Oh no, your maternity leave is up!

As much as you love and cherish your baby, you have to provide for your child, and maybe even its older siblings. Which means, back to work in order to feed your kids and keep a roof over your heads.

The best people to look after your baby while you are at work is a family member. Perhaps your mother or a sister can do this. Or maybe a close friend or a trusted neighbor. But in some cases, neither family nor friends are free to take care of your little one, so you have to turn to a daycare center.

This is not an easy decision to make, especially given how costly daycare can be or just the fact you are placing your baby into the hands of a complete stranger. But what choice do you have?

Luckily, there are many ways - and questions - to help you decide on which daycare center will be best for your baby. Below are some of the biggest and most important questions you need to ask and notes to take as you hunt for the daycare that will both take care of your baby, and take care of your concerns.

Look Around, What Do You See?

When you first begin touring daycare centers, obviously the staff will be on their best behavior. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to not notice anything right from the get-go. You might notice the colorful decor, the young tots playing with many toys, the babies being cared for, the staff keeping an eye on their charges. But what else do you see?

Is everything nice and clean? Are cabinets and drawers baby-proofed? How’s the heat and A/C? Are the toys in good condition? Does everything else - cribs, changing tables, even the staff’s furniture - look to be in solid condition? No one screw should be sticking out and none of the furniture better have anything torn or ripped. Same goes for any outdoor play areas this center should have. Put it this way: if the daycare center has one thing out of place, what else will be, especially when there’s no tour going on?

Even more so, ask yourself this as you look around: how many caretakers are there? The ratio between the adults and the children is a major factor. The American Academy of Pediatrics prefers three babies for each adult, and if that’s what you see, perfect! And if they are getting eye-to-eye with the toddler children, or even the crawling babies, that’s just as good! These are all signs of a staff that will be dedicated to the wellbeing of your baby.

The Questions to Ask:

Of course, you would need to ask lots of questions while daycare center shopping. One of the important inquiries should be the curriculum the center has for its charges. Sure, your baby may be a few months old, but what does the daycare have planned for its daily routines? Is it good for your baby?

Does the place require parents to bring food or will the daycare be providing, and if so, what sort of food is on the menu? What kind of toys exactly are chosen for the babies to play with? And how does the center handle issues such as teething or a baby who has difficulty sleeping or has colic? What is its sick-child policy? Is the daycare flexible with drop-off and pick-up times?

Better yet, is there a list of guidelines the daycare can give to you so you can read over and see exactly what their rules are?

The more questions you ask, the better. If the center gets annoyed with all your inquiries, move along because that one can’t be trusted.

Do Your Homework:

Ask around to see if any other moms you know recommend those places you checked out. Also, do your Internet search and see what online reviews exist for those daycare centers. Take note of the dates of those reviews and read each one carefully to see if any of the complaints are genuine or were those five-star reviews done to outdo to one-star reviews?

Furthermore, look for the center’s license to see if it is outdated. If it is, do not send your baby there. A licensed daycare center does not mean it has an A+ and is fully trusted, but having one means the center meets the basic criteria according to the state.

Make a Surprise Visit:

To really make sure the center you have in mind is the best place for you and your baby, stop by unannounced. This will be a chance to see what everything is like when there aren’t any tours or appointments, and you’ll be able to see what really goes on.

Now, some places won’t allow you to come in unannounced, even if it is to drop off any paperwork. If that’s the case, you may want to reconsider why you, a prospective parent, cannot go inside. There’s a chance that place may have something they don’t want you to see.

Placing your baby into daycare will not be easy, emotionally, for both you and your child. But to ease your worries, and maybe even guilt, find out all you can about the daycare centers in your neighborhood before you make your final choice. If all goes well, you will be forming a great relationship with a team of caregivers who will take care of your baby, as well as your concerns, while you work for a better life for your little one.

Good luck and remember: there’s no such thing as too many questions!

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