When choosing child care for your newborn, do you find a reliable babysitter, nanny, or au pair, or opt for a local day care center? Take this quiz and find out.
Planning your options post-maternity leave? There are plenty of loving, gifted caregivers out there who consider watching kids to be their calling—not just a job. Once you strike gold with your sitter or day care, you'll be amazed at how confident you can feel waving bye-bye to your bub in the morning. But where to begin? Take this quiz to find out what kind of child care you (and your baby!) will love.
QUIZ: Nanny or Day Care?
Take stock of your schedule. What's your day like?
A. My hours erratic and I travel frequently.
B. My days are pretty consistent. I'm a 9-to-5 kinda person.
Consider your kiddo's personality (or what you imagine it'd be like). What springs to mind?
A. My baby tends to thrive in a familiar setting.
B. My tot loves interacting with other children in her age group.
Crunch the numbers: What are your finances like?
A. I'm taking in a high enough salary, or sharing a household income with a partner, to allow for $22K to $31K a year towards child care.
B. I'm on a strict budget when it comes to child care.
How many children under 5 do you have or are planning to have?
A. One, two, three and counting. I definitely want a brood.
B. Just the one—that's enough for now!
If You Chose Mostly As ...
Consider a nanny.
"A nanny who can flex with your needs might be best," says Julie McCaffrey, owner of BabyNav, a maternity concierge company in Westchester County, N.Y., and mom of three. A one-on-one child minder gives your child undivided attention, which some children will appreciate. It comes at a price though. Nannies' rates depend on where you live, their level of education and experience and how you find them. According to UrbanSitter, a website that helps care providers and families find each other, average hourly rates for a single kid range from $10.84 ($22,464 annually, assuming 40 hours per week) in Denver to $15.34 ($31,907 a year) in New York City. But, if you have (or plan to have) more than one child, it can still be more cost-effective than a day care facility, where rates will double if you enroll Baby No. 2.
If You Chose Mostly Bs ...
Day care could be better.
If your workday rarely wavers, consider a child care facility. You'll be able to meet the drop-off and pickup times, and with the exception of holidays, a nursery will be open (it won't call in sick)! Centers also give your tot the chance to interact with other children in her age group. Yes, caregivers are typically keeping tabs on one to three babes (or one to four toddlers) at once, but that still tends to be ample supervision. It's usually much cheaper than a full-time sitter, too: Day care for an infant costs anywhere from $4,600 to $15,000 per year, depending on where you live, according to a report from Child Care Aware of America, an organization that helps families find quality providers.
Keep reading for tips on how to find the right nanny or day care center >>>>>>
Going With a Nanny?
- Schedule a phone interview.
Nanny or day care, the first step to filter your prospects is the same: Pick up the phone. Is this person or place available at the right hours? If you'll need kids shuttled, does the nanny have a driver's license? Is he or she experienced with all ages? "I had an amazing baby whisperer, but months later when it came to dealing with a willful little boy, she was not great at setting limits," says Rebecca Parlakian, director of parenting resources at Zero to Three, a nonprofit that supports healthy child development. "We had to find someone else, and it was difficult." Finally, ask about credentials, but don't go crazy: Your candidate needs certification in infant CPR and first aid, not a master's in child psychology or, you know, baby yoga expertise.
- Size up the dynamic with an in-person meeting.
Your prospective caregiver should want to hold your kiddo and get involved. "During one interview, the candidate didn't try to connect with my child at all," says Carla Rogers, a mom of two in Portland, Ore. "Not wanting to pick up or play with my son showed that she wasn't making an effort to bond with him." Primo applicants look at home with your baby (making eye contact, not handling him like delicate china). "To feel safe, every baby needs to be able to attach to their caregiver in a meaningful way," Parlakian adds.
- Ask the right questions.
Broad questions like, "How lucky do you consider yourself?" uncover his or her attitude toward life. (You want someone who feels fortunate, since that's a perspective that attracts positivity.) Inquire about the nanny's philosophy on feeding, sleeping and discipline, too. "It's best for her to be in a middle ground—nothing rigid or extreme," McCaffrey says. Don't be afraid to give a little pop quiz (e.g., "How do you know when a baby is hungry?") "That will reveal how skilled the person is at reading babies' cues," Parlakian says.
- Observe her in action.
If possible, try to get a peek at your prospective nanny watching other kids. "When I visited home-based day cares, I could tell if the people who ran them enjoyed providing care, or if it was just what they did because they needed the job," says Kristina Slaney, a mom of two in Bothell, Wash. If you suspect your choice is more psyched about a paycheck than playtime, it's time to hit the "skip" button and move on.
Decided on Day Care?
- Go for a tour and obey your gut.
Day care settings can vary from a multi-room facility to a small group of tots in the provider's house. Assuming the spot is state-licensed, it really comes down to personal preference. "The minute I got pregnant, I called to get on the waitlist for the highly recommended day care on-site where I worked," Slaney says. It took a year, but the staff called her with a spot for her 3-month-old right as her maternity leave was ending. Then she went for a visit. "Something in my soul said it wasn't right," she recalls. She scrambled to tour several other options and ended up choosing a warm, loving home-based day care that she found on Craigslist (and fully vetted, of course!). "You feel like you're going to an auntie's house with a bunch of your friends," she says.
- Ask the right questions.
When a day care is giving you a "yes" vibe, ask if their policy is to assign one person on staff as the primary caregiver for each child; this set-up facilitates the attachment that's so important. Also inquire about how employees handle sleeping and feeding. Until your baby is 6 to 9 months, you'll want the care provider to bend to your bub's needs, rather than sticking to an ironclad facility-wide schedule. Also, ask how sitters communicate with parents about what's happening (Rogers loves the Tumblr her day care updates throughout the day), especially if the staff turns over before you pick up in the evening.
- Do a safety check.
Go with your husband, partner or a friend, as an extra pair of eyes: "One place had an electrical outlet at kid level that was missing its cover," O'Keefe says. "I'm not talking about baby-proof plug covers—I mean the regular cover that screws into the wall!" Pass.