Pregnancy, Tips & Trends

What You Need to Know About Selecting Childcare

If you’ve already made the decision to go back to work when your maternity leave has ended, I’m sure you still have a lot of questions about the next steps in finding childcare. Luckily, Julie McCaffrey, baby planner extraordinaire, is here to hold your hand through all the hard parts. She has some really insightful tips to consider when making your decision. We’ll let her take it from here!

Just deciding to return to work at the end of your maternity leave can feel like the biggest hurdle you are going to face, but deciding who is going to care for your child is also a momentous decision. Once you return to work you want to ensure that your child is in the best scenario possible for him and your family and that you are 100% comfortable with your child’s caregiver. The first big decision to make is whether to hire a nanny or send your child to a daycare center. There are pros and cons to each, but you will need to decide based on your family’s unique needs including your travel schedule, budget and overall personal preference.


Hiring a Nanny. A nanny can be a very convenient option because you don’t need to leave the house each day with a bag packed full of diapers and bottles. A nanny can also provide the option for more flexibility with your schedule and one-on-one time with your child. However, a nanny for one child can be expensive and working parents often feel stranded when a nanny calls in sick or suddenly isn’t working out. 

Tip: If your budget allows, hire your nanny through a qualified nanny agency as they provide a thorough background check, prescreen candidates and many offer a guarantee for a trial period.

Beyond the standard interview questions you may ask a potential nanny, below is a list of sample questions to ask to ensure all your needs are met from a potential candidate:

  1. Are you willing to run errands and/or do light housework for our family?
  2. Are you comfortable caring for our child if he is sick?
  3. What are your sleeping and feeding philosophies?
  4. Are you comfortable caring for children when we are in the home?
  5. Are you willing to occasionally work outside of scheduled hours?

20150713-ProjectNursery_0139image by Charlie Juliet Photography

Before you bring a nanny into your home here are three things to get ready to ensure your peace of mind:

  1. If you want your nanny to be able to drive your little one to reading hour at the library he/she will need a car. Do you need to get an extra car; are you willing to let her take your child in her car; or can you take public transportation and allow the nanny to use your car? If you plan on her driving your car, you will also need to ensure she is covered by your insurance plan.
  2. Establish a set of ground rules and instructions for your home (beyond baby care) and an emergency plan for your nanny. Think of things like your preference for the nanny’s personal cell phone use and taking pictures of your little one, how to handle phone calls to the house as well as visitors, how to operate all household items and even how to handle a power outage.
  3. Have all important numbers (your work and cell, pediatrician, a family member or neighbor, poison control and the local police) in an easy to find place.

Selecting a daycare. Daycare can be a great option for many children thanks to the socialization and enrichment it can offer. These centers are also great places to meet other working families that are in similar situations and many parents are comforted by the constant checks and balances system. However, daycare is going to offer your child less one-on-one adult time and (likely) more germs from exposure to other children.

Tip: If you choose daycare, ensure you start researching centers ASAP. The best daycare centers often have very long waitlists.

Below is a list of sample questions to ask your potential daycare provider as you tour their facility:

  1. Does your fee include formula and/or solid foods?
  2. What type of training is your staff required to have? What type of certifications does the center have? When were you last certified by the state?
  3. Are you comfortable with an excessively crying or fussy baby? How have you handled separation anxiety?
  4. What are your policies when a child becomes sick?
  5. What are your sleeping and feeding philosophies?
  6. What type of educational instruction and enrichment opportunities do you offer for the children?
  7. How do you best communicate and connect with parents? (email, journal, phone calls, one-on-one)
  8. Is there an option to occasionally choose early drop-off or late pick-up?

Before you start dropping your little one at a daycare center each day there are a few things you can do to make it all a little easier:

  1. Purchase a second diaper bag that will be used for all your child’s items that need to go back and forth to daycare each day. Purchase an extra pacifier, lovey, diapers and outfit to keep in that bag as extra backup.
  2. Purchase a set of dishwasher safe and machine washable labels. Spend a night labeling all the items that will be going to daycare with your baby (sheets, clothes, outerwear, bottles, loveys, shoes).
  3. The week before you head back to work practice getting up and getting you and baby both ready by the time you would need to leave for work. A few nights before you head back, after baby goes to bed practice packing all your child’s items in their bag (including making any bottles) so you know how long it will take each night.

For more advice and baby planning expertise from Julie, head on over to BabyNav Baby Planners.


  1. 1

    Great tips! As a childcare provider, I especially appreciate labels on the children’s things. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had kids with the same pacifier or even shoes!

    I do want to mention, though, that there is third option for childcare: In-home Daycare! This a great option that combines the socialization with the small-group, homey setting of nanny care. Children learn side-by-side with a small group of children (usually less than 12) in the provider’s home. In most states, these daycares are regulated by the state’s childcare agencies and are required to pass rigorous health and safety standards and bi-annual visits. I feel like so often, parents don’t think of in-home daycares as an option since many don’t advertise.

    If you are a parent looking for care, don’t forget to check out the in home daycares in your area! A look through the phone book, or a quick google search should get you some options. :)

  2. 3

    My sister is getting ready to take her daughter to daycare, and isn’t sure what to ask. I think it’s a great idea to ask what their policies are when a child becomes sick. I know that when we took our son to daycare, we made sure that they had precautions to not get him sick.

  3. 4

    Thanks for sharing the tips! Selecting childcare can be difficult, especially if it’s your first child. I know my sister-in-law struggled with this a lot when she went back to work, but in the end she was able to find a solution that worked best for her and her kids!

  4. 5

    You mentioned that daycare can be a great option for many children thanks to the socialization and enrichment it can offer. Do most daycare centers have specific types of activities that help teach your child? My wife recently was offered a good job and that will mean that our younger children will need to be looked after. Finding a quality daycare center might be our best option.

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