Experience with Bright Horizons Back up care?

Hi all, 

Has anyone used the Bright Horizons back up care program? 

We have a 2 week nanny vacation coming up in June, and it seems like a great time to use this benefit through my husband's work, but I'm a little nervous about having our toddler stay with a stranger, mostly because he hasn't stayed with many babysitters over the last year (COVID), and I am worried it might be stressful for him. But also just because it feels a little hard to trust someone who you don't interview / get recommendations for / etc. 

I may be over -worrying this, but would be curious to hear other experiences / opinions. 

Our son will be about to turn 3 years old at the time. 

We'd be likely to use the in-home care option (rather than a center based care) because that seems easiest, and my husband works from a little office in our backyard, so he could be around in case he was needed. 

Thanks for any thoughts  folks can provide! 


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Hi Jess,

My family used backup care at BH in San Francisco when we used to live there. Pre-COVID, it was relatively easy to get a daycare spot as SF had lots of sites. We were never able to get the in-home option to work because they never had a provider available. At the last moment, they will send an email saying that they can give you money so you can have someone you know watch them, such as a family friend. We found this to be too much trouble and usually just had someone take the day off.

So, while the in home looks good on paper, the reality was not very good. I imagine that the pandemic has made it even more challenging.

Best of luck!


I've used them several times through my work when my son was younger (1-2 years old and had a fever/cold and couldn't go to daycare). The sooner you submit the request the more likely it is they'll be able to book you the same person for the whole time. Otherwise, you'll run into a new person everyday/every other day, which can be hard. The experience overall was fine. It was rarely great but they took care of my son and he was happy at the end of the day. We were also at a bright horizon's daycare for our full-time care, which we loved, but it sounds like that could be more stressful for your kiddo since they're not used to being around strangers. If you do in-home care, just be VERY clear about how you want them to care for your child. Leave them printed directions and a schedule and they'll follow that. I felt the experience was better the more prepared I was for them: clear directions, food prepared, schedule outlined. And of course, it is better if you can get the same person for the week/whole time. Good luck! (Kids are really resilient! It will likely be harder for you than your kiddo. ;) ) 

We have used it a few times a few years ago, but our son was older (10-ish). Yes, you can't interview/screen the nanny you get. But Bright Horizons does that for you.

We had good experiences. All cases were for a single day where our son's private school had an off-day. The nanny called us a few days in advance to ask a number of things like any foods she can't bring into the house because of allergies or other reasons, anything she needs to know about our sons schedule or rules etc. We told her no screen time for our son during the day, he needs to practice his musical instrument for at least half an hour and if the weather is good we would like it if they spent some time in one of the two nearby (less than five blocks) parks, perhaps bringing a soccer ball.

When the nanny arrived, we showed her where our son's room is, where the bathroom is and in the kitchen where glasses, plates and silverware are. Told her which snack foods our son can have and to please help him heat up his lunch in the microwave. Told her she was welcome to use microwave, plates, silverware etc for her own lunch and to please put all used dishes in the dishwasher before we got home. We gave her a key in case they went to the park so that she could lock the house.

Our son always had fun on those days. Instead of practicing music it felt more like giving a concert, so he practiced longer than needed and they played a bunch of board games.

Yes, I just tried BH this month since our nanny was out due to covid. I had similar situation - a toddler whose never been left alone with anyone else but his usual nanny, and is working from home. We didn’t have great luck, but mostly cause we applied last min (a few days before) and they simply didn’t find anyone the first week (after I spent a lot of time on their website setting up requests), and they keep you hanging right up to the day of, saying they might find someone. There’s basically no flexibility - either they find someone for your exact day/time request, or you get nothing. So I made separate requests for each day the second week and we got two different people for 3 of the days. Both nannies were late and while both were nice, my son was whiny and didn’t want to be with either. Since then, I gave up on BH and hired a friends nanny who had the week off and was willing to come. I know other people who’ve had better luck with BH, and if you request really early for the full two weeks maybe you can get someone. As soon as they’ve found someone, they list their name in the website so you can try to contact them.

We have used it, mostly the in-home care, and we have had a wide range of experiences, from an amazing nanny last September who our son still talks about to nannies who were basically fine - like they kept our kid safe and engaged for the day but not terribly creative about coming up with things to do, etc. But we needed to work, and sometimes a just-fine nanny has to be good enough for a short time. I did find that with a new person, I had to be pretty involved - showing them where things are, giving them instructions for naptime, etc. - but if you book someone for two weeks, after a few days they should be able to be more self-reliant. And if you get someone you don't really like, you can always cancel and request someone else. But last-minute requests don't always get filled. We made a lot of last-minute requests last fall when our son's school was closed on smoke days, and some days we didn't get anyone.

We also used the center a couple of times around age 3-4 and my son actually loved it - he loved all the new toys and had no trouble with a class of kids he doesn't know, and usually he's a big introvert. We haven't used it in a while because of COVID, but things may be different by June. I would definitely use the center again once we feel more comfortable with the exposure again, it felt a lot easier than having to bring a new nanny up to speed in our house.

We used Bright Horizons back up care in the fall and it was awesome. We had a bunch of different caregivers come to our home and they were all excellent and super professional. My kids were very excited to have someone come and pay total attention to them.  It was definitely weird to have a stranger come into our home and take care of our kids without knowing very much about them, but as we used the program I felt more and more confident about it because they were just so good. 

We had good experiences with the center based backup care in both Berkeley and SF. Our kids went there regularly from ages 2-6 and they always had a good time. We don’t have access to the home based care so I can’t comment on that and we haven’t used the center post covid either. 

We have done both- in home and center back up care and I would suggest the in home care. Our son has been in a nanny share so dropping him off at the center was traumatic for my son and us (very traumatic- I still have not recovered). We tried the Center because someone else I had worked with was left high and dry for a week on the in home option when the nanny never showed and they couldn’t get a replacement.  We have used the in home option a few times and it’s been fine- some of the nanny’s are better than others and I only use it when I am working from home as my son is still traumatised from being dropped at the center so is weary when new nanny’s show up.  

Hi, we used Bright Horizons backup care through my employer twice -- once at a center and once in home. We were pleased with both. My kiddo was about 4 years old, and the at-home sitter they sent was lively and energetic and did a much better job keeping up with our active kiddo than we do. She seemed very attentive. We wished we could hire her for babysitting some other time. My husband was home at the time (he had to fix something on the roof), which gave us comfort we might not have otherwise had with a stranger. (I don't think at that age we would have left our kid with a stranger alone in our house unless we had to.) 

Given what you said about your son, my concern would be whether they could send the same person for every day of the 2 weeks -- you might want to check that. But otherwise, if it were me, I wouldn't worry if your husband will be home and also that your son is likely old enough to tell you about the sitter at least on a little kid level. 

We used bright horizons through my work and were always pleased with the sitters that came over. They were responsible and did a good job. We even have one as a permanent babysitter for us now.

With your husband working from home nearby, I would be totally comfortable having a Bright Horizons sitter come. Pre-COVID, we used the in-home care often for the many days our daughter's preschool had teacher in-service days or breaks. I would say that 90% of the time, the sitters we got were fantastic. They texted me updates and photos throughout the day, wrote down very thorough notes of what our child ate/napped/potty. We were always open about having a nest cam in our house with our sitter and I would check it every so often and found our sitters engaging (reading books, singing, chatting). Our daughter was a happy kid at the end of each day. At 3 years old, at least your child can tell you a bit about what happened during the day, how they felt about the sitter.

We did have one terrible BH sitter, who was on her phone much of the day, fed our child too many pouches, and then at one point turned off the nest cam. My husband and I both rushed home when that happened and we reported it to BH.

Hi Jess. Doesn’t sound like over worrying to me, just some fair considerations :) I’ve only used the in-center back up care and was happy with it as an occasional option. I considered the in-home service and had to request to speak to the prospective carer on the phone first as they didn’t offer that as a standard thing. Maybe you could ask to do that. See if you’re happy then cancel or go ahead as you’d like. I actually cancelled. Perhaps I was being a little tough, but I didn’t think she sounded engaged enough for me. As you say your husband being at home will be helpful. He can check in on them. Good luck. 


My experience with in-home backup care has been mixed. The way it works is Bright Horizons reaches out to several 3rd party services to find someone available to care for your child. BH takes great precautions to enforce COVID safety but I think it is difficult given that they hire through an external company. I had to remind every nanny (I've had 3) to please wear her mask throughout the day.

Generally they were all great with my boy (he was 5 months then) and kept him fed, clean and happy. 

It is worth noting that BH cannot always find care. I have a request in right now that I put in on Tuesday for Friday care and they have not yet been able to find anybody.

Personally, I needed the mental health break and to focus on work so I was extremely grateful for the back-up care option and that is why I still continue to use it.

I hope this helps.