When deciding on childcare for their infants, many parents are understandably anxious about the quality of care their baby will receive. Recent childcare research shows that the setting (in-home, family or center) matters less than what happens within that setting. Babies need to be able to form a trusting relationship with providers that allows an emotional bond to form.
Low provider-to-child ratios are key. Equally important is consistency in the caregivers. Since low pay and poor benefits are responsible for rampant turnover within the childcare industry, ask about these facts when considering childcare for your baby.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind when investigating care options for your infant:
r>• Visit the daycare site before enrolling your child. Visit at times when you can observe the interactions of children with each other and with adults.
r>• Spend some time observing the infant room. Visit several times to judge how caregivers respond to tears or times of stress.
r>• See if babies are allowed to have their naps when it feels right for them. Unlike older children, babies have a harder time being treated as part of a group and need to follow their own inner schedules.
r>• Make sure providers are interacting with babies. According to a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study, “the amount of language that is directed at the child in childcare is an important component of quality provider-child interaction.”
• Ask how care providers handle babies’ special needs, such as food allergies or attachment to a pacifier.
• Check the qualifications and credentials of the caregivers. Degrees in early childhood education and accreditation from the National Association for Family Child Care and the National Association for the Education of Young Children provide good starting points.
• Get names of parents whose children have attended or are attending and call them to find out what they think about the quality of care.
• National Association for the Education of Young Children, Washington, D.C.; 202-232-8777; www.naeyc.org. Offers a listing of accredited centers by state and zip code.
• National Association for Family Child Care, Salt Lake City, Utah; 801-269-9338; www.nafcc.org. Offers information on accredited family-care providers.