Leaving your child with a babysitter isn’t always easy. But it’s even harder when your child has type 1 diabetes (T1D).
You need to make sure the person who will be caring for your child is able to manage their diabetes, and above all, knows what to do in case of a problem (e.g., hypoglycemia).
Whether it’s a grandparent, a relative, a friend or a young babysitter from your neighbourhood, the person in charge of your child will need to have some basic knowledge and be prepared to deal with diabetes.
Finding a qualified babysitter
The first thing to do is to ask your friends and family whether they know any young people with T1D who would like to babysit your child. If not, here are some possible solutions:
- Ask your child’s medical team, who may know teenagers with T1D who babysit children.
- Ask around on social media (e.g., in a parent group such as Groupe de soutien aux parents d’enfants diabétiques T1 franco-canadien, Parents of Type One Diabetics – Canada or Canadian Parents of Type 1 Diabetic Teens on Facebook). There are several provincial groups for parents of children with T1D.
- If your child attends a specialized diabetes summer camp, ask the monitors (who often have diabetes too) whether they would like to babysit.
In some provinces, there are diabetes-focused organizations that provide training and matching programs for babysitters specializing in T1D, which include babysitting courses that specifically target children with T1D. These organizations also have a database of babysitters that can be referred to interested parents. Here are a few examples:
- In Quebec, the FRED Foundation has created the Fred squad.
- The Type One Together site is also a good English-language resource in British Columbia and throughout Canada.
- In Ontario, the T1D Academy website includes the CONNECT program.
Tips to make it easier to care for your child with T1D
Are the grandparents taking care of your child for the afternoon or even the whole weekend? Have you called a young babysitter for the evening while you’re eating out? Make sure not only to prepare them, but also to make their jobs easier. And don’t forget that they will probably be a little nervous at first (perhaps just like you were!).
Preparing all the materials
- Print out and visibly post a list of hypoglycemia symptoms. Several colourful infographics are also available online for printing, such as Diabetes Québec’s Low Blood Sugar fact sheet.
- Post a list of emergency phone numbers, including your own and the number of the hospital or clinical treating your child, in a strategic location. Don’t forget to include the name of your child’s nurse and endocrinologist.
- Post the hypoglycemia treatment protocol for your child.
- Leave out clearly labelled quick-acting sugars (e.g., Dex 4, juice, sugar) that can be given to your child in case of hypoglycemia.
- Make sure that nasal glucagon (for ages 4 and up) or injectable glucagon is easily accessible, and make sure the babysitter knows when and how to use it. Several studies have shown that nasal glucagon is easier to administer than the injectable version, especially for someone who is unfamiliar with T1D.
Meeting with the babysitter at least once beforehand
- Show the person all the equipment that your child uses, and allow them to handle it. Tell them what your child is able to do on their own (with or without supervision).
- Explain to them that children with T1D can do the same activities as other children, like playing sports or games, and can eat sweets and any other type of food or drink (with your permission) as long as they take the required quantity of insulin.
- To help the person gradually become more comfortable and limit the number of diabetes-related interventions, you can start by asking them to babysit outside of mealtimes. Once the person is more familiar with diabetes management, you’ll be able to ask them to supervise a meal after explaining how carbs work and how to count them.
Staying in contact (especially at first)
- If your child needs to eat meals or snacks while you’re away, determine the menu ahead of time, making sure to write down the carb count. You can call the babysitter right before your child’s mealtime to tell them the quantity of insulin they should administer (using the pump or a pen), depending on your child’s blood sugar at that time.
- If your child uses a continuous glucose monitor (e.g., FreeStyle Libre, Dexcom), you can choose to receive remote alerts if your child’s blood sugar requires special attention. In that case, you’ll be able to call the babysitter to check how your child’s hypoglycemia is being handled. Otherwise, you can call to check your child’s blood sugar from time to time, or wait for the babysitter to call you!
Take some time for you!
Having a child with T1D is non-stop work. So, it’s important to allow yourself a few outings from time to time. You can absolutely get a babysitter for your child as long as you start gradually with a trusted person who is comfortable with diabetes management and equipment. The key is training and preparation, and then being able to let go… Your child’s blood sugar doesn’t need to be perfectly managed when you’re not there. The main point is avoiding severe cases of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Also, as your child grows up, they will be able to do more things on their own and will be able to explain what needs to be done to their babysitter.
- Nemours Kids Health, Diabetes: Getting Comfortable With a New Babysitter, consulté le 3 avril 2023, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/diabetes-babysitter.html
- FRDJ, Prepping an Occasional Babysitter to Watch Your Child With T1D, consulté le 3 avril 2023, https://www.jdrf.org/t1d-resources/living-with-t1d/relationships/prepping-babysitters/
- Omnipod, Omnipod Sitters Guide, consulté le 3 avril 2023, https://www.omnipod.com/sites/default/files/2021-04/Omnipod_Diabetes-Sitters-Guide_English.pdf?_ga=2.101528577.1872677848.1681328954-1865244123.1680100316
Written by: Nathalie Kinnard, M. Sc.
- Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, MD., PhD.
- Sarah Haag RN. BSc.
Jacques Pelletier, Marie-Christine Payette, Claude Laforest, Sonia Fontaine, Michel Dostie, Andréane Vanasse, patient partners of the BETTER project
Linguistic revision by: Marie-Christine Payette