First time parent, when to start signing up for daycare?

Hi BPN. Soon to be first time parent, due in November 2021. I will be taking 3 months for maternity leave. In February 2022, I’ll be returning to work full time. How far in advance can I reserve a spot in a home based day care or child care center? 

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Child care center: get on the list now. Home-based daycares generally don't start filling spots until much closer to the time they open up, but it's worth doing your research now to find some that might work for you and being on their radar should they know of spots opening. Unfortunately, February is a tough time to start childcare since a big wave of spots open up in the summer months, so (at least in my experience, with two kids who both started around that time of year) you want to do all the homework you can now. Both my kids ultimately ended up in nannyshares since we didn't get off any waitlists in time, though, and that worked out fine too; those are trickier to find until the month or so before you need care.

It is never too early to look for centers and get on their list. Nanny shares/nanny you have more time for. Usually 1-3 months before you need it is enough to find a nanny. Like the other poster, we actually wouldn't have gotten into any centers if it hadn't been for one opening in my building at work and getting preferential entry there. Daycares are great, we LOVED ours, but for our second I can't even get anyone to email/call me back to even get on the waitlist! Good luck! 

Do your research and interviews now. Some daycares will take a deposit to secure your spot early in advance, but they don’t always know if they’ll have a spot. I know my son’s daycare, Tiny Footprints in El Cerrito, is booked until Jan 2022. Since I’m due in Oct, I let the owner know I wanted to secure a spot in March. When I was pregnant with my first, I tried contacting 13 places and couldn’t get in anywhere. Then we got a place and the spot fell through so we did a nanny share until Covid hit. Now our son loves his daycare and it works great for us, so I would just say that things don’t always work out how you think they will, but try to be flexible and go with it. 

We were on the waitlist for 8 months before we were able to enroll my son into his childcare center. Other daycares I spoke to had a waitlist between 3-12 months. I would reach out and start inquiring ASAP. They’ll usually let you know if you’ll need to apply sooner rather than later. 

We had our daughter Dec 2020  (recently moved to the area March 2020) and heard we needed to get on waitlists. Although it was during the heart of the pandemic, most of what we found would not allow for waitlist signups until the child was born. We tried to get around those restrictions to no avail.

Three days after her birth, I immediately signed up for a slew of waitlists. But I don't have too much hope – my brother did the same for his daughter before he moved out of Berkeley to Park Slope six years ago. Right before we came to Berkeley – 5.5 years after signing-up – he got a call of a daycare opening. We tried to take without success.