Skip to Content

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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Thanks for helping me learn more about childcare and how to choose the right one. Just like you explained, I will make sure to include asking some questions about formula and solid foods, and also how they train their staff. With my wife feeling better after labor, she wants to go back to work, so it might be time for us to find a childcare service that can take care of our baby boy while we are away. Thanks again!

  2. avatar Jane Ambrose says:

    After taking some time off for my last baby, I am now in the process of selecting a good daycare for my little girls. I hadn’t thought about checking to see if the daycare had properly trained staff, but this seems like a really great way to know if your child will do well at a care center or not. It seems to me like the more experience a person/place has, the better they’ll be able to watch after kids. Thank you for the information!

  3. I have never considered how important it is to choose a day care that is comfortable taking care of a crying or fussy baby to ensure you child is in good hands. My sister just had her second daughter. Hopefully, this info can help her find a care center that can keep her baby safe during the day.

  4. avatar Luke Smith says:

    I like your list of potential questions you could ask a nanny, like their philosophies on sleeping and feeding and their willingness to run additional errands for the family. It may be that there are no nannies available who you would feel comfortable allowing to care for your child in your home. If this is the case then a daycare center with other children could be a good alternative.

  5. avatar John says:

    I thought the article’s tip about researching daycare centers ASAP was interesting. It said that the best daycare centers generally have a long waitlist. What suggestions would you give for finding a good daycare?

  6. avatar jresquival says:

    That’s a good question to ask what type of training a daycare’s staff have received. That way you’ll know the kind of service your child will receive. I’ve been staying home with my daughter but I think it’ll be time for me start looking for daycare options soon.

  7. I agree that there are great benefits at a daycare when it comes to socialization. It is important for kids to learn how to develop social skills as well as explore other subjects. I appreciate the tips you have provided for how to decide on a daycare, and in how to prepare our kids for the experience. It can be a little surprising to them too!

  8. That’s an interesting tip I’d never considered before about how daycare centers are great places for me to meet other working families that are in similar situations to my own. I’ve heard that daycare centers are one of the best choices to make for your child’s social and cognitive development. Is that true? My toddler is at the age where we need to put him in daycare, and this info will help us make this very important decision!

  9. avatar Luke Smith says:

    Your idea to make a list of questions to ask a potential daycare sounds great, and I love the sample questions you included about whether the fee includes food/formula and what policies are about sick children. I imagine it would be a good idea to ask for referrals from family or friends who have used child care services to get good options. It would probably also help to consult a few different options before settling on one.

  10. avatar Finn Stewart says:

    Your tip about starting your research on child care centers ASAP is helpful because I don’t want my daughter to be put on a waitlist. With my wife going back to work, we want to find the best child care center that also teaches them social skills. We want to start immediately, so we should probably get on that and start asking around for great child care centers.

  11. 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.

  12. avatar Rachel says:

    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!

  13. 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.

  14. […] 6. Plan childcare now. Once you return to work, you want to ensure that your child is in the best hands possible 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. For tips to make that decision, check out my post What you Need to Know About Selecting Childcare. […]

  15. avatar Melissa says:

    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. :)