Choosing a caregiver for your child is a big decision, and can be difficult whether you are returning to work by choice or out of necessity.
Carilion Children’s pediatricians recommend starting your research early, as many day cares have waiting lists and you don't want to find yourself without care when you need it.
Look at several different centers and compare classroom size, operating hours, drop-off and pickup policies and late fees.
You can also consider licensed in-home providers, who may care for fewer children and offer more individualized attention to the children in their care.
Other suggestions from Carilion Children's include:
- Ask to observe a classroom. Does the room look bright and inviting? Are there enough toys for the number of kids in the room?
- Ask about sick policies.
- What symptoms exclude children from the center?
- How are sick children cared for until parents are able to pick them up?
- How do they clean the room and toys to help prevent the spread of illness?
- Do employees receive annual flu vaccines?
- Be sure the day care has an open-door policy for you to visit during the day.
- Are breastfeeding mothers welcome to come during the day to nurse their babies?
- Ask about meals.
- If meals and snacks are provided by the facility, what is the menu?
- How do they handle allergies?
- How do they store breastmilk?
- How are bottles warmed? (Bottles should never be heated in the microwave.)
- What is the vacation policy?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends considering references, formal qualifications and training, including CPR training, and whether a health professional is involved with the program. The AAP recommends that infant-toddler programs be visited by a health professional regularly.
With advanced planning and research, most parents feel confident in their child care choices.
And once you have chosen a home or facility for your child, help her prepare for the transition using these guidelines from the AAP.