Going back to work – what are your options? – By Jo Ryan

It has come to that time – that time when you need to go back to work, or at least you are thinking about it. So, what are your options when it comes to child care?

If you are thinking about putting your baby into childcare, then it is a good idea to start planning in advance. As I am sure you are aware, childcare spaces are very limited, especially in city areas. You should start scouting around for childcare centres in your area at least six months (maybe more!) before you head back to work.

As a start, I would also think about what childcare facility or option you would like for your baby. Would you prefer a large centre or a smaller one, family day-care or having a nanny come to your home? Make sure you discuss this with your partner and whoever else has a care-giver role in your child’s life. It’s also a good idea to do the research early as you don’t want to leave it to the last minute and have to take whatever option is offered to you. You need to be in control of this!

What are the options?

As I am sure you are aware, child care is a much talked about issue. One of the most debated topics are around what options are best for young children. The other major issue is just how much these options cost. Obviously, all these things depend on your situation both financially and socially, so it is completely up to you to decide what suits your family best.

That said, research does say that one-on-one care is the ideal option for a young child – and by that I mean a baby under the age of twelve months. By one-on-one care I mean that a baby is looked after solely by one person be it a nanny, a relative or a friend. If that is not an option for you then the next best thing is a centre or a family day care that has a good ratio of carers to babies. Ideally this would roughly be one carer to three young babies.

If you have decided to use a larger child care centre then doing background work is vital. It is important to make sure you have all the information and are happy with the centre before you commit to sending your baby there.

What to look for in a child care

Things to ask and look out for in a childcare centre:

  • What is the carer to baby ratio?
  • Does the centre have appropriate safety features, like child-proof gates, fences and sun protection outside?
  • Do they put sunscreen on the children before they go outside?
  • Do they insist that children wear hats when playing outside?
  • If they provide meals, what are they?
  • Is there a signing in and out process?
  • Is there an incident reporting process?
  • Is the centre clean?
  • Do the carers have appropriate qualifications?
  • Can you get testimonials from other parents?

I would also visit the centres you are considering and spend some time observing what is going on. You can watch the children and how they interact with the carers and vice versa. This can give you a good “feel” for the place. I would also book some time with the manager to ask all your questions.

What to look for in a nanny

If you decide to employ a nanny then the things I would suggest you look for when interviewing are:

  • What are their qualifications?
  • Do they have experience working with young babies?
  • Do they have a driver’s licence with no fines or disqualifications?
  • Have you done a working with children check and a police check?
  • What is their background and have they spent a lot of time around families and children?
  • Do they know how to play and entertain a child of your baby’s age?

It is also a good idea to organise a day when your prospective nanny comes to your home for a few hours to spend time with your baby while you can observe them. This can give you a good “feel” for the person and how they interact with your child. It is really important to see how your child responds to them as well – you want your child to actually like and get along with the person caring for them!

So the bottom line in deciding on childcare is to give yourself enough time to not feel rushed in your decision. Take as long as you need. It is an important decision and you want everyone to be happy.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.

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