‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ This is especially true for parents who have to return to work soon after they have their babies.
While many parents try to have their little ones at home as long as possible, some families do not have this luxury and need the help of infant daycares.
Daycare is the term used to describe a place of caring for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and even older children during the day while their parents are engaged in other tasks such as work. Daycare can be in a centre, at home, or in a relative’s or caregiver’s homes. Infant daycare refers to the care provided for infants.
When did the concept start?
The concept of infant daycares started in the latter part of the 20th century when there was a large increase in the number of women in the workforce. Women who were also mothers needed help watching their children as they worked.
As more women opted to go to work soon after their maternity leaves ended, the demand for someone to help with their children also increased.
Nonparental care soon became a norm and in these modern times, many families have no choice but to opt for daycare for their babies and children.
Popularity of infant daycares in Malaysia
Childcare and infant care centres in Malaysia are a popular option for parents who need someone to care for their children while they work. In fact, an article in The Star newspaper reported in 2018 that ‘Malaysia needs more childcare centres’
Additionally, the New Straits Times reported in 2018 that there are 2.3 million children under the age of 4 in this nation. Malaysia needs at least 38,000 childcare centres to meet the needs of families with children under 4. With many parents working, these centres are not only popular, but also a necessity.
Are they a better option as compared to a babysitter?
Infant daycares offer a service that is very much needed these days. Many parents opt to send their little ones to a centre because reputable centres have systems and procedures in place.
Reputable brands in this industry ensure that your baby will be well taken care of. Staff and teachers are well trained and experienced in child care. This provides parents with the assurance that their child will be safe compared to hiring a nanny who you know nothing about.
Additionally, daycare centres also offer parents the stability that hired nannies or babysitters are unable to provide. With a team of teachers available at daycare centres, parents will not have to make last minute changes if a particular teacher is unable to work on that day.
Read on for some other pros and cons of infant daycare.
Infant daycare pros
Infant daycare programs that are good offer quite a number of advantages for parents as well as children:
- Many daycare centres offer care from infancy through toddlerhood. This continuous care offers the child security. It is also convenient as parents do not have to search for another option when the child grows.
- Your baby will have the opportunity to spend time with other small children and learn more about peer interaction at an early stage.
- A well organized daycare will ensure that your child hits their development milestones.
- Most centres stay open for long hours so that parents do not have to worry about the pick up time.
- Daycare is usually less costly than hiring a nanny.
- Daycare centres have a team of staff so you do not have to worry if your child’s carer is unable to make it to work for whatever reason. If you have a nanny who calls in sick, you would probably have to take leave from work if no one is available at the last minute to care for your child.
- You will be able to research the school’s brand and be assured of their reputation before trusting your little one in their care.
- Children who are in daycare have ample time to learn to cope with separation anxiety before they move to preschool.
- Little ones at good daycares have the opportunity to be exposed to early childhood education and thus, get a headstart in their preschool education.
- Reputable daycare centres have good security that ensure your child is safe at all times.
Infant daycare cons
Unfortunately, infant daycare also has its downsides:
- Because your baby will be together with other children, he or she may get sick more often. To manage this aspect, it is important to choose a daycare that meets all the required health standards.
- Some daycares are unlicensed and the staff do not have childcare training. It’s best that you do some research on the centre to ensure the safety of your child.
- If you work on weekends or public holidays, daycare centres might not be open. This means you will have to look for other childcare options. While those who have normal 9 to 5 hours, daycare centres might not be the best option if your work schedule is not fixed.
How to choose an infant daycare?
Choosing an infant daycare is hard, but has to be done if you need someone caring for your baby. It’s scary to leave our babies with other people, but here are some things that you can look out for to help you to choose the best infant daycare for your little one:
Safety is paramount
One of the most important things to look out for when you choose an infant daycare is evidence that the daycare provider adheres to safe sleep practices.
Check for see through cribs. Carers should be able to see your baby at all times, even when they are asleep. Ask how they put babies to bed and what’s allowed in the cribs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should sleep on their backs on a firm surface. There should not be pillows, blankets or toys in the bed when your infant is sleeping to reduce the risk of SIDS. Make sure that sleep guidelines are followed strictly. Mattresses should be firm with tightly fitted sheets to ensure that your child is safe even during nap time.
Other important aspects of safety that you can look out for include security at the gate and CCTV monitoring. Ideally, the centre should have all entrances and exits monitored. Also check if there is provision of direct contact for parents.
The daycare should be clean and tidy. Look for evidence that staff clean up after activities and keep the environment tidy.
Daycare centres that are clean usually have cleaning policies and thus, safe for your baby to crawl around. Toys and play materials should also be regularly sanitized. Many babies put things in their mouths and you want a place that is as clean as possible to minimize germs that will cause your baby to fall sick.
You should also observe if personal cleanliness of the little ones is taken care of at all times. Choose a daycare that changes diapers at regular intervals, cleans the little ones after meal times and wipes their hands and faces clean.
Look for a place that will do its best to follow you baby’s schedule
The daycare that you choose should keep to your baby’s routine as much as possible. While nap time may be enforced at certain times in daycares, try and find a place that pays attention to your baby. Staff need to know the tell tale sleepy signs – eye rubbing, heavy headed nodding, grouchiness – and let your baby get the rest she needs.
Observe and talk to the staff
When you are at the centre, observe how the staff or teachers respond to your questions. No matter how many questions you have, teachers should take the time to answer the questions to the best of their ability. If the centre’s staff do not communicate well with you in the beginning, do not expect this to change once you’ve enrolled.
It’s best that you choose a centre that offers you the kind of communication that works for you. Do remember that if the teachers do not communicate well with you now, then you may very likely have problems getting answers when you ask about your baby’s progress or activities in the future.
Check licences, accreditation and references
The daycare center that you choose should, at the very minimum, be licenced. Accredited centres are even better as they have higher standards that they adhere to in order to be accredited.
Additionally, if you know others who’ve sent their babies or children to the centre, talk to them about their experience.
Drop by unannounced
You should also consider stopping by unannounced so that you have a better and truer picture of what goes on at the centre when they are not expecting visitors. If the centre does not allow you to visit unannounced, you might not want to send your little one there.
Another factor you should consider is meal quality. Look for a centre who follows parental instructions if your little one is on expressed breastmilk or formula. Check if you will be required to bring pre-prepared meals for your little on or the daycare will prepare the food.
If food is prepared by the centre, ask for a menu and check if it meets dietary requirements and if it age appropriate. Meals should obviously be healthy and nutritious to promote optimum health and development.
What is the best age to put a baby in daycare?
There is no ‘best’ age to put a baby in daycare. It is a personal decision which depends on factors such as financial stability, your work requirements and availability of other childcare options.
For some, the ‘right’ age to put a baby in daycare is when they need to go back to work or after maternity leave. For others, the ‘right’ age is later when the child is much older.
Nonetheless, parents should take not that there are studies that show that children who had an extensive infant daycare experience were associated with insecure attachment during infancy and were more assertive than their peers during the preschool and early schooling years.
In Malaysia, the minimum age for child care varies from centre to centre. Some take in infants as young as 2 months while other centres only take in older children. Whatever the case, you should look for an infant daycare that is equipped to take care of very young children.
Questions to ask when looking for infant daycare
Choosing an infant daycare is a tough decision as parents definitely want the best for their children. Additionally, as babies are not yet able to communicate, parents need to take extra precaution to ensure that the daycare is safe. Here are some questions you can ask the centre that might help you to choose the best daycare for your baby.
- How many children do you care for at one time? Babies (and toddlers) need a lot of attention and you need to make sure that the centre has a limit. Check the baby to carer ratio to make sure that carers are not overloaded.
- Do you have any accreditation? Are you licensed? Different countries and even states have different requirements but centres do need to have at least a license before they operate.
- What are your costs and your schedule? If the cost is way out of your budget, or the centre is closed during your working hours, then it’s definitely not the one you should choose.
- Is there anyone on the waiting list? As most centres can only accommodate a certain number, infant daycares sometimes have a waiting list. Start looking early if you intend to send your baby to daycare.
- What’s your philosophy on early education, discipline, feeding and soothing? You need to make sure that you are comfortable with the centre’s policies.
- What are your qualifications and the qualifications of your staff? Are they experienced? The staff should have basic first aid training and the principal or director should have training in early childhood development or a related field. For sure you do not want someone who has not taken care of babies before to be in charge of your little one.
- Will parents be involved? Will you be required to participate in any activities?
- What is the policy on sick children? There should be a clear guideline on sick kids and a time frame for parents to collect their child if they fall sick in daycare.
- What food do you provide? All meals should be age appropriate. Instructions on breast milk, formula, and solids from parents should be adhered to. Make sure that the centre does not prop up bottles for feeding as this is very dangerous.
- How long have the carers been on staff? If you find that there is a high turnover, this might be a bad sign. The staff might not be paid well or are not experienced in taking care of babies.
Choosing the best infant daycare centre is not easy as all parents want to ensure that their babies are well taken care of. Nonetheless, it is not impossible as there are a number of centres in Malaysia such as Cherie Hearts that adhere strictly to high standards of quality care. These centres provide your baby with the best daycare experience possible and you can be rest assured that your little one is in safe hands.