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Listing #5039
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Here are eight ways to size up a child-care option:1. Look down.
When you're visiting a potential site, pay attention to how the staff
interacts with the children. Ideally, a caregiver should be on the floor
playing with the kids or holding one on her lap. In their early years,
babies need close, loving, interactive relationships with adults in
order to thrive. That's why it's especially important that babies' first
caregivers be warm and responsive, and that even in group care, infants
and older babies get a healthy dose of one-on-one time. (Though
individual states set their own staffing ratios for child-care
facilities, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends a
ratio of one adult for every three babies up to 24 months of age.)2. Ask for a commitment. Babies
need consistent, predictable care. It helps them to form a secure
attachment to their caregivers, according to Debra K. Shatoff, a family
therapist in private practice in St. Louis. If you're looking at an
in-home caregiver, request that the person you're considering make a
one-year commitment to the job. If you're considering a center, find out
how long the current caregivers have been working there and how much
turnover the center usually experiences.3. Do a policy check.
Find out whether you share parenting philosophies on topics such as
discipline (Do the caregivers use time-outs, scoldings?); television (Is
the TV on all day or used sparingly, if at all?); feeding (What snacks
or drinks are provided for older babies?); sleeping (When are naps
offered? How are fussy babies put to sleep?); and so forth. Inquire
about the sick-child policy (What symptoms prevent a child from
attending?). Also ask whether there's a backup plan should the family
day-care provider or in-home caregiver get sick and be unable to work.
The more questions you ask early on, the less likely you are to be
unpleasantly surprised later.4. Drop by and spy. While
word-of-mouth referrals from other parents or trusted resources are
important, you need to look at a place for yourself to assess whether it
meets your needs. Of course, any child-care environment should be kept
clean, childproofed, and well stocked with sturdy books and toys that
are age-appropriate. Other details to consider: When older children
share the space, toys with small parts (choking hazards) should be kept
away from younger babies. Ideally, infants and babies should have their
own area where they won't get "loved" too much by older toddlers. A room
or separate area dedicated solely to swings and bouncers may look
appealing at first glance, but keep in mind that growing babies need
plenty of floor time to develop and strengthen their muscles. If
possible, try to visit the same centers at different times of the day to
get a sense of how the staff interacts with the children and what the
routine is. You may want to consider popping in unannounced a few times
after you've enrolled your child, just to see how things are going.
Sometimes your visits will confirm that the place is right for you, but
sometimes they'll be a real eye-opener.5. Keep talking.
Until your baby can talk, you will be relying on what the caregiver
tells you about your child's day. Make sure you can communicate
comfortably with each other. When you first hand off your child in the
morning, you should tell the caregiver how your little one slept the
night before, if he is teething, and whether he ate breakfast. At the
end of the day you'll want to know similar information, such as the
number of diapers he went through, when he napped, and if he seemed
happy overall. It's always preferable to speak to the caregiver in
person. If that's not possible, ask if there's a convenient time to
phone, perhaps at nap time.6. Problem-solve pronto. It's
inevitable that you'll experience conflicts with your caregiver, both
large and small. Address problems right away rather than ignoring them
until they grow out of proportion. Some issues can be resolved quickly;
others may require more discussion. Whatever the conflict, treat the
caregiver in a respectful manner, but don't be afraid to speak up, says
Deborah Borchers, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in Cincinnati.
When broaching a difficult subject, ask the caregiver's opinion, and
hear her out. As the parent, you have the final word with an in-home
caregiver, but you're more likely to elicit cooperation if the caregiver
knows she has been heard. For example, instead of demanding an earlier
nap time to make bedtime easier, ask the caregiver if she has ideas
about how to adjust your baby's schedule so he won't grow so overtired
in the evening.7. Trust your gut. Every parent knows when
something doesn't feel quite right. You may be turned off by a center
everyone in town raves about or clash with a highly recommended sitter.
If that happens, keep searching. Babies deserve, and thrive under, good,
nurturing care. If something just doesn't feel right about your
situation, investigate other options.8. Be open to change.
You're not married to a particular person or situation, and if things
don't work out, you can always make a switch. Yes, you want consistency
for your baby, but that doesn't mean you can't alter arrangements.
Babies are resilient; as long as they're having a positive experience
with their new caregiver, they'll be just fine, points out Dr. Shatoff.No
matter what your work hours, you are still your child's essential
caregiver -- the most consistent source of love and support in her life.
Under your care and guidance, along with the help of your well-chosen
caregivers, your baby will flourish and grow into a happy, healthy
child.The information on this Web site is designed for
educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for
informed medical advice or care.
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