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Health & Pregnancy

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Choosing Child Care Service

Whether you are looking for a day care center or at-home care, choosing child care service requires doing your homework.

The Optimal Caregiver

Many child development experts believe that in an ideal world, parents should be the primary caregivers, particularly in the early weeks and months of a child's life. "Parental care is particularly important for babies, who need to be properly nurtured and receive plenty of interaction with the caregiver," says Greenspan.

Greenspan says more parents should consider an approach that he describes in his book, The Four-Thirds Solution, in which parents arrange their work shifts and schedules to reduce or eliminate the need for outside child care service -- for example, each parent works two-thirds of a full-time week, and devotes the remaining time to their baby.

According to Schiller, the first six weeks of a baby's life are important times for one or both parents to assume the caretaking role. "The child is brand new to the world, and is just getting used to his or her environment at home," she says. "Also, anytime you put a child into group care, you run the risk of colds and other communicable illnesses, which you'd like to avoid in the earliest weeks of life."

The Search Goes On

If you're selecting a nanny or au pair to come into your home, make sure you check references carefully. Is this someone who has a proven record of responsibility and trustworthiness? Has she gotten high marks from other families she has worked for? How does she interact with your baby the first time or two that they meet?

When you're considering a child-care center or a family home that cares for children, talk to other parents who have sent their youngsters there and get a sense of whether they've been happy with the experience. No matter what venue you choose, however, many of the same selection criteria apply:

  • Visit the facility or home several times before making a decision.
  • Meet the director and caretakers, and visit the rooms or the nursery where your child will be spending time.
  • Look for warmth and responsiveness in caregivers.
  • Get a sense of whether caregivers talk and sing to babies, and have ongoing interactions with every child.
  • Are there plenty of play areas, and mobiles over each crib?
  • Is the environment rich with stimulation -- sounds and colors that increase a child's awareness of his or her world?
  • Is the facility clean? Does it have good sanitary procedures in the kitchen and diaper-changing areas?

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