It would be better for infants to be looked after by the caregiver in the caregiver's home rather than in an institutionalised setting, as this decreases the frequency of cross-infection by sick infants in childcare centres (Scheme to draw housewives, grandmas to infant care sector; March 9).
In infant care centres, there are usually five infants grouped together in an air-conditioned room, leading to the circulation of pathogens among all the infants, should any of them fall sick.
Comparatively, babysitters look after one or, at most, two infants in HDB flats, with natural open ventilation.
In my experience, infants looked after by babysitters at home seldom fall ill, and if they do, they recover quickly, without the need for antibiotics.
On the other hand, those cared for in institutions fall sick frequently, take longer to recover and require antibiotics.
Increased use of antibiotics will, in turn, lead to increasing antibiotic resistance in the community as a whole.
Besides this, infants who are frequently sick will also not be able to grow well.
As most housewives and grandmothers have had experience bringing up their own children, and are already experienced cooks, simple courses to educate them on the latest developments in infant nutrition and hygiene can be run by community centres.
They should be allowed to tap their SkillsFuture credits for these courses.
At the same time, these caregivers can register in a database with the residents' committees or community centres so that they can be matched with parents looking for babysitters.
Government subsidies for infant care or childcare should be made transferrable to them.
Parents who feel that babysitters may not be adequate in mentally stimulating their child can supply the babysitter with educational toys, colourful charts and baby music CDs.
Anne Chong Su Yan (Dr)