How to Find Childcare for Siblings during Childbirth

Parent Q&A

Childcare during/after birth of younger sibling? Jun 30, 2021 (4 responses below)
Childcare during childbirth with shelter in place? Apr 8, 2020 (2 responses below)
Care for older baby while I’m in labor - no family in the area Aug 7, 2019 (11 responses below)
Going into labor with no sitter for older child Oct 15, 2017 (2 responses below)
  • I'm pregnant with my third child and my partner and I are trying to figure out childcare for our oldest two when the baby is born. We're a bit stumped about what to do so any ideas or suggestions are welcome.

    Our baby will be born via planned c-section, so I'm looking at 3-4 days in the hospital. Our oldest will be in early elementary when the baby is born and our middle will be in preschool, so they have different school drop-off/pick up logistics. We don't have family we can rely on for this, and while we have wonderful close friends, it feels like too much to ask other families with their own kids to care for our two high-energy kids (and help with logistics for their different schools) for 3-4 days (or even just that first night post-birth). We've considered having my partner spend afternoons and/or nights at home with our oldest two, and have just me at the hospital with the baby at night (with hospital nurses for occasional help), but that doesn't feel great, though it may be our best option. We've heard of sibling doulas, but aren't sure how well that would work since it would be a new caretaker at a time of transition for our older kids. Wild card factors include having a game plan if I go into labor early, if the birth falls around a weekend when the older kids don't have school, and what to do if the birth falls around a fire/smoke event when school might be cancelled.

    Have you been in a similar situation? Do you have ideas of specific care providers or general approaches? Would love to hear and thanks in advance! 

    Yep, your husband will be spending afternoons and nights with the older two. I would start now lining up babysitter(s) to try over the summer, and if you like one a lot, approach them about being on call for one overnight (for the first day/night you are hospitalized). Otherwise, reach out to the close friends you mention about if they're willing to take a day of morning dropoffs over your time period needed.

    I agree 100% with the first response. We went through all the options and ended up having my husband stay at home with the older child except during the actual birth. It wasn't a lot of fun for me but it was the best option for the kids. I also tried out a couple babysitters and found one who was willing to be "on call" in case we needed someone overnight. I interviewed one sibling doula who was ridiculously expensive and not worth the money. 


    It sounds like a great idea to have your husband spend afternoons and nights with the older two, and to focus your babysitting coverage for the time when you are in surgery/delivery and the hours after that.  While it would be really nice for you to have him at the hospital, you will have nurses there to help care for you and for the baby.  If you have good friends who could have your kids over for dinner for a night or two during the post-partum hospital stay so your husband could visit, that sounds great.  But it seems like 3-4 days without a parent at home might be pretty hard on a preschooler and elementary school child.  If your husband is home, they will be in their regular routines and you'll have less prep and planning to do in terms of getting everything all ready for someone else to care for them during that time.  

    In terms of emergency planning, I would definitely ask friends to be ready to help out in a pinch--that's not likely to happen, but when things go haywire, good friends are usually willing to pitch in. 

    Good luck! 

  • Hello, 

    We are due with our second end of June, and have a one and a half year old. We had already arranged with her home-based daycare that when I went into labor, our first born would stay there until we got back from the hospital as she would be the most comfortable spending the night/extended days there. However, with COVID, she's no longer going to the daycare as we're not essential workers (though they're still open and serving essential workers). If shelter in place is still happening in June/July, do you know if I'm still able to send her to the daycare just while I'm in labor? Not sure what the procedure is for childcare for medical reasons...(note, we don't have family in the area).

    I don't have official knowledge, but as a mom of two in daycare, I do think it depends on the daycare. I know some daycares have closed, but ours has not, and this is because (I believe) state and national guidance have exempted daycares from school closings. My best advice would be for you to talk to your daycare and let them know your need. They may be able to provide care for you, or else, perhaps they could arrange for an in-home provider that would be familiar to your family already. As it is a very fluid situation, I think the more transparent everybody is about needs and limitations for what can be offered, the better the chances are that you will be able to work something out. June/July may still be far off, but I'd start the conversation now. If you get the sense that they won't be able to help you, maybe you could start hiring a sitter just for familiarity and use that person down the line to care for your daughter while you are in the hospital. Good luck!

    Your daycare will likely be able to accept your childcare since it is only for a day or two and you have a medical need for childcare.  But if nanny/babysitter/friend is a possibility, you might want to consider that instead.  Since the daycare is open for essential workers and those workers are still out there in the community and some might be health workers working with sick folks, the risk of your child catching a virus in daycare is higher than if you just used a nanny or sent your kid to a friend for a day or two.  If you were an essential worker and needed the daycare then the risk is bearable as children are for the most part doing ok and it is the same risk as any other essential worker family taking on, but consider if you are willing to take the risk for having your child exposed to several (10-12) kids of workers who are not currently sheltering in place just for one or two days of childcare and potentially bring it home to a newborn baby. 

  • Hi! I’m looking for some advice on what to do when I go into labor with my 2nd baby this December. Our son will only be 14 months old at the time and our current part time nanny isn’t available to be “on-call” for round the clock care as she has another job outside of nannying. I also found it difficult to approach the subject with any potential candidates given that someone might have to rapidly clear their schedule at a moments notice once I go into labor. We would be willing to potentially pay someone to be “on call” given that we would be taking up their time - maybe work 9-5 on those days until I go into labor and then more around the clock care for 2 or 3 days until we get home from the hospital? But not sure what is the best method here and wanted to see if anyone else has been in the same situation? 

    We don’t have family in the area and though my in-laws offered to come during this time they are not great with kids - I really don’t want them being the sole provider for my son (possibly just at night as he usually sleeps through the night now, but even then I have some reservations). What did those of you do who didn’t have family in the area? We are somewhat new to the Bay Area and feel it’s a lot to ask of friends given our 1st babe is so young. 

    Please help stop my nightmare where I am in labor and my first born is screaming because he’s awake in the hospital room with us at 2 am with all the noises and lights. 

    [Note from moderator] This is a popular question and there is past advice about it here:

    Find a post partum doula to help you out

    I would suggest reaching out to Roots of Labor Birth Collective which can connect you to many doulas who can probably tag team to get you the care that you need. In their line of work they already need to have back ups for birth doula support, it’s not a stretch to imagine that they could handle this for childcare (very similar to postpartum doula support).

    I can vouch for Michi Arguedas and Rebecca Orozco, my amazing birth doula team who also tag teamed to provide me with postpartum support for many months after birth. They are great with my older kid as well.  

    We are in a somewhat similar situation (although my parents plan to fly up from LA when I go into labor). For now, if I go into labor during the day, my daughter will be at school, she is a bit older than your son (she is 19 months). But this reminded me: I have actually used a company, based in the East Bay, that provides temporary nannies (they do full time care too but I have only used the temp service). One of the temp nannies I used did exactly this! She stayed with the older kids while the parents were at the hospital. They are on the expensive side but the nannies are vetted and every nanny we have used from them has been great. It's called Town and Country - might be worthwhile checking them out. 

  • Hi everyone! I'm looking for some advice on how to deal with my situation as I'm sure there are many who either have been or are in the same boat... Pretty much we don't have someone to watch our 4 year old when I go into labor. I'm due in February. We have no family in the area and we haven't been in the area long enough to make good friends with anyone. To be honest I am a very protective mother and haven't found anyone I would trust with my daughter yet. My husband did have a co worker that we did baby sitting swapping a few times but then they ended up moving away. We live in Castro Valley and there aren't any neighbors that have kids that we've gained friendship with either. My 4 year old goes to school part time, two days a week. If I happen to go into labor on one of those days my husband can take my daughter to school and *if* there is room that day she could stay for extended care hours before and after. Ideally I would like to get an occasional sitter now so that both us and my daughter would be comfortable with them the time comes. I am open to another mom in the area and doing sitter swapping. I'm not opposed to having her come to the hospital with us and being there but with so many unknowns with delivery I would rather not if possible. My brother and sister in law had the same issue a year ago and luckily their delivery was smooth and they kept their three year old with them the whole time while their older kids were at school. Anyway just trying to get some ideas, suggestions, and hopefully some baby sitter suggestion for my area too. Thanks everyone!!

    [Moderator note: past advice about this on BPN: Childcare for Siblings during Birth]

    1) Do you know any of the other parents at the preschool? You could ask them for babysitter leads or they may even volunteer to help out themselves. The teachers may also know of reliable neighborhood babysitters. Some teachers at my kids' old preschool also offered babysitting services outside of school hours to supplement income.

    2) Your neighbors don't need to have kids to watch your 4 year old for a few hours. I went into labor with my second child in the middle of the night. Our neighbors came over and slept at our house while our older child (who was 2) slept through everything. We had gone over that possibility with both our neighbors and child ahead of time. They fed him breakfast then took him to preschool. Most neighbors would be delighted to help and you've got some time between now and then to work out the details.

    Good luck!

    Since you're not due until February, It sounds to me like you have enough time to cultivate a good relationship with someone who can help you out. It might be helpful to envision this as a relationship that you will continue after the baby's birth, because you'll be busy and will probably need additional support vis a vis your four year old.  If your daughter has friends at preschool and you like some of their parents, you could communicate with them about doing some swaps, etc. to build a relationship. For your delivery, she could leave extended care and go over to their house. I'm also wondering if she's in any music programs, etc. where you really like some of the other parents. Same idea. Finally, you could ask folks for babysitters that they really like and take some time between now and then to get to know them. Something that you can always do with babysitters is have the first few sessions (or how ever many you need to feel comfortable) at your house with you in the house. They play with your child, and you get a sense of how they are. It's also okay to tell a babysitter that you have some concerns/fears about leaving your daughter alone with someone for the first time. You'll learning a lot about them from their reaction to telling them this. If they're understanding and supportive, they will probably be better to work with. If they're not understanding or supportive, they're probably not a good match for you. There are a huge variety of expectations of what kids should be used to by age 4. Hope this is helpful.  If you send your daughter over to a school friend's house, it's okay to ask if you can hang out for a while while she gets comfortable. Again, some parents will be completely fine with this. Others, not. Lots to learn from their response. The nice thing about cultivating relationships with the families of school friends is that those relationships can last far into the future if you keep them going. My daughter is 11 and we're still part of an active network of people from her coop preschool. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


No family nearby - childcare for 2YO during birth?

April 2014

We are expecting our second child in May, and our first will be about 2 years old by then. We don't have family nearby and all of our friends have toddlers of their own, so there really is no one who could take care of our first child while we are at the hospital. Is it reasonable to ask a doula to step in as an babysitter, or are there such service as on-call babysitting? We have never had a babysitter for our first child, so we are quite apprehensive about finding someone whom we trust enough to leave our child with. Any advice/recommendations/anecdotes would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Concerned

When my second child was born, we had a friend with another toddler who watched my older child during the day. It was really nice for our daughter to be able to play with the other child and have a special day while her younger sib was being born. Another friend with a toddler watched our older daughter the 2nd day while I was still in the hospital and baby 2 was in the NICU. My partner was home at night with our older child. Our plan for middle of the night coverage if necessary was for our next door neighbor to come over to our house so that we wouldn't have to wake up the older child. I made sure that our various back-up childcare friends all had one another's phone numbers so they could coordinate with one another as needed. I was pleasantly surprised that my daughter was not phased by waking up to a friend of the family there at the house the morning younger sib was being born. Best of luck! mama to two

I think it depends on how much you want to spend. I did go through the effort of hiring a doula to stay with me if I needed to if we were unable to secure childcare for my children. In addition to the doula, I had a small list of babysitters that I had casually used and knew which days they were available and created a spreadsheet. I also had 2 friends (with their own children)who were willing to step in for a few hours with my kids to help out. THIS is what I recommend. On the day I went into labor, it was thankfully a day that my part time nanny was working anyways. I regret that I hired a doula because, frankly, she did nothing for the $500 that I spent. She arrived at the hospital when I was pushing although we had contacted her in the morning to tell her that I was in labor. She held my hand but the labor nurses ''did all the work'' in offering support and feedback on laboring.

I think 1) friends with children of their own and 2) childcare professionals are more reliable choices. Even if a friend with a child of their own was only able to commit for 6 hours on a specific day/evening, I would use them for that time and then create a nanny/sitter list for the missing hours. If you have time, I would contact flexible nannies/sitters who state they are looking for more hours on a mon/tues/wed etc. Have them come for 2 hrs or so while you are home so you can get a feel for them with your child. Then, put them on a spreadsheet with the hours they are available and you'll know who to call on which day.

I feel that your friends will be more than happy to be help you. Think of it as an extended play date. However, if you have money to spend, an ''on call'' nanny service would be the easiest route. No need for a doula

Some doulas offer Childcare services during labor. I am fairly new to the area but I know this is an option. Doulas for all!

I would ask a friend. Even if all of your friends have kids, I am sure someone would be happy to pitch in! If not at your place, then maybe your child could stay at their house. don't over think this!

I was recently looking into this for my family, and then our situation changed, so I don't need it anymore, but I would check out the Swiss Cheese Childcare Collective ( They are available on an as-needed basis, including last minute and emergency situations. Their sitters are Trustline certified, maintain current CPR certification and have passed an extensive screening process. They meet a once month for collaboration, training and discussion and have a code of ethics they all follow. I was in contact with the founder, who said that she is working on putting together a comprehensive package for this (I don't think there's info about it on their website, yet, but they definitely offer it). She said that she has provided this kind of care for second time moms and mostly she just ends up being on call, but is not actually called. Hope that helps

We have no one to keep our toddler when 2nd baby comes

September 2006

My husband and I are expecting our second baby and our families live too far to come and stay with our first child while we are at the hospital. We just moved here not long ago so we don't have anyone we feel comfortable with (neighbors, etc) either - has anyone else had to have their toddler with them at the hospital while delivering? What could you share about your experience? We certainly don't want our child traumatized but we have run out of options and are concerned how this will go. anon

If there is truly no one with whom you can leave your toddler, I recommend hiring a doula for your birth. She can focus on helping you while you labor, so that your husband will be more free to care for the older child. Alta Bates -- and I'm sure most hospitals -- strongly recommends that if you bring a child into the LDR room, you also bring an adult who is primarily responsible for that child (IOW, not your sole labor support person) and can leave the room with the child as needed.

Alternatively, you could try a nanny service. Pricey, but because the people they send are screened, bonded, etc., you may feel more comfortable with that than with trying to find a sitter yourself, and because the services have a number of sitters on call, it's easier to be sure you'll have coverage no matter what day or time you head for the hospital.

We just had our second baby born at home. Our first child is 2 1/2 years old. We introduced him to books and videos on birth (''Welcome with Love'' is an EXCELLENT book) early on. He knew what a placenta was and he knew what kinds of sounds I may make and we practiced them. He watched birth videos homebirth mostly) and saw how the baby came out. My mother was concerned that it would be traumatic for him to witness the birth of his sibling. But, the important thing is this - LISTEN to your child. Children know what they want, esp. about this. If on the day of your labor, he/she says he/she does not want to be there, LISTEN to him/her. There may be a point that he/she is concerned about you if you are in pain but if he/she says he/she does not want to leave, then don't force them to leave the room (if you are ok with it). BUt, if they say they want to leave, you need to honor this. So, you need a backup plan. It can't be your partner who is with your child because he will be busy helping you. Our son slept through my labor at home and woke up just when the baby's head was crowning. It was early morning and we decided we wouldn't wake him for it but if he woke up, it'd be great. He got to see his baby brother being born and later, he was the one who told us the baby was a boy (we all thought we were going to have a girl!), and he also cut the baby's cord with his Papa. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience. He even knew what the placenta was when he saw it. Good luck, and congratulations to you!! anon

I have heard that the basic rule of thumb is definitely NOT to do it unless you have someone who is there for the sole purpose of caring for your toddler. I don't think that any hospital/facility would even allow it w/out another adult for your toddler. Ask for recommendations for a babysitter who has a flexible schedule (maybe a nanny who's between jobs) then check references. Have the sitter come over a few times beforehand for your child to become somewhat familiar w/ her. Then maybe she could even bring your toddler where you're giving birth and see if it works out. I know it's easier said than done, but do yourself and your child a favor! You don't want your husband to have to leave mid-labor to console your toddler when you also need his help. Also, wouldn't you help one of your neighbors in a similar situation if you were able? Start talking to them. They might surprise you. Smooth delivery to you!

Can you buy a plane ticket for a family member or close friend to come out and stay with your child? Honestly, I cannot imagine anything worse than having my daughter who was then 23-months in the delivery room with me when I was delivering my second daughter. A new sibling show up is traumatic enough without having to watch you mother screaming in pain while it is showing up. Toddlers remember stuff. Just my 2-cents -wouldn't do it

Best friend reneged on labor promise

June 2006

I'm due to give birth to my third child any day now. My best friend and my niece had promised that they would care for my two children while my husband and I are at the hospital during my labor and delivery. We reside in Oakland and will be having the baby at Alta Bates in Berkeley. She resides in El Sobrante. My best friend called me recently from work and told me she cannot keep her word b/c my niece cannot interrupt her finals schedule and that she personally cannot because of her work schedule. She asked if it was possible if I could have the baby over the weekend and she might be able to drop the kids off in San Francisco to the home of my elderly parents. If that's not feasible, she can't do it. I'm stuck without a sitter and am hesitant to have the boys with me during the labor and delivery. I'm extremely disappointed. My best friend calls me now only during the week from work and doesn't call over the weekend, which makes me a little resentful. I know it's not her obligation but I guess she shouldn't have promised in the first place. I'm trying not to let this ruin our friendship but it's kind of hard. Any suggestions? Soon to be due mom Lala

It's a bummer that your friend and niece have reneged on their promise to babysit during your labor & birth process, but absolutely ludicrous to hear the suggestion that you schedule the birth during the weekend when she/they is/are free to ''drop off'' the kids at your parents home! That doesn't even compute.

You should certainly not have your children present during your labor unless this had been a long-term plan with much forethought and much preparation of the boys as to what labor entails. Forget taking them as a last-minute default, you have enough to worry about.

You must find someone else to watch the kids. How about another mom from the kids' school? A different, more stable friend? Your niece's mom (your sis or sis-in- law?)? Friends of your parents who are capable of handling your kids?

If you truly can't find anyone among your friends & acquaintences, please e-mail me and I'll see if I can help. Tell me the ages of your boys and your due date. Letitia

Boy, poor you! That's so frustrating! I'd say you'll just have to consider her offer an alternative but immediately try and contact someone else to look after your kids. If she can do it, great, but don't rely on her even over the weekend.

Find another friend or friends to step in and try (though it might be hard!) to put aside your frustration at her. Can you have someone sit the kids at the hospital some of the time? Or take turns even for several hours each?

I'm not sure how long you've been friends, if she has kids or if you were friends when your others were born, but I'd also just put the relationship on ice because friends can be weird around pregnancy and it's not worth letting go of the friendship in a time of so much dramatic change. Once of my oldest and best friends became totally weird after I was pregnant and it took about four months after my baby was born for things to get back to normal. Some people just get overwhelmed by the changes they fear it will mean for the two of you.

I hope things work out, and congratulations on your baby! anon

Sorry to hear you are feeling a bit ''stranded'' for your very important delivery day. However, I do believe that expectant moms tend to believe that the universe revolves around them completely when they are expecting. I honestly think it would be wise of you to understand that things in life do change and that your friend may have accepted this responsibilty in completely good faith, and that things changed in the meantime. Perhaps she is reporting to you now (better than later) that it will not be feasible to help you out as you had hoped, because being responsible for someone's children any day in the near future is a huge responsibility! And from your post I don't understand why it is important for her to call you during weekends as well? Are you having a difficult pregnancy? Please consider your friend has a life of her own to tend to and that we become (as I did too) very focused on ourselves as our due date approaches. Don't take offense, give her the benefit of the doubt. It sounds as if you need to find a friend or relative to act as your backup childcare. Perhaps a mom's group friend would be willing to fill in for you? Or a caring and responsible neighbor?

This story brings to memory a friend of mine who very often expected friends to be available to her during her life transitions and celebrations. Actually, she would become quite angry when others did not gather and join in her celebrations. Well, when the tables were turned and she was asked to reciprocate, she often was absent herself, a plain no-show. Needless to say, she lost a friend in me. Best to you

I think it is a lot to ask of your friend, and you should respect that she was honest with you about her inability to help you. Really, do you want her to do this for you if it makes things really hard for her at work? Seems to me you are asking her to make your life more difficult so that your life can be made easier. Also seems to me that there is a perfect candidate to help with your kids during the birth of your baby -- the other person who helped bring them into the world in the first place. Yes, that guy.

- First and foremost, you need a Plan B here. Do you have other friends who could watch your kids, or maybe neighbors? You do not want to have your other kids with you during labor and delivery. I think that would be incredibly hard on everybody - especially you. So find someone who can take the kids - it just has to be someone who will keep the kids safe and reasonably content while you are busy bringing a life into the world. Your labor and delivery will probably be really fast for #3. The second issue is your best friend. All I can say is she must not have kids because if she did, she would get it, and she clearly doesn't. I had a slightly similar situation where I asked my best friend to be with me for the delivery of my first child, in the event I delivered while my husband was out of town on business. She basically told me to find someone else because work was too crazy for her to commit to that. We are still best friends, but I know she'll never understand how she hurt me until she has a baby of her own. Try not to let this ruin the friendship. These things have a way of working out.
Best of luck to you

I guess I wouldn't make a big deal of it, or take it too personally. Don't blow a friendship on this. Life happens. Have you considered that she may be trying to be a friend by letting you know ahead of time that she will be unable to fulfill her duties, and that her staying away from you comes from her guilt for having to tell you she couldn't do what you needed?

Perhaps she shouldn't have agreed if she couldn't do it, and perhaps you shouldn't have asked if you were aware of her obligations. Unfortunately, even in the best situations, unexpected problems can arise that make it impossible to keep our obligations. I haven't used the term ''best'' friend since high school, so I don't know how you mean its definition, but I assume you don't ascribe to it unrealistic requirements. Surely there's room for some things to take precedence over you.

In short, while it is certainly inconvenient to not have someone there to take your kids, what you were asking for was free childcare, not a kidney. In other words, the problem is remedial. Hire a midwife, or if you cannot afford it, do what many mothers in your position do: keep the kids with you. Your husband won't be pushing or being sliced open. Maybe he can man that ship? It's not the delivery you dreamed of, but don't blame her for that. Just hire someone and invite her to the Brith. Good luck and a smooth delivery -- mom

Get a babysitter (sorry it has to be that way) and maybe a better best friend. Why do you think she's such a good friend? There are better friends out there, seriously. Make a better plan for your labor & delivery.

it is *not* a small favor to ask someone to be on call for your labor and birth; and while your friend and niece had both said they would, it should still be OK for them to say they now can't for whatever reason. it's unfortunate for you, but it was a FAVOR that you were asking of them and they are telling you they can't fulfill it. better that they tell you now rather than on the day you go into labor. what about having your parents stay with you for a while? or as soon as you even think you are in labor, have your husband drive the kids to your parents. or - have them stay in school (are they school age?) longer if your birth is during the day. not sure from your post whether you are already intending on a planned induction or your friend was just asking that you have one. if you are already planning one, then you can also plan for a sitter, etc. there are mothers who ask their friends to be at the birth and then they later change their minds - this is no reason for their friend to be bitter that they couldn't be at the birth; the same way you shouldn't be bitter because your friend has changed her mind about being able to help you.

Where can I find overnight childcare during labor?

May 2006

We are expecting our second child in a few months. Our first child will be 19 months around the time her sibling is born. A relative is generous enough to stay with us for two weeks starting the day before my due date in anticipation of tending to our toddler during labor/delivery. Our concern is that I will go into delivery early (even by two days!) and we won't have anyone to watch big-sister. We have many friends but they all work. We have no relatives nearby. We don't currently have a nanny or sitter. I really don't want our eldest to come to the hospital with us. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you! Katie

Ask your friends. We had two sets of neighbors who generously did this for us, even though they had jobs and kids of their own. They each had ''assigned'' nights that they were on call, and I think -- I hope -- it helped them that it wasn't completely open-ended. As it turned out, our baby did arrive two days before my mother, and we had to call upon the friends on call that night. The husband was over in ten minutes (good thing, given how fast my labor turned out to be!), and we were completely comfortable that our daughter was in good hands, with someone she knew well. I look forward one day to returning the favor, if not to them, then to some other friend. Anne

Hi - I was looking for this same advice several months ago - we are relatively new to the area and don't have any family nearby. My mother was coming from out of town for the birth of my second child but if I went into labor early, we were not sure what would happen. I'll share the advice I got with you, because although I didn't need it, I think it was helpful. Ask your friends!!! Even though they work and they need their sleep. Even though it might inconvenience them. The birth of a child is such a momentous occasion, most people would be flattered to be asked. And most people will go out of their way in this kind of situation. I was touched by the people I felt I didn't know well enough to ask a favor of who offered to help my family out.

It is a tough situation. I hope you find a solution that you feel comfortable with, because I know you don't want to be in labor and worrying about the care of your older child! Jennifer

Good heavens, ask your friends. You never know, maybe one would be willing to take a day off. Also, have them get used to the toddler prior. I don't know, maybe I have good friends, but there are at least a few who would gladly take a day if something like that happens. If you could at least get overnight care, there are some day cares that do take drop ins so you can go to Bananas and find out. Or, call a nanny or babysitting service. Good luck! concerned mommy

We also didn't have family nearby when I went into labor with #2 (#1 being 24 mo old). We had neighbors watch our daughter in the evening (she was very comfortable around them already) and during the day mothers from my mom's group helped out, and my husband took FMLA time also, which was wonderful. Just don't hesitate to ask for help. In my opinion, people are more than happy to do whatever they can. Good luck and congratulations!

ABS Childcare located in Oakland (510-430-1701) LP

Hi- We were in this position when #2 was due to arrive, but #1 was just turning 3 at that time and went to part time daycare. Mom was scheduled to come on the due date. In the end #2 arrived a week after his due date, right in the middle of Mom's two week stay.

We worked it out by asking friends to be ''on call'' for specific periods to help, the closest friends covering the two weeks before the due date. This was a couple with no kids who work flexible jobs - I found it harder to ask friends with kids since their lives are already so busy. We gave them elaborate written instructions, knew how to reach them day and night, etc. The fact that they were just the ''backup team'' helped - it would have been hard for me to impose on them as being our main plan.

Our first son was going to daycare 3 days/week. The week before the due date I signed him up to be at school 5 days, since that was the most likely time the baby would arrive before Mom did. This was intended to allow the ''backup team'' above to +/- go about their normal schedule if #2 came early, OR to give me a break during the last weeks if I was still pregnant. You say you don't use a nanny, but maybe you could hire someone to do daytime childcare the week or two before the due date even if you're still pregnant then?

To cover the roughly two weeks before the plan above started, we asked other friends (who do have a child near #1's age) to be our next layer backup plan. This was easy to do since baby was unlikely to come that early, and they could ask the ''backup team'' above for help if they needed. I didn't bother with written instructions and needing to know how to reach all the time, but I did make sure that everyone ''on call'' had each other's numbers, the daycare info, etc.

And to calm my nerves, even earlier on I asked busy friends who have kids who live near the hospital if we could bring #1 in the middle of the night if we had some unexpected emergency during the pregnancy and I had to rush to the hospital. This made me feel better.

In the end we didn't need any of these backup plans, but it really helped my worry level to have something in place. - I hope this helps! And good luck!

Emergency Childcare for Older Child During Birth

April 2005

My family recently moved to the Bay Area from the east coast and don't have any family here and only a few acquaintances. I am pregnant with my second child and due this summer. My mother has offered to come to stay with our almost 2 year old while I am delivering baby #2, but she isn't able to stay an indefinite period of time. We've asked her to get her plane tickets to arrive a few days ahead of my due date (my first was a week late), as I am anticipating needing her most after the new baby comes home, but I am worried about what will happen if I go into labor and she's not here yet. What do people do who have older children and no family in town in this situation? We have a few friends, but they either work and wouldn't be available during the week, or have kids of their own and have their hands full. Also, we don't know them well enough for me to feel comfortable leaving our daughter with them for longer than a few hours. Any advice on how to handle this? We don't have a budget for a nanny for the month of July. Thanks. Jennifer

I feel for you. We just had our second and were lucky to have family around. I'd say first off, get to know some of your friends with kids better and talk to them about it. If they have kids the same age, it's often not that much harder to watch another. They'll also understand the situation adn want to be there to help. A second option is to talk to friends that have a nanny already and see if the nanny would be available and interested in being an emergency fill in...this way they're trusted through your friends adn you'll only pay if you need them. You can pay for a couple of ''get to know'' sessions with your oldest and go out on a date at the same time. Good luck.

PS...we found it was nice to have some little presents on hand for the oldest since all the attention is on the baby once they come. Remind peopel to say hi to the oldest first since the baby doesn't care, but the oldest will.

PPS Don't assume you'll be late...I was 4 days late on the first and 4 days early on the second. mother of two

If you go into labor before your mother arrives, first, call her and have her get here as soon as she can. She should be able to change her flight date easily enough. Then, if you have to leave for the hospital before your mom can get to you (you didn't say how far away she is), leave your older child with a nearby friend for a few hours until she arrives. You will probably be pleasantly suprised by the willingness of your friends with children to take on another kid for a few hours or even overnight in a situation like this.

At worst, bring the older child with you to the hospital, and have Daddy take care of her. If you have a doula (some offer sliding scale fees), this is a better solution since you won't be left alone in labor. (It was our backup plan, though in the end I had to schedule a section so my mom was already here.) Holly

We have family nearby, but no one was capable of helping out when our 2nd child came along. We had our neighbors look after number one when number 2 came along (though I held off having my husband call til 6 a.m.). Since so many of us here ''make our own tribe'', and fully understand the need for help, I would hope that the acquaintances you've made would understand completely your need for childcare during birth! If you fear burdening any one family, can you approach at least 3 likely families, and ask if they can help you out, explaining to each that they are not the only ones and give every family each other's phone numbers and details regarding your child? We live on a busy street, and I regret not putting myself out there more for other neighbors with younger children, both of us probably feeling shy and hesitant but would jump at the chance to give or receive help. I would say just ask. Feels awkward, but you'll feel so much better for having made the leap - you'll figure out who the real friends will be sooner. Another Mom of Two

Congratulations on your pregnancy. Your posting stuck with me and had me thinking of options for you. You might try posting something in the Childcare digest, asking for a sitter who would be willing to be on-call for the 2-3 weeks where you might deliver prior to your mother's arrival. In the upcoming months, perhaps you can use the nanny on an occasional basis (a date night, or just a few ''mother's helper'' hours every so often) so everyone can get acquainted. There are a lot of sitters out there looking for extra hours, and a lot of families who want to help their sitters find those hours, even if it's very short- term. Another suggestion: if you're remotely religious, find out what your local church might be able to do to help. Ours has a lot of resources for young families. Best of luck to you! anon

Toddler care during 2nd baby's birth

June 2004

We are due to give birth to our second child mid-summer, and have a 2 1/2 yr. old child as well. We have no family in the area, and no friends who are in any position to either drop what they're doing to take care of, or even absorb into their own chaotic situations another toddler.

Luckily we live close to the hospital. We also have neighbors who have a child our daughter's age, who she plays with regularly. Our daughter is familiar and comfortable with their house and with them and their nanny. However, my husband and I are not particularly close with the parents. We are friendly, but not ''pals.'' Would it be out of line to ask them if we could drop off our daughter with them in the event of an ''emergency,'' i.e. if I go into labor early, in the middle of the night, etc., before my mother can arrive from the east coast? If they asked me, I would say absolutely, no problem, and then work it out somehow between myself, our part-time nanny and my husband who is often working at home. If I was particularly busy at work, or my husband was, it would definitely be a hardship, but I don't think I would even consider telling them no. Is it reasonable to expect the same in return? Is there some etiquette about this??

In addition, I am now leaning toward scheduling to be induced at a certain date around my due date, and having my mom plan to be there starting the week before, just to give us the most ''protection'' we can possibly plan for. I'm not thrilled about scheduling a birth - I'd much rather let it happen when it happens, but with our serious dirth of support I'm afraid it may be the only way to go...

We can't afford to pay our nanny for extended care - in fact we are about to drop her days down even further because we cannot afford to use her so much, so it doesn't seem fair or feasible to ask her to be ''available'' - though she has offered to help out in an emergency. (Side question: How do people pay their nannies for overnight help? A flat rate per 24 hours? We certainly couldn't pay hourly around the clock!)

Hiring a doula to assist me so my husband can be with our daughter is not an option - I want him to be with me and we can't afford a doula anyway.

I would love to hear how others have handled this very stressful situation. Any ideas? Thanks! anon

When my 2nd child was due, I was induced for medical reasons. At first I was disappointed because I also thought I wanted it to happen on its own. It turned out to be the best thing. It was so much easier to know exactly when I needed to go into the hospital and be able to take care of my 1st child's needs. It took away almost all of the stress. Although my in-laws just live in Sausalito and could get to my house in 45 minutes, they were constantly going to dinner parties where I knew they would drink too much wine. I was not confident that if an emergency did happen, they would be sober enough to respond. My advice would be to schedule the birth and then you can have your mom on hand to take care of your first. You should probably have back up care in case you have an emergency before an induction date. My bet is that if you asked the parents of your childs friend they would say yes, especially knowing that you will not definitely need them, as you would if you let the birth happen when it wants to. induction turned out to be for the best

I think having your mom there is the only thing that will make you feel comfortable. Its so important for your daughter to feel safe during this time too. We just went thru this...If you don't want to get induced, how about having your mom come ouut 2 weeks before your due date and just hang around till you go into labor. That way, your daughter will be comfortable having her around. Also, I think that discussing the situation with your neighbors is totally appropriate. If they are nice people they will understand your situation and maybe they will agree to be your fact, maybe you should just mention to them how nervous you are and see if they offer. For us, we had lots of friends who offered to let us drop our preschooler off when I went into labor, but I began to feel it was important for him to be able to stay in his own home,own bed while we were away, so we had my mother in law come for 2 weeks prior...its wasn't anyone's first choice, but it worked. And by the time I went into labor my son was very comfortable with her and everything went smoothly. Also, its nice to have someone help you with your older child when you are so big at the very end. Plus, 2nd labors can go a lot faster, so you want to have a plan in place. good luck

I would recommend you try to get to know those neighbors better. They might be happy to keep your child until your mother could get there. That worked for us, we had a few back up plans, which made me feel better. I ended up needing to be induced suddenly, early, and the back up plans worked out. One person stayed until my dad arrived. My dad got exhausted, but he survived. If doing it again, I would plan on somebody to give my dad a break, too. We didn't pay anybody, but left adequate money to eat out or get groceries if needed. There are risks to induction, and I think you are better off making plans for anytime, as there are so many variations that could come up. Sometimes, you have to be brave and ask people that you wouldn't normally ask. Yes, it is nice to offer a trade, if they ever need it. mom of two

I feel your pain! We had our third child last summer (the others were 2 and 4) and I was very concerned about short-term childcare. My first suggestion may not work with your imminent birth but I'll mention it anyway. We're very involved in a babysitting coop (Lamorinda area-but I know Berkeley has one too). We sent out an e-mail asking if anyone would be willing to ''be on call'' for one or more evenings in case we had to rush to the hospital. We would then offer a flat rate to spend the night with our sleeping kids ($50). By morning our family would take over. We had several volunteers which was great! We also asked every close friend and neighbor about their schedules--were they around during the day? eveing? etc. We drew that info on a list along with each friend's address/phone in case my family needed to pick them up somewhere. Lastly, my Dr said ''bring the kids along'' if you are desparate (obviously). I'd hate to impose my kids on busy L & D nurses, but, it's better than delivering at on the highway. I hope this helps! Now is the one time you can really ask for those favors back. Been There, Done That

Hi, I just went through the same thing in January, with my then 2y4mo son. Our families are all 2000 miles away, and we also think that most of our friends have busy lives or wouldn't be comfortable watching our son for a long period of time.

We weren't sure what we were going to do, but a number of people that we didn't really consider close friends at the time or that we thought of as too busy, including our usual babysitter, offered to help out with our son if they could. We talked to a few of the neighbors as backup, just in case we had to move more quickly than we could get our son settled, and everyone was fine, even flattered to be included in our big event. I think it's made us feel closer to the people we let help us -- like extended family, and that's a great thing for us.

I usually go with my gut on asking for help -- if I'd be comfortable being asked for it, I'm comfortable asking for it. If it turns out that they aren't comfortable giving you that level of help, you really haven't lost anything. So many parents with small children around here don't have family close by, that most people understand your predicament and would be more than willing to help. finding local ''family'' where we can

We had a very similar situation around the birth of our second child. Our daughter was slightly older (3), but we had just moved to a new town and had no friends or family in the area. I was very, very stressed out about this. One day a parent from my daughter's preschool asked what we were planning to do when I went into labor and I admitted I wasn't sure. She immediately offered to help and I took her up on it, even though I didn't know her all that well. (I knew her well enough to feel that it was a safe place though.) It turned out fine--I went into labor around 4 am, we dropped my daughter off at 5 AM, and they took her to preschool around 8 am. She did cry for a few minutes after we left (understandably--what a surreal thing to do in the middle of the night!) and they let her watch a video to calm down, which she thought was very very special, since we don't let our children watch videos at 5 AM! To make a long story short, I think it's perfectly acceptable to ask (I've been asked several times and was always delighted to be involved in such an incredible event) and it's a good idea to get your plan set up to put your mind at peace. Remember, too, that sometimes second babies emerge much faster than first ones do, so it's good to have someone close by available. I was quite floored by how quickly my second labor progressed, so it was truly a blessing to have someone within a few blocks who could help. anon

Before my second child was born in January, my biggest concern was that of my older child (he was 27 months when the baby arrived). Like you, we have no family in the area. Our good friends offered to be available to take our older son but they were going out of town around my due date and couldn't be available at the drop of a hat. Friends that we don't feel particularly close to actually offered to help but we were afraid that our son would feel pretty uncomfortable considering the circumstances and not knowing them well. We ended up setting up a safety net of visiting family for a couple of weeks before my due date. It was stressful to have people in and out of our house but it also was very comforting to know they would be there for our son. I ended up going into labor a few days after my in-laws came and everything went very smoothly. My second son was born very quickly (comparatively speaking) and my older child was able to see his new brother just hours after we left for the hospital.

I'm sure you want your child to have the best and most familiar care when youUre having your baby. WouldnUt you hate to be in labor, going off to the hospital and your child is clinging to your leg begging you not to go? I would recommend that you ask your neighbors to help, don't expect them to oblige but they'll probably be happy to help, just as you would for them. And perhaps you can spend some extra money for piece of mind and hire your nanny. Also, perhaps your mother can fly in a week or so previous to your due date to ensure her availability AND to get your older child used to being cared for by her. Lastly, this might sound like overkill but it helped us feel ready--we created a folder including an emergency phone list, immunization and insurance cards, what to do during the day and how to get places, his schedule, the foods he eats, safety considerations, friends to call for playdates. And we also taught the family how to use the car seat, our diapering techniques, how to treat his diaper rashes, etc.

Best of luck to you and congratulations. Amanda

We were in the same situation when our 2nd was born, with no family in the area, and in fact none planning to visit. And while we were friendly with our neighbors, we were not friendly enough that we felt we could ask them for such an enormous favor.

However, if you just start talking about your situation and your worries with your friends at work or living in the area, I think you'll find that someone will step forward and gladly volunteer to watch your child. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and people are happy to help. That's what happened for us and we are eternally grateful! And I didn't have to be induced. it will work out

Together with a friend we watched two young toddlers during the birth of their new sibling and it went very well. The children enjoyed being with our children and the other way round. I wouldn't want to miss any minute of this (even though they were very many minutes with two days and nights labor). And I'll never forget this wonderful and moving experience to see the family reunited with the children meeting the new baby.

So, I'd encourage you to ask your neighbors and their nanny for help. Simply do it in a way that allows them to say no. You may wonder why they didn't offer it yet, but as you say you don't know each other so well yet, and they may simply assume you have already lined up someone else. As you say, you even have a nanny, and they have one too. It's not much more work to watch two children than to watch one, often it's even less work, especially since your child and her friend are already over two and get along well. It may also help your child to be with her friend during this time where none of her parents can be reached, since it's part of her daily routine.

There may come up other childcare emergencies for you as well as for your neighbors in the future, which you can not forsee in any way. Since you seem to trust each other with the children, and the children are used to playing with each other, child care arrangements like this one could work out very conveniently for all of you.

You could further help your neighbors by having a bag packed for you daughter with cloth, her favorite bedtime book, blanket, toys, your picture etc. and some phone numbers in case they need help (your mother, your nanny, the pediatrician, a friend or collegue for backup childcare).

Best wishes for your extending family, Julia