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Child care options for newborns

The first months of your child's life are a special time for bonding with your baby. They're also a time for recovering from your labor and delivery. But eventually maternity leave comes to an end, and you have to go back to work. While you're providing for your family, you need someone responsible to look after your new baby.

There are several different types of child care to choose from. And lots of questions to ask about each one. To help you get started on your search, we'll walk you through your options and the considerations you'll need to take into account.

Three kinds of child care

There are three basic types of child care:

  • In-home care, where a caregiver comes to your home to look after your baby.
  • Family child care, where caregivers take care of your baby in their homes.
  • Center-based care, where your baby is cared for at a central location with other children.

In-home care

Hiring a nanny to care for your baby in the home may be the most convenient option. But it's also likely to be the most expensive.

If you hire an in-home caregiver, make sure expectations are clear. Tell them whether or not it's OK to take the baby for an outing or if other people are allowed in the house.

Set up an interview with the person at your home. Some questions you might want to ask:

  • What experience and training do you have?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Do you have training in first aid and CPR?
  • Are you willing to provide a daily report of my baby's day?

Watch how the interviewee interacts with your baby and any other children you have. Call the agency that licenses them and ask about any complaints. Ask for at least three references from other parents who have used the caregiver in the past.

You'll also need a backup plan for any days that the nanny is sick or otherwise can't make it to your house.

Family child care

Some caregivers work out of their own house, often watching other people's children as well as their own. It may not be as convenient for you as having a nanny, but it's less expensive and usually easier to find.

Some information you may want to know about a family day care provider:

  • What are the caregiver's experience and qualifications?
  • Do they offer written policies and guidelines?
  • Are they licensed and registered with the state?
  • What's the condition of the caregiver's home?
  • Does the caregiver know CPR and basic first aid?
  • Are there other adults, children or teens in the home besides the caregiver? What are their backgrounds, and how might they be involved in the care of your baby? (For example, would they ever be called on to drive children anywhere?)
  • Does the caregiver welcome parent visits during normal operating hours?
  • What is their policy on children who are ill?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a day care business have no more than six children per adult caregiver (including the caregiver's own children), and no more than two of those children should be younger than 2 years old. But that might be stricter than your state's regulations.

Again, if there is only one adult on the premises, you'll need a backup plan if that person is sick or can't provide care some days.

Center-based care

Some child care centers are nonprofit, sponsored by churches, employers or schools. Head Start is an example of a nonprofit center. Other centers are for-profit and independently owned.

Any child care center should be licensed and regularly inspected for health, safety, cleanliness and staffing. And like family child care, child care centers should offer written policies and safety guidelines.

Here's some information you'll want to find out about a child care center:

  • Is the center clean, safe and well-equipped?
  • Do the caregivers give the children lots of loving attention?
  • Do the children at the center seem happy and well cared for?
  • What's the staff turnover rate?
  • Does the center have written plans in case of a medical emergency?
  • Does the center serve children nutritious food and snacks?

Additional help to make your choice

For more tools and resources to help you choose a good child care provider, visit Child Care Aware.

More pregnancy news Do you already have children? Get them ready for their new brother or sister by talking about your pregnancy. Follow these tips to help them make a healthy transition into their role as an older sibling.

Additional source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Reviewed 2/2/2022

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