One of the things that many new moms need to start thinking about BEFORE their baby is even born is….WHO is going to watch my baby when I return to work. If this is your first baby the task is even more daunting. You don’t even know what to look for or what questions to ask. What are some things to consider before putting your baby in daycare?
After working with hundreds of families in this exact situation here are some guidelines and my thoughts on how to choose the best possible daycare situation for your family. This post is my personal opinion based on my experience. It is not meant to shame or heap mom guilt on anyone for whatever daycare situation they choose. I am aware that we all have different financial situations and circumstances that dictate what our options are. Returning to work and leaving your baby in the hands of another caregiver can be emotionally heart wrenching for many moms. I’m here to support you in making this transition as easy as it can be as you navigate this huge change in your life and your baby’s.
Some Things to Consider Before Putting Your Baby in Daycare
Choice #1– Hire a Nanny
The families I see that are the happiest with their caregiver situation are the families that can hire a nanny for the first year or beyond. Obviously budget is a consideration and not all families can afford a nanny. However, many times you can find a nanny for less than a commercial daycare. Even if you can do this for the first year, I would highly recommend it. There are many reasons why this is a highly preferable situation for a young baby.
- First off, your baby won’t be catching one virus after another. Young babies in daycare are constantly sick. And when I say constantly I mean CONSTANTLY! They are sick more than they are well and this drastically affects sleep as well as everyone’s overall quality of life.
- When you hire a nanny your baby gets to stay in the comfort of his own surroundings and there is no need to wake your baby earlier than necessary to get out the door to daycare. This makes for a much less stressful day-to-day life, both for the morning and the evening.
- Your nanny can also help with baby laundry and household tasks, giving baby a bath, prepping and washing bottles, washing pump parts, etc. These things can take a huge burden off of a working mom.
- And most importantly, baby’s naps can stay consistent and he/she can maintain a good routine and nap schedule and be rested when mom and dad return home for some quality family time. The nanny can maintain high-quality care because she only has one baby or possibly a baby and siblings to take care of. This makes for an easy transition if mom has to return to work. Less stress for mom makes everyones life better.
Choice #2– In-Home Daycare
The second best situation is an in-home daycare. This can also work REALLY well because the home environment makes for a situation that babies usually do well in. Here are some things that also make this preferable.
- Your baby is generally tended to in a more timely manner at an in-home environment. The caregiver is typically happy to maintain the routine, sleep preferences and nap schedule that mom prefers.
- Most at-home daycares will put babies in separate sleeping rooms during nap time. Also, they are much more likely to be willing to set up an environment that is conducive to sleep. Dark room, white noise, swaddle/sleep sack, etc. unlike a commercial daycare that won’t even swaddle a young baby to due regulations of “nothing in the crib”.
- In an at-home daycare you usually form a close relationship with your baby’s caregiver. I just find that they are generally open and adaptable to your preferences for your baby. It is also a home environment which IMO just feels better overall, and I find babies usually adapt pretty easily.
- It’s also less expensive than a nanny.
Choice #3- Commercial Daycare
The last and my least favorite option is Commercial Daycare. Many parents naturally gravitate towards a commercial daycare as they think it seems the easiest. However, this is my LEAST favorite option for a variety of reasons.
- First off your baby may be chronically sick, which can become very difficult for parents and babies. Sick babies don’t sleep well as a general rule. This means that you will be up at night far more than you want to be tending to a baby that doesn’t feel well. This can become a huge drain on parents.
- Many daycare workers do their best, but there are generally lots of babies to care for. They are often just trying to keep everyone fed, changed, and happy. Many times they are not as likely to follow your baby’s routine. This becomes problematic quickly as your baby doesn’t have the consistency that he/she needs.
- Typically babies are sleeping and playing in the same room with all the lights on. So you can imagine that babies don’t get a fraction of the sleep that they actually need during the day. They go home exhausted and overstimulated. This doesn’t make for a great evening enjoying the baby that you missed all day! Most parents want to spend some quality time with their baby at the end of the day but daycare babies are typically so exhausted that they can barely make it to the bedtime feed before passing out.
- Sleep sacks, swaddles, white noise, and the like are generally not allowed and this makes sleep even MORE difficult.
- Babies can have a hard time transitioning to the environment of a commercial daycare center. The bright lights, noise, and lack of a peaceful place to sleep can become too much for a young baby to handle. Especially if your baby is a more sensitive or higher need baby.
So I hope that this gives you some food for thought and some things to consider before putting your baby in daycare. Especially if you’re a new mom who has never navigated the world of finding a caregiver for your baby before. It can feel daunting! Many times a caregiver is found through referrals. So posting in local moms groups or your local neighborhood Facebook group can be a GREAT way to find a quality caregiver for your baby. Care.com is also a great resource as well. Just make sure you ALWAYS do a background check and check references.
One last thing to think about
Regardless of WHO you choose to watch your sweet baby make sure that you have a reliable way to communicate about your baby’s day. Feeds, naps, diaper changes, etc. I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve asked moms to provide me with their baby’s log from daycare only to find out that there is NO log. Mom, you have the right to know the details of your baby’s day. You will also need to know so you can adjust baby’s bedtime once you get home based on his/her sleep for that day.
A baby 12 months or younger will need their bedtime adjusted based on total sleep for the day as well as when their last nap ended at daycare. If you have a baby 8 months or under and can have them take their catnap at home, or on the way home in the car, this can be helpful as baby is now more likely to be rested and happy and you can get in some good quality time in the evening.
So here’s the thing….It is IMPERATIVE that you have a detailed way to communicate with your baby’s caregiver. You should know EXACTLY how your baby’s day went, what time they ate, how much they ate, what times they went down, what times they woke up, and where they slept. You need to actually see the space where your baby is sleeping at daycare whether commercial or in-home. I would suggest providing a log book to the caregiver so they can provide all the details that you want. Or if you’d prefer you can also use an app and give your caregiver the login.
Whatever your preference, this is YOUR baby, so DO NOT be afraid to state your preferences. Then follow up to make sure they’re being followed. Setting your baby up for daycare success is your job. So, don’t ever feel like you’re being a bother or asking too many questions. Don’t just assume because this person’s job is “taking care of babies” that they are going to know what YOU want for YOUR baby.
And don’t be afraid to find another caregiver if the one you originally hired just isn’t a good fit. While I know it’s a HUGE hassle to go through this process AGAIN, it’s worth it to find someone who is truly a right fit for your family and that you feel at peace about. There is nothing wrong with this and sometimes it can take a few tries to find someone that you love!
I hope that this was helpful, and that you feel more empowered and confident in finding the perfect caregiver for your baby. If I can offer any help or answer any question’s don’t hesitate to reach out!