Choosing the Right Childcare
If you’re planning on returning to work after maternity leave – whether it be a few weeks, months, or longer, depending on the plan you have worked out with your employer – then ensuring you have the right childcare ready for your little one can help ease this transition. Finding the right childcare provider and feeling comfortable with your decision encourages the peace of mind you deserve while away from your baby. There are many unique childcare options for working parents depending on where you live, what your family’s financial situation may be, and how flexible your employer is. Some of the most common childcare choices selected by parents include:
Whether you opt for a licensed in-home daycare or a daycare center, be sure to interview plenty of nearby childcare providers to find the facility that best meets the needs of your family. Considerations that many parents discuss when shopping daycares include:
- Is this facility and/or caregiver licensed?
- Is it located near or convenient to home or to mine and/or my partner’s workplaces?
- How much does this facility and/or caregiver charge per week or per month?
- Are there reviews online that I can check out, or do they have references I can verify?
- How many children are cared for altogether, or in each classroom? How many caregivers are available and how many children are they responsible for?
You should first plan to tour any daycares that you are interested in before committing to scheduled childcare. Some daycares accept a limited number of infants while others may have a waiting list for new children, particularly if you reside in an area where daycare service is sparse. Oftentimes, it’s best to begin researching childcare options for working parents and planning when you’ll be returning to work after maternity leave before delivery, so your family is best prepared.
- Private Caregiver or Nanny
A private caregiver like an au pair or nanny can be pricy, though the benefit is typically that the caregiver will come to (or stay at) your home. This means that your little one will receive one-on-one attention and, depending on the employment agreement, your caregiver or nanny may also be willing to perform some household tasks, such as laundry, light cleaning, pet care, and/or meal preparation. Regardless of what type of employment and responsibilities are agreed upon, be sure to conduct a thorough background check and speak with any potential caregiver’s references. If you are working with an agency specializing in placing au pairs and nannies, certifications and background checks are usually completed ahead of time – ask if you aren’t sure!
In some cases, a caregiver may simply be your partner, a grandparent, or other family member or family friend. While this provides some flexibility and peace of mind, it is important to remember that back-up arrangements should be in place in case the caregiver gets sick, has an emergency, or goes out of town. Websites like Care.com, UrbanSitter, and SitterCity also offer a variety of independent local caregivers, from occasional babysitters to regular childcare.
Local YMCAs throughout the U.S. also offer full-day and half-day childcare options for working parents, in addition to supervised after-school programs. Talk to your nearest YMCA to find out what daycare options they offer, what age ranges they accept, and what costs are associated with membership.
Planning Your Return to Work
If you intend to continue breast milk feeding when returning to work after maternity leave, you may need to pump one or more times throughout your scheduled work day. The United States Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employers provide nursing mothers with both a dedicated pumping space and reasonable break time to express breast milk after the birth of her child. We recommend visiting MedelaAtWork.com and sharing this site with your employer, as it features great resources for both employers and moms returning to work after maternity leave.
When preparing to return to and pump at work, we also suggest keeping a few supplies on hand to help make the experience as seamless and efficient as possible:
- Your breast pump – consider an easily portable option like the Sonata®, Freestyle®, or Pump in Style® Advanced, all of which include a rechargeable or portable battery pack that eliminates the need for an outlet
- Spare, clean breast shields and breast pump parts, such as valves, membranes, and tubing
- Extra breast milk storage bags and/or bottles, so you can keep freshly pumped milk cool in a refrigerator or in your cooler bag
- Extra ice packs, if you plan to keep your breast milk cold in a portable cooler or cooler bag
- Disposable nursing pads to prevent unexpected leakage, protect your clothing, and keep you dry
As you and your family ease into a back-to-work routine, you’ll soon discover what childcare options and routines work best for you and your little one. Remember, breast milk is produced on a supply-and-demand basis, so nursing frequently before returning to work after maternity leave can help bolster your supply. Additionally, taking adequate time to pump once you are back at work can help maintain your supply. Whether you continue to breast milk feed for a long time after going back to work or you eventually decide that weaning is the best option, you should be proud of your unique breastfeeding journey.