Going back to work is tough – whether you want to go back or not. Leaving your baby is no easy thing, and I don’t think anyone would tell you otherwise (if they do, they are wrong and not to be trusted). Add to the fact that, in a lot of cases, you’re leaving your baby with a stranger, it can seem unbearably difficult. So how do you go about choosing a daycare provider?
When we first found out that we were expecting Little Man I was overwhelmed by lists; lists of all of the things we needed to do, buy, and people we needed to see. The hardest item on the myriad of lists, for me, was choosing a daycare provider. Knowing that I was going to need to pick someone to watch my baby while I was forced to return to work was dreadful. We knew that he would go to daycare and that we wouldn’t have someone come to our home, but we had no idea what else we wanted.
What to look for when choosing a daycare provider:
We researched the available options in the locations we preferred, either close to home or close to work.
We asked for opinions from people we knew whose children were in daycare in the general areas we were looking.
Generally speaking, centers are more expensive than in-home daycare centers.
This is another generalization, but we found that often times the centers wanted you to save a spot for infants pretty early in pregnancy. In-home centers, however, usually wouldn’t hold a spot until closer to the time when the child needed to enter into care. Both of their reasons were valid: centers’ spots are competitive and they know they will have infants who are graduating to older “classes.” They want to ensure those spots are filled. In-home facilities need to keep their ratios in line with regulations and they can’t afford to have spots left open. Most can’t afford to“hold spots” if it means potentially forfeiting income for weeks or more.
Is there a plan in place for when the provider is unavailable? In a center they would have a substitute fill in most of the time. For us, we found an in-home provider who was part of a larger network that offered backup care. This means that if she is on vacation, we can leave Little Man with another provider in that network. If she was not part of that, then we would likely need to plan our vacation time at the same time because he would not have anywhere to go.
Do they require the children to stay up to date with vaccines?
When choosing a daycare we looked at ratios. Do they adhere strictly to state requirements or do they typically try to keep their numbers even lower? Our provider has a higher provider to child ratio than the state required because she is part of a back-up care program and has to be within state ratios when other children come to her home. These ratios imposed are supposed to be reasonable enough that the children are all able to receive proper care.
Do they hold state licensing?
How do they communicate with parents? Some of the places we looked at provided parents with a piece of paper informing them of how their child did throughout the day, others would send periodic text messages to the parents. Some had a warm, engaging attitude towards the parents whereas others were more formal in their exchanges.
How do the children behave with the provider?
If we had parenting preferences, we asked how the provider would handle those things. For example, if you want to sleep train using the cry-it-out method you may want to ask the provider if they’re comfortable letting your baby cry at nap time. Or if you plan to use cloth diapers you would want to confirm your provider is willing to use them.
Choosing a Daycare Provider looks different for each family. What works for you?
At the end of the day, different things work for different families and its important to find the right fit for you and your family. Its not easy, but if you feel comfortable with your choice it makes things a whole lot easier. And this is coming from someone who adamantly did not want to leave her baby with anyone, much less a stranger. But as much as I ache for the days when I was his number one lady, it sure does ease this momma’s heart to see his face light up when he sees his provider.