Choosing the best possible childcare makes going back to work much easier
Going back to work opens up an exciting new chapter in you and your baby’s life, but it’s natural to feel nervous. Here’s some advice on choosing the best childcare to suit you, and how to settle your baby in.
At a glance
- There are different types of childcare available
- Do your research and ask lots of questions
- You may be able to ask for help from the grandparents
You may have been dreaming about suits and boots for months or you may be dreading going back to your job. Whatever your feelings about work, you've probably still got that tight little knot in your stomach whenever you think of leaving your precious baby in someone else’s hands.
But being prepared and choosing the best possible childcare can make the transition a lot easier, and soon your baby will be having fun in a whole new environment.
We've listed the main choices here, together with some advice about settling your baby in whichever setting you choose.
Ok, so most expensive first. That’s the main drawback, unless you can share your nanny with another family. That’s because, as their employer, you have to pay their tax and National Insurance. On the upside, they provide a one-to-one bonding experience for your baby (which research says is best for a baby under 12 months), they’ll probably look after them in your house and will be able the work the hours you require. And – major upside – they’ll expect to do baby-related household chores like washing, ironing and cooking. Though, sadly, not yours.
Need to know: Nannies aren't regulated by any official body, though agencies run thorough checks on qualifications. Don’t feel embarrassed about following up references – that what they’re there for.
This is the next one down in terms of cost. Lots of mums love the idea of structured care, the opportunities for painting, crafts and other activities and the chance for their baby to rub shoulders with others the same age. It’s also a year-round, hassle-free choice that doesn't depend on one person. On the downside, your baby won’t get as much one-to-one attention or consistency of carer (especially if there’s a high turnover of staff), and there are often draconian penalties if you are late picking up. They’re often pretty noisy, bustly places which may not suit quieter, younger babies. And you won’t believe the number of colds one baby can get.
Need to know: Nurseries often have waiting lists, so register well before you plan to go back to work. Visit a few, ask about staff turnover, and check what they offer babies (especially the sleeping area).
Probably the best value option in terms of money. They’re usually local, they offer a cosy home-from-home experience and plenty of one-to-one bonding. And if you get on well they could be looking after your precious baby until secondary school. On the flip side, unlike nurseries, if they’re ill or on holiday you’ll need a plan B.
Need to know: Childminders in England are registered with Ofsted; check out their ratings on the Ofsted website. Local councils carry lists of childminders with vacancies. Visit plenty; ask how many others they’re looking after and whether they take them out to playgroups etc. The relationship works best when you both share similar values.
This can be the cheapest option, or even free. And after you and your partner, who could love your baby more? A willing grandparent can be an amazing solution, but there are some possible pitfalls. What if they let your baby take long naps in the day so they’re not sleeping well at night? What if they want to go on holiday when you need to work – can you tell them not to? Without a careful agreement in place for all, it can get – well – a bit messy.
When you've decided which option suits your family best, and the day is drawing closer when you can finally leave the house with just a handbag and step on to public transport without the folding up-the-buggy-origami session, here are some tips for making sure your baby settles well: Act positively about the new arrangement as babies pick up on any anxiety you’re feeling
- Don’t feel cruel – your little one will gain a lot from their little bit of independence from you
- Take your baby to visit your chosen childcarer a few times in the weeks leading up to the big day
- Ask them for advice on the best way to settle in your baby – and trust their judgement. They may suggest a trial half-day.
Ok, so now for the hard bit: saying goodbye. This can test the most practical and clear-headed mum’s stiff upper lip. Some babies, especially if they’re under seven or eight months, will breeze through (even if their mums are struggling to hold back the tears). Others, especially when separation anxiety kicks in between eight and 12 months, find it harder.
There’s no easy way to do this, but basically you just have to say goodbye as firmly and as brightly as you can manage, give them a kiss and a cuddle and go (don’t slip out while their back is turned – this can make it worse in the long-term). Tell them you’ll see them at tea-time or whenever you’ll pick them up.
Experts advise us not to turn back and stay with them if they’re crying. Your childcare provider will have tons of experience in settling them, so try your best to leave it to them.
It may be hard the first couple of times, but it gets easier really quickly and soon they’ll be happily settled. In all likelihood they’ll be smiling and playing by the time you've reached the end of the road and you’ll be the one in tears.
Later on, ask your childcare provider to text you a picture or message to confirm all is well.