When maternity leave is over, heading back into the work world can be tough on a new parent.
One thing that makes it easier is knowing that you have reliable and trusted childcare lined up for your infant. With so many different types of infant care available, it’s important to do your research and find the option that’s best for your family.
Group Day Care
For their cost, open hours and reputation, a day–care center is often a great option for working parents. “My husband and I both work out of town in opposite directions, so it was important that [our day care] was in our town and open late,” says Indianapolis mom Ashley Mann. “Finding a space with availability for an infant was quite difficult.”
With a reliable schedule, other perks of a group day care are that kids get to socialize with others their age under the care of trained childcare workers. Most centers won’t care for a child who is ill, though, and parents must adhere to the center’s drop-off/pick-up schedule even if work runs late.
In-home Day Care
With a reputation for nurturing atmospheres, in-home day cares can be the right option for some families. “We considered convenience and location, but price was the biggest factor,” says Andrea Baker, an Indy-area working mom with three kids. “Plus, one baby with several older kids verses four babies and one provider seemed like better odds.” She also thought her newborn would have slightly less exposure to illness than with a day–care center. One consideration is that an in-home provider may need to call in sick if they are ill or their own family has an emergency, or they may close the center during vacations, so having a backup option is key.
Perhaps the most convenient infant childcare option is to have a nanny come and care for the child in your own home. With plenty of personalized attention, children are in their familiar surroundings and parents don’t have to worry about drop-off or pick-up. But this convenience comes with a cost — perhaps the heftiest of all childcare options. With a few children at home, though, it may make financial sense. Some friends may go in together and share a nanny for multiple kids. And if the nanny gets sick or decides to move on from the role, a family could find themselves suddenly without a backup plan.
If relatives live in town, an inexpensive childcare option is to ask a grandparent or other family member to pitch in. Camille Singh of Indianapolis has her mom watch her two daughters in her home. “I trust my mother completely and we have lots of family close by to help in emergencies,” she says. “It saves so much time when I already have a lengthy commute.” As an added benefit, Singh’s mother benefits from the companionship of being with her grandkids. For families who enter this arrangement, communication is key to avoid sticky situations or hurt feelings if the arrangement doesn’t work out. This could be full-time or part-time and with or without pay.
How to Find Childcare
Ask other parents for infant childcare recommendations, and you’ll be surprised at how eager they are to share their experiences — good and bad. Hit up other parents at the playground, talk to your child’s doctor, or survey your online contacts. A nanny agency can help you find an infant caregiver who is qualified and has already had a background check.
If you do search online, get names of day cares that are licensed in your state at in.gov/fssa/childcarefinder.
When to Start Looking
It’s never too early to get on the waiting list for a good group day–care center. Those that accept infants are in high demand, so start looking when you’re in your second trimester —
especially if you live in a big city like Indianapolis. To hire a nanny or find a spot at a good in-home day care, you’ll want to start looking at least two months before you plan to return to work. And if you are going with a relative, ask them to watch your baby while you are still on maternity leave, to help you work out any kinks in the new arrangement.
Questions for Day Care Providers
- Are you licensed?
- What are your rates (including late fees or cancellation fees)?
- Are you open in inclement weather?
- How long after my child is sick can we return?
- What is the caregiver-to-child ratio?
- What does a typical day look like for my child?
- Where do kids nap?
- What are your policies on screen time?
- Are food and drink provided?
- How is discipline handled?
- How do you communicate with parents?
- Do you administer medication?
- Are children supervised at all times?
- What is security like in your center?
- Are you trained in first aid?
Additional Questions for a Nanny or Relative
- Do you have reliable transportation?
- What about inclement weather?
- Can you stay late if work runs over?
- Do you have any health problems?
- Do you smoke?
- What are your future plans?
- Do you have your own children?