Choosing the Right Caregiver for Your Infant

Kristen Castle spent a lot of time researching childcare options because she wanted to make her transition back to work after the birth of her Chloe daughter as smooth as possible. The Grandview resident knew if she had confidence in the childcare provider, it would make it easier to leave her 9-week-old with someone else.

"You want the ultimate best for your child," Castle said. "It was harder on me to leave her" than it was for her to adjust to daycare.

Most parents find choosing daycare for their children an emotional experience, said Juanita Webb of Action for Children. Some parents will sob for several weeks when dropping off their baby at daycare, Webb said.

Choosing a care provider that meets all of your needs can make the process less difficult, said Mary Neal Jones, a senior program and policy analyst at Nemours Health & Prevention Services in Newark, Delaware.

Parents need to first consider what they want in a provider. Some childcare options cater to specific religions, accommodate special needs or focus on diversity, Jones said.

"Parents should think about what's important to them," she said. "Everybody is going to answer those questions differently."

While visiting a center, look for these details:
If caregivers are holding babies and letting them play on the floor or if the infants are being kept in seats or high chairs; If caregivers are playing with or talking and reading to children; If the care provider follows the babies lead for naps, feeding and diapering, or if the child will be put on the same schedule as other children in the center; If the child will have a primary caregiver, or if the multiple caregivers share the workload. It's also important to see if the center seems clean, safe and well-organized, Webb said.

During a visit, she always closes her eyes and puts her other senses to work.

"I listen to the kinds of noises there are," she said. "I breathe in to see what the smells are. I lift my feet of ground to see if the floor is sticky."

The willingness of the staff at YMCA Hilltop Educare Center to answer Castle's many questions ultimately helped her and her husband Jeff decide to place their daughter there.

"We asked all kinds of questions," the Grandview resident said. "They were open and honest."

Care Questions
What to ask an infant-care provider, and answers to look for:

How many babies are cared for in one room?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a 3:1 child-to-staff for children from birth to 24 months.

How many babies are cared for in one room?
The AAP recommends the group size not exceed six children for children from birth to 24 months.

How much "tummy time" will my child have?
Doctors generally recommend that babies have two to three sessions of tummy time per day, for about 10 minutes at a time.

What is the rate of employee turnover?
High turnover of employees can be a signal of other problems.