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Nanny vs. Daycare: What’s Right for My Baby?

By Kate Dunham

As soon as you find out you’re expecting a little one, your mind goes into planning overdrive. What should we name them? How should we decorate their room? What should we register for? It feels like there are a million things to decide and one of the most overwhelming decisions can be choosing the right type of childcare. Nanny vs daycare? If you plan on being a working parent, the harsh reality is that you’ll need to have your child care lined up well in advance of when you’ll actually need it. Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. There’s an easy place to start.

Your childcare options fall into three buckets: daycare, a private nanny and a nanny share, which is an arrangement where two or more families employ the same nanny, who cares for all of the children together. To decide between daycare, a private nanny and a nanny share you should figure out what’s going to work best for you and your baby. To do that, you’ll need to consider what’s most important to you when it comes to how you want your baby to be cared for, nurtured and taught and what will work best for your new life as a working parent.

Schedules & Flexibility

What will your schedule look like when your little one arrives? Well….very different. And while you can’t predict what shape your life and routine will fall into once baby is here, you can at least plan against what you know for sure right now. Are you planning on going back to work full time? Part time? Do you have an usual work schedule (as in, not the normal 9 to 5)? Will you have supplemental help (Hello, Grandma and Grandpa!)?

These are important questions to ask yourself during the nanny vs daycare debate—and it’s important to be very honest with your answers. Daycare and nannies are very different when it comes to scheduling. Daycares have set hours. There can be flexibility in when you drop off and pick up your baby within those hours, but the hours are set and you have to work around them. A private nanny or a nanny share on the other hand would be able to work around your schedule, which means you could set your own hours. However, you’d also have to work around theirs. If your nanny has a vacation planned, you’d need to find backup. A daycare has multiple employees, so there would always be someone there. Some nanny share services also have back up care available, so that’s something to keep in mind when doing your research.

Social Interaction

You’ll be amazed at how soon your little one is ready to play and explore their new great, big world. Play will be an important element in their development which is why factoring in what kind of play is available is important in making your nanny vs daycare decision.

Independent play and social play are both key in your baby’s development. Independent play is play time that your baby conducts on their own. It helps them utilize their own creativity and develop a sense of self. Social play is when your baby plays with another child close to their age, whether that’s sharing toys or playing games. Social play will help your little one grow emotionally and physically. The types of play available with daycare vs a nanny can be quite different.

Daycare provides built-in socialization. Your baby will be surrounded by other kids their age they can learn from and grow with, which helps them develop social skills. However, since there are multiple kids, independent play could be tough for teachers to secure for your baby.

Private nanny care is typically one-one-one, which means your baby wouldn’t have much exposure to other kids. They would however have individual care and attention, which daycare can’t provide. Nannies are known to get together with other nannies and their children, but that’s a situation you’d have to detail and work out in advance with your private nanny if socialization was an important factor to you. A nanny share lands in the middle of the socialization spectrum, guaranteeing playmates for your child, but not an entire classroom’s worth which would allow room for independent play.

Structure & Control

One of the biggest differences in nanny vs daycare is how the care is structured. At daycare, children are usually divided into age-specific classrooms. This is both because they have a higher child-to-caregiver ratio and because they must follow state regulations around safety, staffing and space. What this means is your baby will be surrounded by other babies their age, but also that they will change rooms and teachers when they hit certain milestones (either age or development). Each room will have its own rules and schedules. For example, a toddler room might be lights out after lunch, which means your baby would have to learn to nap at a certain time. Depending on the child (and parent!), this will either provide welcomed structure or anxiety if they don’t adapt well to change.

At daycare, because each room has its own structure, it also has its own age-appropriate activities. This means your baby will be participating in activities and play that’s right for their age and development stage. A quality, private nanny would also have an understanding of age-appropriate activities, but unlike daycares which have clear structure in place, it’s something you’d want to make sure to vet during your search process.

When it comes to control, with a private nanny, you’d have more control over your baby’s schedule—it could be baby-led versus schedule led. So if lights out at noon doesn’t work for your baby, your nanny could easily accommodate that. And since you’d be setting the rules versus following them, you could also have more control in general, so not just their nap schedule, but also their meals and playtime. This would be a good option if you want the freedom to create a schedule, but it can also be overwhelming for a first-time parent who doesn’t know yet what their baby needs.

Established nanny share services will have something in the middle when it comes to structure and control. Often, they’ll have blocks in the day planned for meals, snacks, naps and playtime. These aren’t as strict as daycare, which allows the nanny to customize for the children in her care. And the blocks help your new baby fall into the rhythm of a schedule naturally versus forcing them to adapt.

Sick Days

Sick days. No one wants to plan for them, but whichever way you go—nanny vs daycare—they’re going to happen and they can be very stressful for a working parent who’s adjusting to their new normal.

Daycares have very strict policies. If your baby falls sick while in their care, you have to pick them up, which means you have to leave work. It also means you have to take off work or find alternative care until they are able to return to daycare. Most daycares will have strict rules around this. For example, some daycares have the policy that if your baby is sent home with a fever, they can’t return the next day despite what their temperature may read (they also have their own rules on what constitutes a fever).

Private nannies will have a different hurdle when it comes to sick days. While a nanny might be willing to watch your baby through their sickness, they’re likely not willing to—and you wouldn’t want them to—watch them through their own sickness. A when your nanny takes a sick day, you’d have to take one yourself or find alternative care for your baby. Some nanny share services provide back up care, which means another nanny would be available if yours were to need a sick day—that would relieve stress for both you and your nanny when she falls ill.

So, nanny vs daycare? What’s the answer? There are pros and cons to both. And the right nanny share could ease your decision by providing a welcomed gray spot in the middle of what feels like black and white options. What’s most important is that you listen to your gut. What’s right for you? What’s right for your baby? Only you will know. But keep asking those questions and listening to yourself when you meet with daycares, nannies and nanny share services. Whoever is caring for your baby, it has to be someone you trust. Because after all, you’re trusting them with some pretty precious cargo.

Scheduling, socialization, structure and reliability don’t have to be independent of each other when it comes to childcare options. Your baby is special. Their care should be special as well. Guidepost at Home has combined the convenience of a nanny and the socialization provided by daycare to create exceptional, personalized care and Montessori learning. Our Guidepost at Home nannies are always connected to other nannies in our network, so your baby benefits from the experience of the entire team which means you have reliable care every day that’s tailored to your baby and your schedule.

To learn more about Montessori Nanny Sharing with Guidepost at Home, click here.

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