Parents Share How They Chose Childcare for Their Babies

By Stacey Feintuch
July 18, 2023

If you plan to work after your baby is born, you’re likely going to need childcare.

The right childcare for each family depends on a variety of factors. Your options and costs can vary a lot depending on where you live. And your needs may be slightly different from other families.

Some of the most common childcare options for babies include daycare centers, family childcare homes, Early Head Start Programs, and nannies, sitters, and au pairs.

Here, 10 parents share how they chose childcare for their infants and why that was the right choice for them.

We Chose a Daycare Center

Emily Goldsleger, who works at a museum in Philadelphia, wanted her son to be around other children and adults. A learning environment was important to her and her husband. So they chose a daycare center.

“We liked the fact that teachers at a daycare engage babies in different activities and stimuli all day,” Emily says. “We also liked the idea that our son could stay there for years and that different teachers specialize in [working with] different-aged children.”

At daycare centers, babies and older kids are often grouped in classrooms by age. Centers may be run by an individual owner or be part of a chain. Some daycares are run by government agencies, public schools, or by faith-based or community organizations.

Alexis Rice works in marketing and communications in Bethesda, Maryland. She found a daycare through her employer. Her office had an onsite, licensed daycare with hours that mirrored her work schedule. She put herself on the daycare waiting list when she was four months pregnant. “I saw my child at lunchtime, which was an added plus,” Alexis says.

Daycare centers are often required to be licensed by the state, which means they must follow certain health and safety requirements. Many offer both part- and full-time childcare.

We Found Daycare in a Home

Sometimes, daycare is provided in a home. A family childcare home is sometimes also called an in-home daycare. This is when a provider cares for a small group of children in their own private home (a house, apartment, or condo).

Amber Masciorini, who works in public relations in Carlsbad, California, and her husband found an in-home daycare just down the street from their home. “We were thrilled at how it had that homey feel and my daughter would be able to… socialize with other babies,” she says. “She loves being there, and I have my quiet workspace at home.”

Kristen Marion, a marketing consultant in Gilbert, Arizona, likes how personal her child’s in-home daycare is. “We love the small, neighborhood feel,” Kristen says. “I have a personal texting/call relationship with the owner. It feels like I’m dropping off the baby to her grandmother’s home instead of a corporation.”

We Hired a Nanny or Sitter

Rachel is a stay-at-home mom from suburban Chicago who teaches one day a week. A babysitter was an ideal fit for her situation. “A sitter offered us the flexibility to create a schedule that worked for us,” Rachel says.

When Jacqui Carlyle’s children were young, she worked as a caterer. The Milton, Georgia, mother needed childcare that had hours that matched her varied schedule. “A nanny provided that for me.”

Babysitters and nannies can care for children either in their home or the child’s home. This is often called informal in-home childcare. Some sitters and nannies are independent and others can be found through agencies.

Babysitters and nannies often aren’t required to be licensed. So it’s important to check their qualifications, experience, and references. In addition to flexibility, nannies and sitters can provide personalized care.

“I wanted to have someone one-on-one with my son,” says Stacie Rothman, a human resources director in Plainview, New York.

We Share a Nanny with Another Family

Hiring a nanny can be costly, but some families choose to share. This means one nanny cares for two families’ children at the same time. The families split the costs. Ashley R. lived in San Francisco and was a stylist when her child was born. She and a coworker gave birth one day apart. A nanny share was the perfect option for them.

“We thought it would be a great middle ground between a nanny and daycare,” Ashley says. “The babies would socialize, and we’d have the convenience of having them at a home.”

We Worked With an Au Pair

Au pair is a French term. It describes someone from another country who lives temporarily at your home in exchange for childcare.

Beth Meola of Brewster, New York, works in magazine ad sales. She and her husband both worked long hours, and no daycares near their home were open when they got home from work. So, they used their extra bedroom to house an au pair.

They liked that they didn’t have to wake the kids early to drive them to daycare. They also felt that having au pairs from Brazil and Germany was an educational experience. “Learning about the world was great for my kids,” Beth says. “The au pairs really became part of my family.”

An au pair must be 18 to 26 years old and can only stay in the United States for a year. They can’t work more than 10 hours a day or 45 hours a week.

We Used Early Head Start

Rachael Moshman, a mental health consultant in Vero Beach, Florida, had her grandson come to live with her unexpectedly when he was eight months old. She needed childcare quickly.

“Childcare for infants is extremely limited in my area, let alone options that are both high quality and affordable,” she says. “Fortunately, an Early Head Start just got funding to open an infant classroom nearby. He was accepted and able to start right away.”

Early Head Start (EHS) programs are free, federally funded programs for lower income families. They’re designed to help infants, toddlers, and preschoolers get ready for school. Families who use EHS must meet income eligibility requirements.

These programs are run by local nonprofit organizations, community action agencies, and school districts. Programs must follow federal childcare requirements and may be required to be licensed by your state.

“I was excited because EHS has high standards, low caregiver-child ratio, and it’s free,” says Rachael. “Formula and diapers were provided, which made the adjustment to caring for an infant and getting us off to work/childcare in the mornings much easier.”

Use this locator to find an Early Head Start program near you.

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