Nannies often seem invincible — they care for kids from dawn until dusk, help manage a household, and give parents the freedom to go to work each day knowing their children are in good hands. But no matter how dependable your nanny is, at some point you’ll be faced with a sick sitter, and chances are, it will happen when you and your partner absolutely cannot take time off. You need reinforcements, and the best way to ensure you’re prepared for the inevitable is by building a network of sitters who can provide back-up care in pinch. Here’s how to do it.

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Plan ahead. The time to think about back-up childcare is before you need it — not when you need it. As you go through the process of interviewing nannies, you also should begin to formulate a back-up care plan. Start by including a sick time policy in your nanny contract and discuss it with job candidates so expectations about how illness will be handled are clear. Ask potential nannies how they’ve managed sick days in the past — have they been able to adhere to a sick time policy; do they quickly alert their employers; can they offer recommendations for a temporary replacement? When you do hire a nanny, request that she contact you as soon as she knows she’ll be absent so you have time to tap into your back-up sitter network.

Swap back-up nanny care with a neighbor. Similar to a temporary nanny share, a back-up nanny swap can be set up with a family who lives nearby. If one family’s nanny calls in sick, the other nanny will care for those children in addition to her usual charges and vice versa. Work out the details before you need to put this plan into action to avoid last minute questions and confusion — determine how much extra pay the nanny will receive and drop off and pick up times, and provide special instructions and any other information that will make the change in routine as easy and seamless as possible.

Post a job for back-up sitters. Use Sittercity to find local sitters who are available to provide back-up care. Post a job and interview candidates who can be added to a list of sitters with availability during the day and on short notice. Find strength in numbers by recruiting other families in need of childcare coverage to help you interview and determine a pool of sitters who can be relied on as options for back-up care.

Discuss availability with other sitters you use regularly. As you hire sitters for evenings or weekends, ask them about their availability during the day and if they’re interested in being included on your list of potential back-up sitters. A benefit to using these sitters: Your kids will already be comfortable with them.

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Use an on-demand service. These days, it seems like on-demand services can get you almost anything you need in moments — and babysitting is no different. If you’re in New York, Boston, Chicago or Washington, D.C., Chime lets you book a sitter on the fly — making it a great option if your nanny is sick and your regular back-up sitters aren’t available. Chime babysitters are vetted prior to being included in the service, so you can be sure your child will be well-cared for. You may even find a sitter you want to keep on your permanent back-up list.

Make your list. Your back-up nanny network should include three to five reliable sitters who have been vetted and have flexible availability. Keep the list electronically in your phone and as a hard copy in a place other adults in the household can access it. The advance planning might feel like unnecessary work, but you’ll be relieved you have options when you find yourself without your regular caregiver and in need of coverage.

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