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Making It Work

Finding the Right Day Care Provider

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 5, September-October 2004, p. 186

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I am seven months pregnant and will be a single mother. I've spent the last four months reading all I can and learning about childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting. I plan to have a gentle, baby-friendly birth, breastfeed, and co-sleep with my baby. However, I am worried about finding the best day care provider for my child while I am at work. Maybe other mothers have some ideas on this?

Response

I applaud your plans to birth and mother your baby in such a child-centered way! As the single mother of a still-nursing two-year-old, I know that parenting without a partner and blending work and family so your family comes out ahead can be challenging. But mothering through breastfeeding is wonderful and beneficial for you and your baby, especially if you work outside your home. You will feel closer to her and more tuned in to her moods and cues.

Choosing the right day care provider for your baby can be worrisome. Are alternatives possible? Consider taking the maximum amount of leave available to you. After returning to work, could you work from home for three or six months? Or could you work part-time for a while? These suggestions would allow time to develop and enjoy your relationship with your baby. Also, your baby could become accustomed to her caregiver with you working in the next room, or on a part time basis.

If these options are not feasible for you, consider asking family or friends for caregiver recommendations. Make a list of questions to ask a potential care provider. Is she licensed and CPR certified? Is she supportive of your breastfeeding relationship? Is she knowledgeable about thawing, storing, and feeding human milk? Is she willing to feed your baby with a dropper, spoon, or cup if she declines a bottle? Will she respond promptly to your child's needs? Will she carry your baby in a sling? Also consider where your day care provider is located. If she is near your place of work, you can visit and breastfeed your baby during breaks and lunch.

Enjoy your mothering journey. And remember, every baby needs one mother who loves her best!

Monica J. Rudy
Wyoming MI USA

Response

I returned to work after giving birth to my first child and was faced with the same worry. I needed to find quality, breastfeeding-friendly child care. I decided to go about finding care in a very methodical, thorough manner. First, I sat down with my mother (a preschool teacher with 20 years of experience) and made a list of questions I wanted to ask each provider. You can find good starter lists on the Internet, if you don't want to start from scratch. My list included questions about things including cleanliness, care practices, teacher retention and training, discipline policies, accreditations, and experience with breastfeeding and the storage and handling of human milk.

Next, I called my local child care association for a list of licensed care providers in my area. The child care association had information for both home-based and center-based care. I narrowed the list down to those that were close to either my office or my house and began calling. Where I lived at the time, it was very difficult to find infant care, so just finding a place that had an opening was a bit of a challenge. In the phone calls, I asked about basic things such as hours, fees, and the ratio of adults to babies. For the home-based settings, I asked about the ages of the other children in the home and agreeable times for visiting the provider. I was able to use the basic questions to whittle down my list. For instance, one center charged fees that were much higher than I could possibly afford. Another home-based provider had a houseful of boisterous toddlers, which didn't seem like a good fit for my baby.

My next step was to use a couple of my vacation days and do drop-in visits at the places still on my list. Any good center and many home-based providers will welcome drop-in visits to allow you to get a true snapshot of what happens during the day. I asked my mother to come along for a second opinion. I took my list of questions to these visits and wrote down all of the answers. Although we did a lot of talking, our observations were just as helpful. We looked for clean surroundings, happy children, and care providers who were attentive and responsive to the children's needs. Immediately after each visit, my mother and I compared our observations and gut feelings about each place. Having a second person along was invaluable. She was able to closely observe while I was focused on asking questions.

After visiting all of the possibilities, I sat down to compare answers, fees, location, and hours. I ended up choosing a day care center in a church that was only five minutes from my office. This day care was middle of the road price-wise, clean, had low teacher turnover, experience with breastfeeding infants, responded promptly to cries, and held the babies most of the day. Since it was close to my office, I was able to drop in to breastfeed or just check on my baby whenever I felt the urge and my job allowed.

In addition to meeting my practical criteria, the place I chose was also the one my mother and I had both had the best gut feelings about.

Finally, I left my baby's name on the waiting lists at my second and third choices, just in case my initial impressions turned out to be wrong and I needed to change providers. My son ended up staying at this center until a few months before his second birthday, when I was able to quit my job and stay home, so it turned out to be a great fit. Good luck with your search.

Brenda Carroll
Layton UT USA

Response

I faced a similar situation with my son, Isaac, when I returned to school after he was born. I started back when he was five months old. During my pregnancy, I was concerned about finding someone I could trust to take care of him. Certainly a family member may be an option for you, but my husband and I do not have any family nearby. When my son was about three months old, I went to an LLL meeting and sat next to a woman and her six-month-old daughter, Caitlin. I was so impressed by the loving way she mothered her little girl and I thought about how wonderful it would be if I could find someone like that to take care of my little boy.

That night, after I got home from the meeting, I couldn't stop thinking about who was going to care for Isaac while I was at school. Then something occurred to me. I could ask the fellow LLL member I had been so impressed by to care for my baby while I was at work.

I spoke with her at the next meeting and, after thinking about it, she said she would be interested. My husband and I took our son over to her house and we discussed the payment arrangements and other details. I am happy to report that I have been so pleased with this wonderful woman taking care of my son. She is loving and gentle and my son loves her.

Meeting someone at an LLL meeting may be good for you, too, because it allows you to get to know other mothers who have similar parenting styles and priorities. I am so thankful that I found such a great woman to care for my son. I never had to explain and convince someone why breastfeeding is so important and special.

Julianna Hartmann
Rock Hill SC USA

Response

It's difficult for any mother to leave her child. In today's society, however, this is often the case, regardless of whether you are a single mother or one who has a partner.

For my first child, I found a local woman who provided child care in her home. She had also breastfed her own children. This was by far the best for us, but finding her was difficult.

I started looking when I was about seven months pregnant. I gathered a list of questions to ask each person I interviewed, and I visited each care facility twice. The first time was a scheduled interview, usually near the end of the day when there were fewer children present so I had the full attention of the caregiver. The second visit took place during the middle of the day, usually right before lunch, when most children were awake and active. By doing this, I was able to gather the information I needed to make an informed choice. I also called references and checked with my local agency that governs licensed child care facilities to see if there had been any complaints or concerns.

If I had to go through the process of finding child care all over again, I would consider a stay-at-home mother who needed a bit of extra money. Another option might be a very active, retired grandma who is willing to watch my child as a way to increase her retirement income. I think there are alternatives to the standard day care choices, and I encourage you to investigate some of these alternatives.

Keri Gaydos
Fountain Valley CA USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
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