While relinquishing any child to daycare is painful when you have to trudge off to work, handing an infant over to the care of strangers can seem particularly hard. The key to making this transition easier on both you and your infant is to make sure that your daycare providers are NOT strangers. A variety of daycare options exist that can take place either inside your own home or in a dedicated facility. If you inspect external premises, then interviewing staff members, touring the facilities, observing the routines and even sitting in with your infant for a “test run” will allow you to thoroughly research your options and ultimately feel comfortable and safe with your decision.
Daycare Options for Infants
Perhaps more so than ever before, a variety of options exist for infants in need of daycare. The three most common options include:
NurseriesDay nurseries will usually care for children from the age of six weeks up until the end of primary school in an established facility. Many nurseries have established infant areas, and most staff hold a qualification in childcare. Make sure that any nursery you visit is registered with the Office for Standards in Education. ChildmindersChildminders are professional carers who look after infants and children in their own home. Government laws require that childminders may only care for three children under the age of five at any one time, and require that they complete basic first aid courses. All reputable childminders will be registered with the Office for Standards in Education. NanniesNannies are carers who will look after your infant in your own home. Nannies are not required to register with any government office nor must they hold formal qualifications. However, most nannies are naturals with and enjoy infants and children, and may be a member of your local community.
In House Caring
If you are intent on finding a childminder or nanny to care for your infant, interviewing prospective carers is imperative. Have a chat with potential carers to determine:
- Their experiences and childcare history.
- Their qualifications.
- Why they decided to become childminders or nannies.
- If they are registered with a government agency.
- How they deal with infants who cry persistently.
- What types of activities they regularly engage in with infants.
- If they usually take infants outdoors or on field trips.
- If they are experienced in first aid and lifesaving.
- If they have experience with infants who have a medical condition or allergy.
- If they have references that you can follow up with.
Considering External Facilities
If your infant will be cared for in your own home, then half the burden of finding appropriate daycare – finding a safe, secure, healthy and nurturing environment – is already done for you. But if you are considering external facilities, then touring each site under consideration is vital. During your visit:
- Consider your welcome. Were you and your infant made to feel welcome?
- Observe staff and infant interactions. Are staff speaking soothingly to the infants?
- Ask yourself if the environment is clean, bright and suitable for the number of people inside.
- Note if infants are left in cribs or other equipment for long periods of time.
- Consider whether or not the ratio of staff to infants seems adequate.
- Determine whether crying infants are left in the same room as napping infants, or if there are other areas to which they will be moved.
- Ask if the older children are allowed into the infant area.
- Observe if it seems as though all required healthy and safety practices are being followed.
- Note if there are enough cribs, changing tables, rockers, etc. to go around.
- Voice any concerns about the establishment being able to cater to any medical, allergy or diet requirements your child might have.
- Inquire about the facility’s policies on sick children and staff members.
- Request information on the staff’s backgrounds and qualifications.
- Bring your infant in for a visit and short test run. Observe his/her behaviour while on the premises.
- Trust your gut reaction. If you feel uncomfortable, chances are your infant will too.
Choosing infant daycare is a nerve wracking yet highly important decision. Take your time and explore all of the options that you can afford, including options run by the government, the local community, and by for profit enterprises. Finding the right fit now can save endless amounts of tears later, and when it comes to an infant, that in itself is worth its weight in gold!