Well baby care
Choosing a child care provider
First, figure out the amount of hours needed to care for your child. Will you need someone to look after him a few hours a day, a couple of times a week, or full-time care for at least 35 to 40 hours a week? Next, review the different kinds of child care available. There are many options parents can choose from.
The family hires either an au pair or a nanny to look after the child in their home.
A young adult takes part in a foreign-exchange program to care for children. In return, he or she receives free housing and food and the opportunity to learn a new culture.
- Having someone in the home is convenient and flexible.
- The au pair provides one-on-one attention to the child.
- Agencies identify the best match and take on paperwork.
- The child learns a new culture or language from the au pair.
- The child remains in a family setting.
- Hosting an au pair can be expensive.
- The au pair stays for a specified amount of time (1-2 years).
- Experience and training in child care vary widely among au pairs.
- The child misses out on socializing with other children.
A nanny provides regular care for a child and can either live with the family or come to the home only when looking after him.
- Parents have greater control over their child's care.
- Having someone available in the home is convenient and flexible.
- Accredited nannies often consider themselves professionals and take the job seriously.
- Some provide light housework (laundry, cleaning up, etc.).
- The child remains in a familiar setting.
- A nanny is often the most expensive option.
- There is no backup for child care if the nanny is sick or unavailable.
- It’s hard to find highly qualified nannies.
- Background checks are often limited to references from past employers.
- Parents must meet federal and state wage and tax-reporting requirements.
Family child care
Informal care is provided in someone else's home. Often, the person also looks after several children in the home.
- The child can play and socialize with other children.
- Family child care is usually the most affordable option.
- The ratio of adults to children is often good.
- Often the caregiver is flexible and will make special arrangements for the family's needs.
- Few providers are formally licensed. Regulations vary from state to state.
- Many homes aren't regularly inspected.
- It’s hard to monitor the quality of care the child receives.
- There is often no substitute if the provider is sick.
Child care centers
A facility, often with many staff, provides out-of-home care for several groups of children.
- The state licenses these facilities.
- Staff are trained and supervised.
- There is more than one caregiver; someone is almost always available.
- It’s fairly easy to obtain background information.
- Centers have structured programs or curricula to help children learn and grow.
- Centers may not be able to meet family needs outside of normal business hours.
- Larger groups of children mean less personalized attention.
- Although centers are licensed, regulations vary, depending on whether they are publicly or privately funded, of if they are religion-based.
- Good centers often have waiting lists.
Key questions to ask
Does the caregiver have formal training or education?
Prior experience in caring for children is essential. But formal education or training, such as a degree or certification in early childhood development, is a bonus. Find out what kind of training or educational background the provider has.
How many children does the provider care for?
While some children do well with less direct supervision, others, especially younger children, need a watchful eye. The table below, from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, outlines what is most appropriate for your child's age.
Birth to 6 weeks: 3 children per adult
6 weeks to 18 months: 4 children per adult
18 months to 36 months: 5 children per adult
3 years: 7 children per adult
4 years: 8 children per adult
5 years: 9 children per adult
Does the caregiver have any health certification?
Ideally, the person watching your baby should be trained to be a first-responder in an emergency situation. Make sure the provider is trained in first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
How safe is the environment?
Safety comes first when caring for children. Be sure the location and all items in it (including toys, dishware, cots, etc.) are clean and in good repair. Ask the provider if there is a fire extinguisher, an emergency exit plan, and a handy contact list for emergency services.
What kind of activities, materials and equipment are provided to children to help them grow and learn?
The early years of a child's life are the most important for brain development. Regular activities that stimulate thinking and problem solving (such as reading or playing games) can prepare your child for school and a love of learning.
For more information
Read Choosing a Child Care Center from the American Academy of Pediatrics.