Course offered for baby sitters

Youths learn how to perform infant-child CPR, basic first aid

Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2005

Seven Juneau girls taking an American Red Cross of Alaska baby-sitting class this week practiced all sorts of skills, from diapering to dislodging a choking object.

A safety trainer's job is to see every possible hazard.

Innocent popcorn snack or puffy kernels of death? Those morsels could be a choking hazard for some ages.

Carlene Bergquist, the Red Cross' local health and safety coordinator, quizzed the girls Wednesday on what activities are safe for what age children.

Finger painting?

"A child under the age of 3 - guaranteed he's going to eat the paint," Bergquist said.

"How about marbles?" she asked Jennifer Nelson, who will be 12 on Saturday.

Pre-schoolers might choke on them, Jennifer said promptly.

Besides picking up a general awareness of safe conditions, the youths will learn enough in the nine-hour course to earn certifying cards in infant-child CPR and basic first aid, if they pass practical and written tests.

The students also receive a baby-sitting handbook, a binder of suggested activities and a first-aid kit.

"Mom said I can't baby-sit until I take a course," Jennifer said.

The complete course, over three days, costs $70. The first two days, without a CPR component, cost $50. The local Red Cross chapter began offering the course this winter. It accepts children ages 11 to 15 generally.

"It really is a lot to learn," Bergquist said during a break. "After I'm done with them, they'll be able to help an infant or child who chokes, stops breathing or goes into cardiopulmonary arrest. They're going to be professional diaper changers."

The youths practiced on realistic-looking mannequins of babies. Bergquist admonished them to treat them as they would a real baby.

The students learned how to hold a choking baby and strike her back, then turn her over and compress her chest.

Will that hurt the baby, a girl asked.

"This baby's going to die if you don't get what's lodged in the throat," Bergquist said.

The youths learned how to check the condition of an unconscious child and make sure he's breathing. Bergquist showed them how to place the sensitive skin of their cheek next to the child's mouth to feel for breaths. She showed them how to open an airway.

"You don't pull the chin down. You tilt the head back," Bergquist told a girl.

If the scenarios seemed scary - a baby can drown in an inch of water - the students didn't show it. They took forestalling death for $2 an hour in their stride.

"I like little kids," said 12-year-old Rachel Sielbach.

"This is good stuff just in case we need it," Stephanie Hinckle, 16, said.

"Now I know I can watch a baby," said Karen Hinckle, 13.

• Eric Fry can be reached at

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