Figuring out childcare for your baby is tricky business! Choosing the right person or place for your baby to spend their days is not a decision to take lightly.
What are the signs of a good daycare center? What should I look for in a nanny? How do I know it will be a good fit?
Whether you’re an expecting mama figuring out when and how to navigate these waters, or the mama of a baby who needs childcare, I’ve got you covered!
Today we’ll talk about:
Maybe you’re already leaning towards a nanny or a daycare. Maybe you aren’t even sure what childcare option is the best for you yet. Whatever the case may be, after today you’ll know exactly what to look for.
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Typically, if you decide to hire a nanny, the chosen person will come to your home every day (or part-time) to care for your child. You will provide a routine for the nanny to follow. You may also suggest weekly events to help socialize your baby.
Weekly hours and rates are agreed upon ahead of time, and you should outline expectations, sick time and vacation time too.
What to be aware of with Nanny care
A Daycare Center is a public or privately-run facility. Most are licensed and undergo regular inspections to ensure quality, safety, and compliance with regulations.
Teachers generally have certifications in early childhood education and are held to a standard by the center and director. They typically offer a formal and structured environment.
What to be aware of with Daycare Centers:
Home Daycares may or may not be licensed by the state, but if you go this route, I highly advise choosing one with a state license. Home Daycare owners may or may not have specialized training or certificates in early childhood education, so this is something to investigate. Some states require a certificate to run a licensed home day care.
Because individuals are running these out of their homes, there is a wide range of normal. Some are fabulous, and others are sub-par. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use one but be sure to do a thorough visit. Ask many questions before committing.
What to be aware of with Home Daycares:
Having a relative or friend watch your baby can be a great option for families who live close to relatives or have a trusted friend. The care can be flexible, can take place in your home or theirs, and would involve less of a “leap of faith” than other options.
What to be aware of before utilizing relatives for childcare:
When to find a daycare or a nanny during pregnancy?
If you are an expecting mama, I’m glad you’re here. While looking for childcare during your maternity leave is doable if you have to, doing it ahead of time is definitely the way to go. This is a huge decision and something that you want to have time to really research and think on.
You’ll also probably be surprised by the length of waiting lists for popular daycares. It can also be challenging to find a wonderful nanny that is a great fit for your family.
If you think a daycare is the best route for you, you should start researching and getting on wait-lists for different daycare centers as soon as you enter the second trimester. Some of this will depend on where you live, but in many towns and cities, waitlists can be 9-12 months long!
That early on, don’t think of it as a commitment. Do some research online, make phone calls and get on waitlists at places you like. By your third trimester, you want to have your short list. This is when you’ll do visits to centers that you are on the waitlists for.
Looking for support with this endeavor?
You’ll want to make sure to keep all your daycare choices and contact info organized along the way. When it comes time to do visits, you should go prepared with questions and checklists to help inform your decision. In addition to the guide below, you can find worksheets, checklists and questionnaires to help with this task in our Nesting Planner.
When to start looking into Nanny choices
Finding the right nanny for your family is going to take some time, and you’ll want to interview several candidates before making a decision. However, you shouldn’t start too early, because nannies won’t necessarily be able to make a commitment that far in advance. There also aren’t the waitlists involved like with a daycare.
For those reasons, you want to start putting out feelers, browsing nanny ads, and possibly creating your own ad during your third trimester. Below, I recommend some of the top sites for finding nanny.
Is the idea of returning to work already getting you down?
Read about how I was able to stay home with my baby by teaching online.
If you think that a daycare is the best route for you, it’s important to start researching and making phone calls right away. You’ll want to figure out what hours of care you are looking for and exactly when you’d like your baby to begin attending.
Some daycares follow a school schedule and only enroll in September, but most have a ‘revolving door’ of enrollment as children grow and age out of the facility, become walkers, switch to one nap, etc. This all has to do with state regulations on child to caregiver ratios.
What is the difference between a daycare center and home daycare?
A daycare center is a free-standing, licensed facility that provides day care to infants, babies and toddlers. It usually involves a group of caregivers who are overseen by a center director.
A home daycare is run out of an individual’s home where they provide childcare to infants, babies and toddlers. Home daycares may or may not be licensed, so be sure to check that they are if you go this route.
Both licensed home daycares and daycare centers will have strict limits on how many infants they can care for, how many non-mobile babies, how many walking toddlers, etc. This ensures safety and quality of care for your little one. Therefore, getting on wait lists ASAP is so important.
While you should consider location, price and general impression, don’t let these factors blind you to possible red flags. Richard Fiene is a PhD and Associate Professor of human development and family studies at Penn State University. He compiled over 40 years of research into a list of 13 Indicators of a Quality Day Care Center.
Some key components of the list include:
You can find organized printable worksheets for completing these tours, staying organized and a more complete list of questions here.
Questions to ask specific to infant care should include questions about:
Because there is not federal legislation regulating the licensure of daycares, you will need to do research specific to your state. However, there are some associations that provide accreditation to daycare centers.
Here are two great resources to start your search
Choosing a nanny is an exciting but potentially time-consuming task. Not only do you need to find someone with excellent qualifications and references, but you also need to make sure that you connect with them well.
You want someone who is qualified and a perfect fit for your family
Your nanny will be spending a lot of time at your home and will almost become a ‘part of the family’ so to speak. Of course, you’ll want to be careful to keep the relationship professional, but this person will be someone your child knows, loves and trusts.
I worked as a nanny for many years and am still in touch with many families who I nannied for. We had open lines of communication and trust. Because of this we built long-lasting relationships.
You will be building a unique relationship with this individual, so it is imperative to be selective and wait for the perfect match.
Do they have experience with newborns?
If you are beginning your search for a nanny before you give birth, you want to have a good idea of the date range for when the position will begin. For newborn care, you’ll want to ensure that they have experience in this realm and ask for references to check on this.
The possible exception here would be if the nanny has baby experience, and you would be willing to have them shadow you for a few weeks leading up to being alone with your infant. This will help them learn newborn care and build your confidence and trust. This would be a personal choice.
Are they comfortable with handling expressed milk? Or willing to learn?
If you plan to breastfeed, or even if you’re unsure of what feeding route you’ll take, ask about their comfort and knowledge of handling expressed milk, pace-bottle feeding, and feeding on demand.
What is their experience regarding baby sleep?
You’ll also want to find out specific experience with helping babies sleep. Be explicit about your wants and wishes surrounding your baby’s sleep.
If you aren’t sure where you stand on this matter as an expecting mom, ask lots of questions about their philosophies or experiences with other families.
Emphasize that you are looking for a nanny with willingness to adhere to your wishes.
There are several ways to find the perfect nanny for your family. I mentioned above that I spent a number of years nannying both part and full-time. I found amazing families from a variety of different resources. For this reason, I encourage you to try out a few options to find the best candidate.
Here’s a list of questions to get you started:
Looking for support with this endeavor?
You’ll want to make sure to keep all your nanny candidates, their references and interview answers organized. This will make comparing candidates and ultimately deciding a breeze.
You can find printable planning sheets that include the questions above as well as additional support with this task in our Nesting Planner.
Are you feeling ready to begin your search? Finding childcare for your baby is an important part of nesting.
Remember, if you think daycare is the right choice for you it is important to start researching and getting on waitlists immediately! If you are leaning towards a nanny, the third trimester is a great time to get started on your search.
Are you already feeling behind on the baby preparations?
Don’t fret! Enroll in our FREE Nest Smart Crash Course today. It’s a seven-day e-mail course that will have you completely prepared for baby in no time.