Choosing the right childcare option for your new baby

by Kaiser Permanente |
2 infants playing with alphabet blocks at day care.

If you’re like many parents-to-be, you’re thinking about your childcare options. Many people choose to send their kids to childcare centers so they can return to work and other responsibilities. There are other options as well. Here are several things you should consider.

How much support will you need?

Will you need to send your baby to a childcare center for the entire day, or just part of the day? Some centers require you to leave your child for a minimum number of hours each day.

What are the hours and fees?

You’ll need to ask about when the center is open and how much it will cost to enroll your child. You’ll want to learn about how holidays and vacations are scheduled. Also, be sure to ask about the center’s policies and fees if a parent is running late and can’t get there by the agreed-upon time or by closing.

How many staff members are there?

Whatever childcare center you choose, it needs to have enough staff members to care for the children. Does the center you’re considering have a good child-to-staff ratio? Are kids cared for in small groups? What happens if staff members are on vacation?

What are the staff member’s qualifications?

It’s a good idea to know what additional training staff members have completed. Is the staff licensed or certified in childcare? Are any of them qualified healthcare professionals? Are they certified in CPR for infants and young children? Do they have any outstanding violations? Is the center accredited or in the process of obtaining an accreditation?

How will the center communicate with you?

How often will you hear from the childcare center each day? If something happens, how will they contact you? Does the staff seem open to phone calls or emails from you if you have questions or concerns?

What’s the discipline policy?

This mostly applies to older children, but does the center have the same discipline policy as your family? If not, what types of discipline do they use?

What about transportation?

If the center transports children, do they use proper car seats or boosters? Are seat belts used for older children?

What’s the visiting policy?

After your child is enrolled, are you free to stop by anytime? Are visitors screened or have their identification checked?

What about references?

Can the center provide you with references from other parents?

Will your child get sick attending childcare?

Children are more likely to get sick when they are frequently with other children. Getting the recommended vaccines on schedule can help prevent many illnesses that children might otherwise be exposed to in a childcare setting.

You should also ask about the hygiene practices at the center you are considering. What is their regular cleaning routine? What are their policies about sick children? What do they do if a child becomes ill during the day?

What about other care options?

There are many options when it comes to childcare, and you may find that you prefer using a combination of them.

Some people prefer to enlist the help of a family member or trusted friend while they’re at work, while others hire a nanny.

Nonprofit centers and organizations, such as places of worship and community centers, often offer drop-in childcare programs for their members, and these can provide helpful and affordable alternatives to traditional group daycare. Some workplaces also offer on-site childcare for their employees.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.