Advice and Help
Here's some help and advice about childcare
Help and information about childcare
In these pages is advice and help about childcare facilities. Use the links on the left to find out more.
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Advice and Help
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Choosing childcare for babies

Choosing the best childcare for your baby is one of the most important decisions that you will make for you and your baby prior to returning to work. Much of what is written in the advice section on what to look for, and the right questions to ask when choosing nurseries applies to babies as well as toddler and older preschoolers, but there are additional factors that you will particularly need to consider when choosing childcare for babies.

Be sure to look around the whole nursery and then go back and have a second look at the baby room. Spend time watching the staff and the way they play with and care for the babies, as well as talking to and listening to the officer in charge or room leader.

Good carers for babies need to:

  • Be calm, happy and well managed;
  • Have a good knowledge of baby development;
  • Be qualified in First Aid;
  • Be understanding of parents needs;
  • Be tuned into the individual needs of babies, and
  • Have a flexible approach.

Ask about the qualifications and experience of the staff with babies. Find out how many staff are new and how long the room leader has been in post. Ask them what they think makes for good childcare for babies - does it match up to your ideas and ideals.

Find out how many staff have First Aid certificates. Check out what is done to keep them up to date with their training?

Watch the staff. Are they talking to the babies or to each other? How many babies are getting individual attention and is that all about play, or are some of the children enjoying a quiet cuddle with the staff?

Do the staff seem calm and well organised. Are babies having to wait to have their needs met or for attention while staff hunt for equipment?

Find out about the key worker system? What will this mean for you and your baby? How many babies does each key worker care for on any one day?

How flexible are the arrangements with regard to feeding, sleep and weaning? Does the nursery have a set policy and routine which all babies have to fit, or can nursery accommodate your views and be flexible with the routine according to your child's needs?

Look at the cleanliness of the room, the state of repair of the equipment. Take a long hard look at the floor - are you happy for your child to be crawling around on this floor? Do parents and carers remove their shoes when they go in the baby room?

On a practical note, check out if you can provide breast milk for you baby, or the policy and practicalities around formula. Ask about weaning and the menus. Where is the food prepared? Are you happy with the range and quality of foods that will be provided for your baby? How many babies are fed at one time? Make sure that babies are not left holding the bottle and that your baby will have individual attention at all bottle and meal times.

Do you need to provide nappies, or is this included in the fees? Will the nursery support you if you are not using disposable nappies? Check out the cleanliness and order of the changing area. Watch the staff changing a baby - do they use it as a time to talk to and sing to the baby? Are all the babies clothes, nappies, creams etc clearly marked and well organised?

Are the babies put down in the same cot every sleep time? Discuss your baby's sleep routines and check nursery is willing to accommodate them. Double check that clean sheets are put on shared cots for each baby? How often are babies checked when asleep?

Take a look at the babies who are up and playing? Is there a good range of toys and equipment with lots of opportunities for the babies to explore safely. Are most of the toys on the floor with lots of stimulating objects for the babies to look at and explore at the babies height? Check out that it is nice and warm at floor level? Ask about how much time babies spend in cots or highchairs, bouncing cradles?

Most of all watch the staff very carefully and if necessary come back for a second look. Are you confident that these carers are happy and well motivated, and mature enough to cope with the demands of caring for small babies? Be sure that you think they will respond kindly and promptly to your baby, provide a wealth of stimulation and be confident and flexible enough to respond to your baby with warmth and consistency.

Good childcare for babies is a balancing act. It will never be the same as caring for your baby yourself, but it should be well organised, warm and nurturing. The staff should be welcoming and supportive to you as a parent. If you are not sure, sit back quietly in the baby room for an hour and just watch and absorb the atmosphere - there is no better way to really get the feel for the quality of the staff and care provided.

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