Being a new parent in the workforce requires adaptability and resourcefulness. Living in the Midwest, as we anticipated our first child’s arrival in 2020, the finding a reliable, safe, affordable daycare was forefront in our minds. While it proved to be tricky to find an opening for an infant, we endeavored to compare in-home daycares and licensed facilities. Through this blog, I aim to offer insights based on our personal experience, hoping to assist new parents in making informed choices that were not apparent to me when we welcomed our first child to the family.
Our Top Considerations for Daycare Selection:
Most daycares have consistent operating hours, but some might offer more flexibility depending on the parents’ work hours. For instance, our in-home daycare could open as early as 7:00 am but closed strictly by 4:30 pm. In contrast, the licensed facilities we used maintained extended afternoon hours, providing a tad more flexibility for evening pickups. Luckily, Perficient is very family friendly. I have never had any issues leaving on-time to pick up our kids.
The Cost of Planned Closures
The volume of planned paid and unpaid closure days seems to widely vary between daycares. The in-home daycare we used would often take 15 paid planned vacation days per year, in addition to the standard paid bank holidays. This required us to find and pay a babysitter for each day they were closed and also pay the daycare’s daily rate. With our average babysitter pay rate sitting at $15/hr this could easily add up to $2,000-5,000 in additional childcare spend per year, depending on the center’s daily rate.
On the other hand, while the licensed care facility daily rate proved to be 20%+ more than the in-home daycare, the overall cost of the in-home daycare far exceeded the facility costs. The license facilities only took the 8 standard paid bank holidays per calendar year.
Adequate staffing ensured our child’s safety and well-being. Licensed facilities usually have a regulated staff-to-child ratio, whereas in-home setups might be more fluid. Additionally, our licensed programs always had backup staff, meaning fewer unexpected closures. Fortunately, our in-home daycare only closed twice over the course of three years due to illness or unforeseeable personal reasons.
Age Range of Classroom
We found that the age range in a childcare classroom can influence a child’s learning exposure. For example, our oldest child’s in-home daycare had about nine children in it, ranging in age from 2 months to 4 years old. The activities the daycare provided were typically age neutral. All children would participate in the same activities. This was not a concern for us until she turned three. She loves to learn, so we decided to move her to a licensed pre-school childcare program. The program has monthly learning topics and an educational environment we knew our daughter would enjoy.
Safe Sleep Methods
It was vital that our chosen daycare aligned with our views safe infant sleep methods. While we respect the fact that not all families or people have the same views on what constitutes safe sleep for babies, we wanted to ensure that the care program we chose would align with our personal views. Both the licensed facility and in-home daycare employed strict safe sleep practices for infants. Knowing the daycares upheld an infant sleep practice that aligned with our views, allowed me to be more present at work.
Ability to Safely Handle Breastmilk
Through trial and error, we learned that not every daycare is experienced in managing breastmilk. Due to lack of state regulations, the licensed care facility was not required to teach the staff how to safely handle breastmilk. Despite some hiccups, the facility had planned bottle and meal times, making it predictable for how much and what to send each day.
Like the facility, the in-home daycare had limited experience with breastmilk. Though they proved to be more open to learning and partnering on it. This reduced my stress levels, allowing me to focus on being more present at work and at home, instead of agonizing over wasted breastmilk. Parents can review online resources aimed at helping parents assess a daycare’s level of understanding of breastmilk handling.
Ability to Accommodate Special Diets
Our oldest was dairy intolerant from birth to a little over three years old. As an infant, if she had any level of dairy in her breastmilk or food she would break out in a rash and have terrible skin issues. We provided doctor’s notes and partnered with the Director of the licensed facility to coordinate a dairy-free diet and meal plan. The care staff was unfortunately not trained to understand what foods contained dairy and she was often provided food and snacks that had dairy as a secondary ingredient.
This was the primary reason we switched to an in-home daycare when my daughter was young. The in-home daycare was able to quickly and consistently accommodate her dairy-free requirements. We never had to bring her own lunch or dairy-free milk. They even made her special dairy-free snacks and cupcakes for special occasions. We learned that while regulations require licensed centers to cater to doctor-appointed special diets, they were not frequently audited for training or adherence in our state.
Final Thoughts on Finding the Right Daycare
Selecting a daycare for your newborn or child can be an intrinsic process. Researching our options early and understanding our own preference helped us better plan for our second child’s daycare setup. Despite all the bumps in the road, we are very happy with where we landed for daycare providers. Our children are thriving and cared for.
I am lucky to be surrounded by working parents and leaders at Perficient. I truly feel supported as a working parent. Finding reliable childcare and a supportive work environment is crucial to allowing parents to remain in the workforce.
Whether you land at an in-home daycare or a licensed facility, I hope sharing our experience helps your family confidence in evaluating daycare options.