with the visa/airfare/etc. The baby ended up being 2 weeks late so it was a good thing that we had the flexibility!

My husband is going to work from home for a month so the au pair will not be alone with the baby. She’ll just be watching him.

This was in our welcome letter and in several places in the information about us. I will say that the agency wasn’t thrilled with it, but I said that was a requirement. They wanted the business so went with it.

I left the instructions for baby care blank in the handbook until a couple weeks ago. I did send all the rest of it to the au pair before the match was finalized. We found a wonderful au pair. I’m so excited for her to come!

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