Pregnancy and you blog

Child care: The hunt for quality care

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. April 28, 2010

Returning to work after maternity leave is a fact of life for many women. What's also a fact of life is the need for reliable child care. Depending on where you live, the search for quality child care could begin months before the baby is born — or perhaps even before you're pregnant.

If you're researching child care options, think about:

  • Your budget. Know the cost of child care and how it'll affect your budget. If the expense is prohibitive, get creative. Perhaps you or your partner could adjust work hours or schedules to reduce the need for child care.
  • Your expectations. Be open and honest with any prospective child care provider. When my first child was born, we lived in a small town in eastern Arkansas. The child care options were limited — and my expectations were unusual. I used cloth diapers when everyone else was using disposables and I breast-fed when everyone else was using formula. The ladies at our chosen child care center had to learn about frozen breast milk and how to handle the yucky diapers. I'll always admire them for their tolerance of my preferences and the way they truly cared about my baby.
  • Your family. If a loved one offers to care for your baby, give it serious thought. Be prepared for the emotions that can accompany such an arrangement, however. I'm eternally grateful to my mother, who cared for my third child when I went back to work just six weeks after he was born (back in the days before the Family and Medical Leave Act). My mother did a fine job, yet she felt free to tell me all the things I needed to do differently regarding my son's care and especially his feeding. In hindsight, it was a small irritant — but at the time, my husband had to listen to a lot of griping on my part.
  • Your satisfaction. If you're unhappy with the care that your child receives, explain your concerns to the child care provider and describe the changes you expect. If you remain unsatisfied or you're concerned about your child's safety, look for another child care provider. If you think your child has been mistreated, report the situation to a licensing organization or a child protective agency.

Of course, none of these recommendations are based on science or research. They're simply based on my personal experience and the stories other women have shared with me over the years. I'd love to read your recommendations for finding and keeping child care. Please share!

April 28, 2010