Home-Based Daycare vs. Nanny

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Nanny v/s daycare for almost 3-y-o plus infant

June 2010


My son will be almost 3 years old in November this year. That is when I am expecting child #2 to arrive. My son is currently in a daycare and I am considering pulling him out for next winter because he was sick pretty much the whole time this winter and I am worried that if we face the same thing next winter then the infant will also be falling sick a lot. I want to avoid that. I am thinking of hiring a nanny till my son is ready to go to preschool (he will be 3 years 7 months in september 2011) My concern is that he will feel bored without the activities/kids that he is used to at his daycare.I prefer 1 on 1 care that a nanny can provide but I am not sure what his preference will be at 3. Any advice/similar experiences to share? Thank you

I think you are much better off keeping your son in daycare/preschool. At this age he's ready for it, and he's used to being with other kids. To put him back with a nanny, especially one who will be absorbed caring for an infant, feels like a step backwards. I would worry about him being on his own too much. Better to do a nanny share with another baby, or maybe have the nanny pick him up at noon or after nap? So he gets some time to bond with his younger sibling... I think he needs to retain something of his own during that transition time.

As for illness, I have heard from many parents that the first year in a group setting is always the worst, whether you do it when they're 3 months or 3 years old. Our winter was very bad, too, but I'm anticipating things getting much better next year.

Good luck with your decision! Alexandra

I haven't had direct experience yet, but I am thinking about the same general issue, as my son will be 2 when his new sibling arrives in November. He is currently in a family daycare, and I think we will leave him in it on his regular schedule throughout my maternity leave. My sense is that the new baby is disruption enough, and I don't want to add to his confusion or disorientation, especially when it comes to his secondary caregiver. I hate the thought of the new baby being exposed to germs, but it seems inevitable that wherever a toddler goes, he'll pick them up and bring them home, whether he's in daycare or not. Choosing Germs over Disruption

I had my second child when my eldest son was almost 3 years old. He had been in his preschool for over 1/2 year, and was enjoying it immensely. When the baby was born, we kept his schedule as it was prior to the baby - combination nanny, preschool, and mommy.

My baby boy is now almost 1 year old. Looking back, I know I would not pull him from school. If your child is comfortable, happy, and familiar with that school, I would keep him in. The change of having a baby sibling is one change enough - why create a second by having a nanny? Also, I believe kids need the social environment to grow, and in part it's a ''distraction'' from the immense change at home.

My son was sometimes sick during the winter, but my baby only got one cold/virus from him. So my eldest was sick more often than my baby. Seems like a compelling (but deceptively easy fall-back) reason to pull him from school, but he can just as easily get sick from kids at a park, indoor cafe, etc.

Along with suddenly having a sibling, the other thing my eldest son freaked out about was that my husband was home for the first few weeks. This was hard on him, as he was used to his daddy going to work every morning. So, as much routine as you can keep for him, the better. Anon

Don't assume that your kid is sick just because of daycare, or that your kid won't get sick with a nanny. My kid was in a good sized daycare (30 or 35 kids) and got sick only 1 time in two years. Everybody in the neighborhood who kept their kids at home had kids who were sick all the time. Sure, there are things that go around at daycares. But your nanny probably has kids, and is probably going to come to work when she's a little sick or doesn't know she's sick. and then there's the playground, and the grocery store, etc. And my experiences with nannies were much less pleasant than those at the daycare, although I confess I envied those moms who could leave their houses before the kids were up or dressed or fed. But the multiple caregivers at a daycare are more likely to stay honest than the single nanny, unless you're lucky enough to find the perfect fit. Also, your first child will have a better transition to preschool comign from a daycare than from a nanny. On the other hand, if what you want is a nanny, get a nanny. It will be fine. Just don't assume it will necessarily keep the sickness away.


Nanny v. daycare/preschool for young toddler

Nov 2009


There have been some recent questions about having one's child in daycare/preschool or staying with a nanny, but I'm still not clear on the best decision for our soon-to-be 18 month old son. The responses seem to say that staying with a nanny is the better option for young toddlers, yet I don't understand *why* since so many of the reviews for daycares and preschools seem like such wonderful, nurturing experiences for young children. Our nanny share situation will change in April and we've been thinking of a small home-based daycare/preschool like Bari Nelson's Small Size Toddler School or Keiki's Corner, or the toddler program at at place like Skytown Co-op in Kensington. Why would a nanny share be preferable to small, lovely programs like these? Follow-up question: how do daycares handle naptime for toddlers?? - first-time mom (obviously!)

I currently have nanny share for my daughter and the more I read the more I lean toward continuing my nanny-share till my daughter is older. I think one part of the decision for parents is cost. It just costs less to send your kid to daycare. The other part is what you think your kid needs and what parenting theory you believe in. Some parents I talk to wants to send their kids to school early so they can socialize, learn how to share, learn in general. Yet I've also read and talk to people who say that children didn't use to have to socialize so young and it's better that they don't go. And that the problems we hear about kids not being able to do xx and yy, or kids behaving this or that way is because we send them out of the house early. I also have a friend who said, why not have the 1 to 1 attention that a nanny provides. And the fact that kids going to school get sick so often. But I know one mom who's sending her kid to preschool at 3 and says that she thinks it's good for him because he's an active child and he enjoys the activities there.

So many variables and it's hard to sift through and figure out which side to believe in. Ultimately, I went w/ continuing nanny-share route. I'm not worried about socialization or my kid not learning to share or work in a group. I like the idea of my daughter getting more attention from her care taker. I don't like her catching colds or flu often as we don't like getting sick from her. A nanny-share is ideal as she does have a playmate. And we make sure to go to playdates as well. anon

So, our family worked with both a nanny and had our 2 year olds in Keiki's due to unpredictable work hours...so my two cents. We loved both! We started with a nanny, but prior to both children's 2nd year birthday, they seemed like they might benefit from the social interaction of a small group situation. We visited Keiki's and had heard wonderful things about it from a few friends - it felt so right. Indeed, it was a fabulous experience. So hard to leave and move-on to preschool. The 3 care providers are incredibly nurturing, loving - just amazing people. The small setting was ideal and really appreciated the fact that it was a two year old program, so children are quite similar in developmental stages. When the time for preschool did roll around, I believe the children's transitions were that much more comfortable due to their 2 yo experience.

Naptime is darling. The children sleep on the sofa or a mat/sleeping bag on the carpet and are constantly watched. At Keiki's believe naptime began around the time the majority of the children would leave (1:30p), so the room was quiet, but if a child would need to nap in the morning or earlier than 1:30p, there was a small, comfortable back room they could use. Think most of the children become so engaged that they don't nap in the morning, but I may be forgetting something.

Sounds like your child will be about 2 in April. One issue may be getting a place at a small family daycare in the Spring rather than the summer/fall, though do know it happens :-) Also useful to consider (though I'm stating the obvious): 1) Cost - daycare is typically a bit more affordable 2) Hours needed - if you have a set job, look closely at the hours of availability of the daycare. For example, some may close earlier on a Friday, etc. Typically a nanny offers more flexibility. That being said, if the hours work for you, certainly wouldn't pass up the opportunity to have your child in a small family daycare that you feel good about. We feel so fortunate to have had our children at Keiki's for two consecutive years and wouldn't change a thing in retrospect. Pleased Former Keiki's Mom

Just a few quick thoughts. Background - my daugther had an au pair until age 4 when she started pre-school full time. I believe the one on one attention my daughter received from an au pair (nanny) was invaluable. When your child enters a day care or pre school THEY set the rules. They tell you what your child's schedule will be, etc. With a nanny or au pair you determine what you want your child taught, what they eat, if and when you want them to take naps. I loved not having to get my child dressed in the morning and out that door at a certain time, or not worrying about who would stay home with her if she was ill. However, by age 4 I believed she needed to be in a more social and learning environment. There are times I miss the au pair. As far as naps, the preschool has all the kids take a nap at the same time - whether they want to or not. anon

We could not afford a nanny or a share and went with family daycare for both our kids. I could not have been happier. I used small home based care for both and felt that we got the best of both world: a safe, licensed environment for our kids but didn't have to have someone in our home and we never had to worry if hte nanny got sick or paying her SSI or whatever. I think the nanny thing can be overrrated, especially if you're just a regular schmo like us and not rich. Our daycare provider was like a devoted aunt. we love her and now that our kids are in preschool and school, we miss her her and visit often. anonamom

Perhaps the difference is in the hours the child attends. If you are looking at a nanny or daycare, it might be the full day...in which case I can see that a nanny might be a bit more nurturing. However, if you are looking at small preschools like you mentioned, then it would likely be just a few hours per day. As a the mom of a Skytown alum, our experience with the toddler program was that my son was only there 4 hours. They do offer an afternoon program, in which the older kids play and do structured activities, and those who wanted a nap could nap. Most (all?) of the toddlers did not stay for the afternoon program. Anyway, my point is that a few hours/day of socialization in a sweet little preschool setting is really beneficial. Kids learn to share and they are given the opportunity to participate in a lot of activities. My Vote is For Preschool

I am also debating on what is better for my toddler. I have heard that a daycare provides an opportunity for more social interaction with more kids and it is more nurturing than having a nanny. Nanny can also be more expensive but can be more flexible most of the time. I think I will go with daycare in a few months. mexico

I am a huge proponent of home daycare for toddlers. As long as you find a good place and loving provider, I think the early socialization skills are a huge advantage of daycare and make the transition to preschool much easier. Both my kids went to a 4-child home daycare since they were 3 months old. By the time they went to preschool, they were so much better socialized than many of their preschool peers. They both show a lot of empathy towards other kids and I think the early socialization had a lot to do with it. But we also had the most loving amazing daycare provider you could ask for. She has space available right now, but she is in Sausalito. If anyone is interested, feel free to email me at psellers [at] wsgc.com. Good Luck!

I think that many people like nanny-share situations for their toddlers for a variety of reasons. These include the cost (It can be a bit cheaper), the fact that when children are around fewer other children, they tend to get sick less often, and the fact that if the nanny-share happens in your home, the nanny can (and often does) assist with other household tasks. My son, however, went to a small family daycare as a toddler, and really thrived there. There were 8 kids at a time with 2 daycare providers (a woman and her daughter). He made friends that he still knows in 3rd grade, he bonded with the caregivers and so had extra people to love, he developed lots of skills (playing with other kids primarily). When I would go to pick him up, he was generally enjoying himself so much he would not want to go home right away (this has become my test for a good education or care situation for my son; if he wants to go home the minute I get there every day, the situation is probably not good for him). Looking back, I made the right choice, particularly for my son, who is a very social, active kid. Karen

For younger children, say around three and under, the primary need is a secure attachment to a few (one, two, three) caregivers. Having multiple caregivers, which is usually the case in even the best of settings (think lunch break, dropping child off before regular teacher picking up or picking up after regular teacher has left, consolidating classrooms at the end of day when there are fewer kids, etc), is actually not healthy for young children. It does not allow them to form a solid bond with a few close caregivers which can often lead to a variety of issues later down the road related to trust and security. If the daycare doesn't have the situations that I mentioned above, then I'd say either is fine. anon

My daugther was in nannyshare from age 7 -17 months, then (after summer break - I'm a teacher) started a home-based daycare at 19 months. She is now almost 2. She loves it. She was ready for the increased socializing at a daycare setting. There are anywhere between 6-10 kids and two caregivers at a time. She is there all day, three days a week. As much as I hate to leave her and go to work, I have to admit that she is really happy there. The kids all nap on little mats on the floor (younger babies sleep in cribs) and they have a regular naptime of 1-3 pm or so. She does nap. The best thing I would suggest is to visit some daycares and ask what they do about naps and see how you feel about the whole environment. mom of happy toddler


Nanny vs. day care for 5-month-old 2-3 days/week

Nov 2009


Hi all, Soon I will be going back to work and I need to make childcare arrangments for 2-3 days/week. But I am not sure whether I should get a nanny or find a daycare center. So I am asking for suggestions for both great nannies and daycare centers near fremont. My baby will be 5 months old. All suggestions/information wanted. Thanks confused about daycare

Do a nanny if you can. It's more affordable for a nanny share, and for me at least, offers more piece of mind. My daughter is in a nanny share--ever since she was 3.5 months old, and she enjoys playing with the other kids. Plus I know that she is getting more personalized attention than a daycare setting. Not to mention the reduced likelihood of her getting sick as she is exposed to less people. Nanny share works best for us

The biggest difference between a nanny and daycare is that daycare cares for your baby, whereas a nanny cares for the whole family. If you have a job that has unpredictable hours especially, go for the nanny, so you don't stress every day about being there in time for pick up. A nanny will also help out with household chores such as laundry, shopping, prepping dinner, maybe light cleaning - all negotiable. I also liked that my kids were playing with their own toys, reading the books that I picked for them, etc. If you can afford it, go for a nanny. Love my nanny

My son is now 2.5 and happy in his 24 kid pre-school. But when I went back to work around the same time as you and I had the same difficult decision to make. At the time my thinking was that a daycare center was best because the caregivers would be watching each other, hence less chance of anything going wrong. I was uncomfortable putting all of my faith in one person, a nanny. In retrospect, I think I was wrong to be so mistrustful and wish I had committed myself to finding a really good nanny share or very small home-daycare. I don't think that most kids are ready for a large group setting until at least 2 years old, or even 2.5. just my opinion.... best of luck! working mama with sensitive kid

We have a 4 1/2 month old and just decided on a nanny. We felt that less exposure to sickness in the first months is important. Also, this si a great time to be looking for a nanny. There are many who are looking for work and it is possible to negotiate a very reasonable rate. If you have a kid that naps, some nannies are also willing to help around the house. cleaning, dishes, laundry, occasional meal prep. 1 week into the situation and we love the extra help that we wouldn't have gotten in a daycare. Makes going back to work much more manageable. To find the nannies, call Bananas in Oakland and see if they can give you some referals. You'll just have to talk with a bunch of them to see who you are comfortable with. loving our nanny

I didn't see the original post, but I noticed that all the responses recommended nannies over daycares, and I wanted to put in a plug for daycare. Our son started at a home-based daycare when he was 4 months old (and our daughter would have gone there if I hadn't gotten laid off), and we loved it. He went there until he started preschool at 2 1/2, and it was great for him to get the interaction with multiple adults as well as a bunch of other kids. It was a relatively small place (3 adults, 8-12 kids on any given day), and I don't know that I would have been as comfortable with a large center, but I liked having him exposed to more people - kids and adults - than a single nanny (and maybe one or two other kids in a nanny-share). I also liked having him get used to being in a different place than our house - it's made it easier to transition him to preschool and to use childcare in other settings. (And it meant that when I was sick, I could send him to daycare and sleep/read/watch TV all day - a big plus in my book!) And it was a LOT cheaper than a nanny would have been. To be honest, we might have looked into getting a nanny if we could have afforded it, but I'm glad we couldn't! If you're more comfortable with a nanny and can afford it, great, but if you find the right daycare setting, it can be just as good an environment for a baby. Jennifer

I missed the original post on this topic but wanted to respond when I saw all 4 responses recommended a nanny over daycare. This is a very personal decision for every family, but I strongly believe that both options can be good ones, and that daycare can be the better choice.

My husband and I chose a high-quality daycare (BlueSkies for Children, which I strongly recommend) over a nanny for the following reasons:

- Our daycare is structured to be developmentally appropriate for children as they grow. The environment is safe, the toys are appropriate, and the activities are geared towards the needs of the children. There is no TV, no personal phone conversations, no exersaucers, no bouncers, no sitting in strollers -- infants are free to move and explore.

- The teachers at our day care have far more experience, education, and supervision than most nannies would.

- I agree with the poster that said infants are too young for ''group settings,'' if group setting means coordinated play or instruction. But infants and young toddlers who are free to explore and move about on their own are perfectly content to ignore the other babies. They bond with their caregivers and do their own thing. Sometimes they watch and interact with other kids, sometimes they don't. Well-run infant (and preschool!) programs do not force group activities on those not developmentally able to partcipate; they allow the babies the space to be babies. It just happens that there are other babies next to them doing the same thing.

- I personally am uncomfortable with not paying social security for or providing health care to someone as important to my family as a primary caregiver. By using a quality daycare center, I know our caregivers have sick leave, vacation time, health care, and even some retirement benefits.

- While this is not universally true, I have found that my daycare does help take care of my whole family. Our daycare provides homemade food and cloth diapers, so I don't have to worry about those things. The teachers and co-directors are a knowledgable resource for parenting questions. This doesn't help with home chores, as (some, not all) nannies might -- but it does provide a great deal of relief.

- I have never worried about either of my children, even once, while they were at our daycare. For me, this piece of mind is priceless. Good luck with your decision. Happy Daycare Parent

I was surprised to read that most of the previous responses advised that nanny shares were the way to go.

I wanted to give a slightly different perspective. There are both wonderful and not so great nannies just as there are wonderful and not so wonderful daycare centers. Pros and cons exist for both options. Nannies are the most expensive and offer most flexibility. But if your nanny is sick or is on vacation or needs to go to the doctor (which you will need to provide) you have to have a back up. Some nannies are amazing, others not so. We interviewed a few that I would not leave my kid with. You have to rely on your gut and references.

On th other hand, daycares employ licensed professionals, many of whom have training in child development. The benefits are that you aren't left in the lurch ever and your kid gets some good socialization, but of course the schedule is more rigid and your baby is more likely to catch a cold.

I think that the current economy helps you find a better nanny or a daycare situation but maybe not for less $. While it is a ''mommy's market'' in terms of the number of nannies looking for employment, I'm not sure you want to negotiate for the cheapest nanny you can find. The dilemma with nannies is that its a lot of money for the parents but still not that much for the nanny. Similarly, daycares that formerly had long waiting lists now have spots, but I'm not sure they cost much less.

Many default to a nanny or nanny share out of guilt or equating that the most expensive option must be the best. I say explore both options and make a decision that works for you.

Good luck with the process - it is hard, but you will find a situation that works for you and your baby. Been there recently...

Given the lopsided responses you got to your question, I just wanted to put in a good word for daycare. We put our son in a wonderful day care center (in San Francisco) when he was 4 1/2 months old. Yes, it was hard to leave him, but it would have been hard no matter what. Yes, he got sick a lot the first year. But there are many studies that show that ALL kids get these illnesses, it's just a matter of what age they are when they get them. It was tough but we got through it and so far (knock on wood), we're having a much easier time of it in the last few months. More importantly, I'm thrilled with the care that he gets at the center -- his teachers are loving, warm, and fun. They know him as an individual and really respect his needs. They do amazing fun activities that I'd never be able to pull off at home (and doubt a nanny could either), like making a huge batch of spaghetti and letting the kids roll around in it; or letting them smear their entire bodies with pudding. And the chef at the center makes amazing meals, lots of variety and healthy options, helping our son become a MUCH better eater than many of his peers. I also feel that the socialization he gets at day care really shows. If you find the right center, you can have a wonderful experience with day care, so don't write it off. Happy we went with day care


Nanny vs Nanny share vs Daycare for 11-week-old

Jan 2008


My daughter is 11 weeks old and I am returning to work. I'm wondering if anyone has advice about whether I should hire a nanny, do a nanny share with another family, or send her to family day care center (run out of a private home.) I would love any advice on the pros and cons of each approach. We like the social aspect of day care, but wonder if our daughter needs more attention than a day care could provide. Cost is somewhat of an issue for us, even sharing a nanny, the cost seems to be 1.5-2 times the cost of family day care center. I appreciate your advice! Mom returning to work

Hi- Being that your daughter is so young, she is not in need of socialization yet. That is not a factor till 9-12 mos. For the first months of a child's life, providing individual attention is the absolute best thing you can do for her. If you can afford a nanny or nanny share, do it!! Bite the bullet financially and experience long-term rewards of building security in her, and helping her to feel her needs are met by being responded to. After she turns a year old, you can feel fine about switching to good daycare. early childhood educator

Congrats on your new daughter. Ultimately what matters most is whether the specific childcare situation (nanny, nanny share, or daycare center) feels right for you and your family. But you knew that already. That said, having tried all of these options with my kids, here is my view on pros and cons.

  PROS OF A NANNY - Can give your kid the most attention (1-on-1) - Schedule flexibility (i.e., if you have a good relationship with your nanny you might be able to ask her to stay late one night, work an extra day, etc. - always helpful to a working parent) - Caregiving style flexibility (i.e., you can ask your nanny to follow your own particular childcare preferences, which a day care center might not be able to accommodate) - Usually in your own home (no dropoffs/pickups/packing lunches, etc.) - Sometimes you can ask a nanny to help out around the house (e.g., laundry), although you might have to pay more for this.  CONS OF A NANNY - Most expensive option - Even the most experienced nanny will have less experience than an established daycare center, which sees *lots* of kids over a year, so may not know what to do with your child's unique challenge - Less secure - can quit at any time (and they do, believe me) - You know less about them than a licensed day care center, which does through extensive background checks and gov't inspections  PROS OF A NANNY SHARE - Less expensive than a nanny obviously, while still getting a low child ratio - May still be at your own home, at least some of the time  CONS OF A NANNY SHARE - Add'l logistical difficulties of the other family's schedule -  will you take vacations at the same time? What if they need the nanny to come earlier than you? etc. etc. - Add'l relationship difficulties of the other family - what if they turn out to have different childcare philosophies than you? What if your house is not clean enough in their view? What if one of the 2 babies is easier to take care of than the other? - All the same cons of a nanny apply here, too, especially the insecurity component  PROS OF A DAYCARE CENTER - Security/stability - this is a biggie. They are not going anywhere! You can count on childcare for your child, rain or shine. You don't have to wonder each morning if the nanny will actually show up! - Licensing. Again, the gov't checks things out, and the caregivers, too. - Least expensive option (usually). - Socialization for the kids - but, importantly, this does not really come into play until late in the first year of life. An 11-week-old needs responsive caregiving, not socialization with other kids.  CONS OF A DAYCARE CENTER - Not in your home obviously, so you have to dropoff/pickup each day. - Less flexibility to change a small issue you're not happy with. - More kids per teacher - especially challenging for infants. 

My two-cents: Try to keep the ratio as close to one-on-one as you can afford until the child is two. Social doesn't matter at this young age(the don't start playing interactively until three-ish anyway). Little ones prefer social contact with adults until after age two.

I work at a daycare and think that the environment is WAY to noisy, overstimulating, etc for the really little ones. The center (mixed ages 3-months to five years) is all that some parents can afford and I do my best to provide the same SAHM experience that I provided for my own children. I genuinely love the children in my care. But, I would never have sent my own children there. -like the lowest ratio possible

The bottom line? You have to look at your budget and lifestyle and decide what's right for you. But I can almost guarantee that the childcare choice you make now will not be the last choice you make. Every time I thought I was done finding childcare for one of my kids something would happen and we would have to try something new.

Also, I would reiterate that responsive caregiving and a low child-to-teacher ratio is absolutely the most important thing for a baby your daughter's age. Better to find a childcare arrangment that meets that need now, and worry about socializing her later.

I would put in a plug for small home daycare centers that take infants, if you can find them. There are good people out there who will take 2-4 little ones in their home (some of them unlicensed), and that can be a really good option. When I went back to work I underestimated how much it matters not only to have a good childcare arrangment, but also a secure one. Nannies are not secure. Just when you think that everyone is happy, something in her life will change (a spouse's new job, a decision to go back to school), and the nanny will leave. Nannying is not something that people expect to do on a long- term basis; most see it as transitory employment. And it was a major, unexpected source of stress for me to have nannies for my kids when I was never quite sure how far ahead I could plan my work life, how long they were going to stay, whether they would show up on Monday morning after a hard week with my kids previously, and so on. If the nanny said something in the morning that made me worry if she was really happy in her job, I would not be able to relax at work for the whole day.

If I have another baby, I'm going to look *first* into small daycares the next time around, before going the nanny route. But that's just my 2 cents. Good luck with your search! Childcare veteran

hi. i have two kids - 2.5 yrs and 1 yr. i did daycare with my first and it wasn't good. the napping situation isn't healthy for the most part. a family daycare might be better if they have enough space for kids to take good naps and are able to attend to them.

the nanny share we switched to was awesome. they go to the park, get good social interaction with other children, and get a lot of personal attention. i paid 9/hr for the share. now i have a ''share'' out of my home (my kids with their own nanny). and that, again, is a great situation. they are getting socialized and get a ton of personal attention(16/hr). when my son goes to preschool i am going to get a share partner for my daughter. they really learn a lot from that type of interaction.

i think the most important thing at that age (up to about 2yrs) is a loving caregiver with attention for them. they need a ''mom'' around to give affection and get a little social learning. beyond that (in terms of learning) i don't really think they need much. anon

All of these options are viable and can have good results. I have been a nanny for just one family as well as multiple families. I admit, when I'm with just one child, that child gets way more intense focus than when shared with other children. Personally (must be my temperament), I prefer the closeness and great rapport we develop when I'm just with one, but I can also successfully care for multiple children, making sure each feels loved and gets attention. But all throughout the day on clingy days or days when an issue is up, I have to alternate holding each child (sometimes I hold two at a time, but just for short periods). They sometimes feel jealous that the other one is being held, but I re-assure them that I love them and we do our best.

You need to understand that the more children there are, the more the caregiver's individual focus is dissipated - if you ever have a second child, you will see what I mean in your own household. This is not to scare you into paying more than you can afford and getting a nanny, when you budget really calls for a daycare.

Don't kid yourself about the socialization - that doesn't really matter until about 22 months, but having other kids around isn't a detriment either. There are some wonderful home daycares out there.

If you go for a home daycare, just make sure there aren't too many infants there (I would want 2 infants max with one provider). Let your heart and gut instinct guide you as to providers. What is most important is someone who will shower your baby with love, and make her feel secure during her daytime hours. You may luck out and get a woman with older children who really misses babies, and then it's like having a dedicated nanny for part of the day. Good Luck.

Go w/ what feels good! Even a large daycare can be terrific. I had one fabulous nanny (enthusiastic, energetic, loving, kept me abreast of everything), & when she moved, had a nanny share that turned into a nightmare: she lied to me on several occasions, denied it, I confronted her w/evidence, justified it because she believed she was a better caretaker than me! I had thought family day care would be perfect, but every one I saw left infants unattended in exersaucers for hours at a time, some were filthy, & none actually had enough help to provide real one- on-one care (the other families seemed happy, & I know some family daycares are fine). I finally settled on a rather large daycare (16 infants, in theory, though in practice they weren't all there at once), which went against my perceptions of what was best (and the fired nanny warned me my child would be permanently damaged), but in fact it was perfect for us at the time. No worries about lying caretakers, I knew the annual schedule (2 wks off per year), teachers were treated well (turnover was low), & my child got PLENTY of one-on-one & thrived w/ the other kids. The dire threats of catching every virus never materialized. I got detailed daily reports of food, naps, diaper changes. The facility was clean, & the babies' schedule was according to their own needs (didn't have to conform to the older kids or the caretaker's needs). I could (and did) pop in unannounced to check, and no one was offended or surprised by it. It IS important for infants to have one-on- one. At a daycare, make sure you understand & are comfortable w/ policies/schedules & teachers, and for a family daycare/nanny/share, make sure you are compatible w/ the personalities as well as schedules. (You don't have to love EVERY teacher at a daycare). In all cases, make sure your questions are answered and concerns are addressed. PS. You & your child will survive...

I would second those who suggested you go with what feels good, adding that you should also go with what works with your budget/schedule, etc. My 2-year old was in a daycare center beginning at 6 months, and loved each of the 3 main caretakers there, and he was held a lot and given lots of attention even though there were other little ones (not all infants, some toddling around). I think there is a perception that a nanny/nanny share is best for the littlest ones, but although a nanny is the most expensive option, I don't agree that it produces any superior results and studies don't support this perception anyway -- in many cultures children get attached to multiples family members/care providers and they can here too if the setting is right for your little one. He's now in a home-based preschool (also costs a lot less than larger, more formal preschools) and is absolutely thriving with a 1:6 ratio (though sometimes it's much less than that) and lots of personal attention, art, music, etc. For me it was most important that he be in a warm, loving, atmosphere with lots of stimulation and that can be found in many places...good luck to you! anonymous

Hello, I would definitely make a stretch for the nanny option. And do your research. Interview, interview, interview and like the person you hire. Accept that a nanny would never do the job as lovingly and deliberately that you could do as a mother. A nanny will not respond to every one of your child's needs on an intuitive level like you yourself would, but you need to trust their efforts to the nth degree. In the nanny business, you get what you pay for. I have certainly witnessed bad nannying at the park, around town. Remember, it is your child in his or her formative years! Consider options such as working part time or evenings when your husband returns home from work. Anon


Nanny vs. day care for a few hours a week

March 2006


I'm a first time mom of a 9 month old and am needing a few more hours of childcare. Currently I need four hours and will likely need four more on a different day in the next few months to half year. I'm not sure whether to go for a nanny or a day care. I worry that a nanny who only has so few hours may leave if she finds more/better work and having a good, consistent caregiver is very important to me. I'd be willing to pay for a full day of daycare and not use all the hours. THe one day care I've called has a minimum of three full days required, which doesn't make sense for us right now. I think my daughter would enjoy being with other kids. On the flip side, I worry about the many cold etc... My mom has been taking care of her for about 10+ hours a week, but can't do anymore. I know that part of my hedging has to do with being nervous about entrusting strangers to care for my baby. My daughter is not sleep trained as we do not subscribe to this method of childrearing. I worry that this might be a problem, especially at a day care, but also with a nanny. Any suggestions, experiences, recommendations, words of wisdom etc would be greatly appreciated. anon

I'd try going with the nanny route...only because of the developmental stage that your child is in. Right now at 9 months she is pretty egocentric and although it might be great to you that your daughter be around other children she does not really care right now one way or another. She is, in her mind, the center of the universe. The sleep situation, although, it is crucial that she get her sleep (and you get yours and take a break once in a while too). A nanny can better assist in that department than say a daycare. As far as the colds...she needs to build her immunity and become a strong child and if she is not at a daycare she will get those germs elsewhere. It is your decision. There are pros and cons to each. Good luck! anon


Nanny vs. day care for 22 month old

June 2005


We are moving in the fall and my daughter will be 22 months old and will have to leave her wonderful (full time) nanny share situation. We are evaluating whether we want another nanny share, family daycare or regular daycare center. Regular daycare centers make me a little nervous because of the higher child to adult ratio, and I am worried about her getting enough attention. On the other hand, the additional structure is appealing and might be good for her, and the reduction in cost is also appealing. Experiences with family or regular daycare centers for children that age would be most appreciated. Thanks, Caroline

I'd recommend that you think of preschool as an alternative to a nanny or a daycare. Preschools often start taking children at 2, and some accept non-potty trained children. Some offer whole-day programs. We put our daughter in preschool (part time) when she was 27 months old and it was a great decision, she's learned a lot, her social skills are wonderful, and she's had a lot of fun. anon

In the right family daycare, a 2-year-old can thrive. My son had an absolutely wonderful experience in a daycare run by a woman and her daughter. The woman had done master's degree work in early childhood development. There were 8 kids at a time there, they did lots of fun activities (coloring, painting, cooking, playdough) and played outside whenever possible. They learned tons of stuff (all as part of their playing, not formal teaching) -- my son knew his colors, how to count, had a great vocabulary, and knew what was and wasn't ''friendly'' (their term) behavior toward other children, all while he was 2! He's 4 now and in preschool, but we still keep in touch with the caregiver and with several of the other kids, who became his best friends while he was there. I cannot imagine an experience that would have been better for him. Karen


Nanny vs Day Care for 3-mo-old twins

June 2003


Greetings, My wife and I are expecting twins any day now, and we have been have difficulty finding a nanny to look after the boys, especially when we are both working (around Sept 1st.) We both really want to spend as much time with them and desperately want in home care, but with each interview, we get more frustrated. My question is, should we give up trying to find a nanny and bite the bullet and look for day care? Additionally, they will be about 3 months when my wife goes back to work, do any centers out there take infants that young? Oh yeah.... we live in Hercules. Thanks, Joel

I'd keep trying on the nanny front. First of all,it's early to be looking -- 4-6 weeks before start date there may well be more people available. Secondly, in my experience I have sometimes had to interview 10 or more nannies to find one good one. You'll know the right one when she comes along. Infant care if available but likely more expensive, more demanding on you and the babies, and might entail very long waiting lists. Best of luck! Sabrina

Both of my children have been attending a high-quality daycare center (AOCS in Oakland) since they were 3 months old. (They're now 4 1/2 and 21 months.) It's been nothing but a positive experience. From day one, my kids have been treated with love and respect by caregivers with years and years of experience as well as considerable education and training in child development. With a high-quality daycare, you get a licensed facility that must meet or exceed state requirements, a kid- friendly environment, trained professionals as well as great parent resources (experts to talk to and instant friends for your kids and you, to name a few!). Research carefully - they're not all great, and the great ones have long waiting lists. Bananas is a great resource, and a tour of AOCS will give you an idea of things to look for in a childcare center. happy working mom

Have you contacted Bananas yet? I highly recommend their seminar ''How to Choose Childcare''. If you can't make the seminar, give them a call anyway. They are a fantastic resource, even if you live in Hercules, and can offer more specific advice relevant to the cause of your frustrations. www.bananasinc.org 510 658 7353 Ellen

You didn't mention why that you've found that ''with each interview, we get more frustrated.'' What is frustrating ? Why are you having difficulty ? Without knowing this, it is difficult to give advice on whether or not you should give up looking or not. Although daycare can be fine for infants, in- home care is a most wonderful thing for brand new parents; I don't have twins, but I imagine that not having to get two babies out the door at a specific time in the morning would be a godsend. It took me literally hours to get me and my up-to-6- month-old singleton out the door (I'm sure you don't believe this now; but I used to be one of the world's most on time and efficient people, so trust me on this). I can't imagine what two would be like ! So, do not underestimate how important it may be to have someone come to your door in the morning and ''rescue'' you in those first 6 months ! It would also be worth it to hire someone and go through a trial period before September when you absolutely need them (as you are trying to do); I wish I had known that before I gave birth; you will need help more than you think you will, at least that was true for me with even just one child. Especially given that you have twins and will likely want someone experienced to care for infant twins, you may want to call Mom's Away nanny agency, who found our terrific nanny for us. It's a bit expensive but in the long run their fee is more than worth it, and they also have the most fair payment policy of any of the Bay Area agencies I checked out. Since you are frustrated and having difficulty, using a professional nanny finder could give you the peace of mind -- and the nanny -- you are looking for. kb

After reading the previous responses, I wanted to respond as a mom of twins (who are now 4 y.o.). Please continue your search for care in your home. Personal attention that is loving and individual is so important to a baby's development. I believe a licensed facility can have up to 4 infants per one adult. That just doesn't leave any time for play after all the care duties. Plus, for your sakes, it is so helpful to have someone who can also at least fold some baby laundry or wash bottles during the day. Every little bit helps. Another aspect of group care is the exposure to colds. Keeping your babies home will keep them healthier their first year - extremely important if the babies come early!

Have you joined the local twins club (maybe Twins by the Bay)? Maybe someone there has a nanny that only wants to work with infants and is ready to move on to another family. There's also a pretty active mom's club in Pleasant Hill that may be a good contact, I can't remember the name. I think the best sources are word of mouth. 2 1/2 years ago, Bananas didn't want to talk to me as I wasn't in their county, and the Contra Costa Childcare Council didn't have updated listings for local childcare - and only a couple nanny references. Best wishes, Lori


Nanny vs. Daycare for Half Days

Oct 2001


I'm planning on going back to school on January, I'll be studying 5 days a week 8-12. I'm not sure whether I want a daycare or a nanny for my baby (he'll be 5 months on Jan.)and would like to hear opinions about both the possibilities. I heard that if I want a daycare I should start looking now - any recommendation? thank you sharon

I don't know many daycares that will take a baby for less than full-time (even if you take them home for 1/2 the day, you will still pay for the full week, I believe)... but the main gist of your question is which you should choose. Only you know that answer; I was much happier with a daycare center for my 4.5-month-old than an in-home daycare or nanny. But to help you make that decision, BANANAS in Oakland (658-0381; let it ring FOREVER) periodically holds seminars on deciding which kind of childcare to choose. Oh, also, many daycares have long waiting lists, so if there are some you're possibly interested in, get on the waiting list *now*, even if you're not sure you want to choose that one. Good luck! Jennie


Nanny at home or daycare for 4-month-old?

Nov 1999


I'll be going back to work in January and will need full-time or close to full-time care for my son, who will be 4 months old. My husband & I are thinking about having a babysitter at home for the first year and then switching to family day care, but we don't feel like we have enough info to really make a good decision, particularly about any benefits there may be to being around other kids at that age. I'd appreciate any advice or thoughts people might have on this issue. Thanks!

I would suggest going to Bananas (childcare referral service and so much more!) on Claremont near Telegraph and talking to someone there as well as picking up some of their handouts on these topics.

We didn't really have much option of choosing between a family-style daycare and a nanny - a nanny is simply beyond our means. But we have been pretty satisfied with the home daycare situations we've found. Our son likes the interaction with other kids, and the variety of activity, and he really enjoys his days there. You do need to shop around though - all daycare providers are not equally good, nor are their facilities or prices. Also, a provider who is great with infants may not be the best with active toddlers, so you need to be alert for problems once your kid starts to run around (as I found out a bit belatedly). On the downside, the first six months he went to daycare were essentially one nonstop cold for us and him, but his immune system is now top-notch and he seldom gets sick. In short, I think both options have their plusses and minuses.

I took care of my baby son for 8.5 months before considering daycare, and this is why we started it (sort of long, but I hope you go ahead and read it, it's probably pretty typical in a general way, YMMV):

1. Home with Baby Mornings were fine, and the baby was happy being in the house and with whatever I could come up with for him to do -- swinging, singing (especially songs with gestures), dancing, reading, making faces, playing with toys, playing with a Gymini, playing on an exersaucer, The Bouncy Chair (not a jumper, the vibrating bouncing reclining thing Fisher-Price sells to soothe babies), and breastfeeding every couple of hours. By the time he was 8 weeks old, I was taking him (at first in a Snugli, later in a stroller, then a jog stroller, and sometimes a backpack) for a daily walk of a few miles R/T on any one of a number of paths in the ridgetop complex of parks. The exercise was good for me, and I had discovered that he sleeps MUCH better at night if he has at least an hour's worth of exposure to fresh air. Gradually his own routine, his natural timing of eating and napping, emerged. And also, he became restive in the afternoons, would react very positively when we went out after he awoke from the morning/noon nap, and basically indicated in a variety of ways that he wanted to see some new people, not only Mom all day. The walks on the trails, by the way, were NOT fulfilling his need for social interaction with other-than-mom people, but they did have the positive effect of exposing him to DOGGIES -- he _loves_ dogs :-)

2. Baby Bored? Kindermusik helped... a bit... So in the afternoons we would run errands, go to the tot lots and play, get Mommy a coffee at Peet's, and hit the ridges for a walk. That was good as far as it went. Eventually, all of this seemed to be a bit too familiar to him, and I started him in Kindermusik at about 6.5 months. He loved it! The only drawback was that it was only one day a week. He would look forward to that day, to seeing the other babies, to the play and music and a number of people doing the same things, and he would love to hear the CD when we were riding in the car. At playgrounds, he lean toward other children, from sessile (?!) babies to those old enough to stand, and try to touch them, to explore and make contact. He's a beautiful boy, and has a sweet personality, so this was not a problem, but it struck me that basically, he was lonely, especially for children near his own age.

3. Effects of isolation(?) on mood and development rate... self-weaning... In the rainy season if we couldn't go out, he would be fussy (the angry-tone rather than sad-tone cry) at trifles he'd usually have ignored. He also seemed to me to be very slow in developing the crawling skill. He has a large head, so I wasn't too surprised initially; the pediatrician told me large-headed babies don't have strong enough neck muscles for head-up crawling and they will usually take longer to get to that stage. He also had a cold, which slowed him down a bit, and during the cold he had weaned himself (at about 8 months), since the bottles I use (Playtex Avance) are MUCH easier to get milk from than breasts (at least mine) if you have a stuffy nose for two weeks. But I worried a bit when he still couldn't get more than a couple of wiggles' worth of crawling in at 8 months and a week. He seemed to be unwilling to take any hints about getting his bent knees under him (an endearing stubborn streak -- he will refuse to pay any attention to anything you show him, but then if you go do something else across the room, he will eventually try your suggestion and then at the next opportunity will show you this wonderful new method he came up with).

4. Daycare in Someone Else's Home I began to look into daycare, stumbled into a very nice one (max of four children, stepped in ages above and below my son's age) right off, and during the visit to it, my son was watching the little boy, a month older than himself, crawl around as though jet-propelled. By the end of the visit (30 min on a Friday afternoon), my son was crawling five feet at a time (!), and he became totally fluent in the new crawling thing over the next two days (a weekend he spent with us in the usual way). They also, because they have babies all the time, can justify the expense of toys and soft climbing structures, a pool of balls, etc.

We decided to go for the daycare, half-days. His improvement in coordination and mobility continued, and he was delighted to BE there -- excited about arrving each day -- but happy to see me when I'd pick him up at 1 pm. Finally, when he was 11 months old, he started objecting to half-days; he was having too much fun to want to leave. Coincidentally, the daycare provider informed me that they really needed a full-time baby in that slot, so that we would have to start full-time the following month (which they really hoped we would do, as they like our son and he gets along very well with the other children) or find another situation. We discussed it and went for the full-time involvement.

5. Visitation Rights: A Very Good Idea The idea was that if I got a bigger job than the P/T evening one I'd been doing (leaving dada with baby for male bonding and play), we could afford it, and he was happiest and learning the most by being with the other children and exposed to a different environment. He's 13 months now, and I still have pangs of missing him in the afternoons! But I will soon be working very close to his daycare, and they are very open to visits by parents at any time during normal business hours (it's in the contract). I also think that this policy is some kind of licensing requirement now -- it's a good idea, as it avoids setting up conditions which historically have accompanied abuse cases (especially physical privacy, and lengthy separation from the parent). Bananas also recommends asking about access to your child during daycare -- restrictions on this should make alarm bells go off for you, unless there is a very obvious good reason for a specific restriction. The parents of the youngest child in my son's daycare spend every lunch hour with him, and the mother of the oldest boy drops in randomly during the day. My husband and I were thinking the once I am working P/T nearby, we could start regular lunch visits, and that I could even take him for an hour in the park if his naptime wasn't meshing well with the other children's.

6. Naps, Timing, and the Importance of Being Outside This is the latest thing -- my son (not yet talking) seems to want to sleep on his own schedule and simply won't nap if it's not the right time, with which I utterly sympathize. I do understand that the daycare provider has to try to coordinate FOUR sleep schedules in order to actually get any group outdoor time for the children, but this is one area in which it's not really feasible to be regimented -- he'll just stay awake until exhaustion drops him -- we are trying to come up with a good way of resolving this afternoon-nap timing mismatch). I would recommend for this reason that if you go with a small daycare provider, you find a place that already has all of its physical improvements completed -- our provider was making noises about clearing out the back yard for a play area when we signed on, five months ago, and this hasn't even started, although winter is now approaching. So their only option for real outdoor time is to do it en masse in the outing-stroller (cute cart for four), which requires synchronized napping.

7. The Joy of Fingerpaints He has started being interested in crayons and drawing little wavery lines in different colors, and he loves fingerpaints -- even on the paper, although better still on his face, and in his mouth, apparently -- good thing they're non-toxic. Does anyone (who's read this far!! :-)) have any recommendations on what to mix into them to make them un-tasty to toddlers but not dangerous to eyesight?

Good luck with your son's solution. I hope our experience helps you in your weighing of options. It felt like a long time from the front end, but the last two years (pregnancy too) have gone by in a WHOOSH!!! I can still feel the breeze. That's one reason I favor part-time daycare; I want more moments of my son's babyhood to be with me, and to stay in my memory. I understand why some mothers become baby addicts! Thanks for listening :-)

I placed my son in a daycare center when he was six months old. At the time I was very nervous, felt guilty that I wasn't there for him, etc. But in hind sight, I think putting him in this particular day care was the best thing for his development. The day care takes children 3 months to 3 years. There is a room for year so that children of the same age are together, although there is a lot of intermingling between the age groups. The big kids love to play with the babies and the babies love watching the big kids. My son has learned so much from having to interact and share with other kids. For example, he know that when another baby is playing with a toy, it is not his turn. And vice versa. The other thing I noticed is that he learned certain words and behavior from other kids. While some of the behavior was not exactly desirable, I found that the way the teachers help them learn what is appropriate and not appropriate very effective in helping him understand that the world is not centered on him alone. In other words, he is learning that he has to be conscious and aware of others. This, I believe, is an invaluable lesson!!! and I don't think he would learn it as quickly if he were the only child being taken care of.

When he first started, there was a transition period. But once he was oriented, he learned to love certain kids and we have a couple of kids we get together with on a routine basis for play time. This way he develops friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime. He also looks forward to our going to school routine. He even gets frustrated with me when I don't move fast enough to get out of the house in the morning.

I recommend a day care situation where your baby can interact with other kids.