Following my earlier post on how to choose the right preschool for your child, I am following up with yet another entry on selecting an infant care for your little baby!
When I had my third baby in February 2019 (yes, third one!), I enjoyed her arrival immensely. When people say “Third time’s a charm!”, it’s true! When you are doing it for the third time, you have sufficient experience and with that you get a much better perspective and control of the entire situation. That means you are in a much better position to filter out what is truly important for your baby (and yourself); and have a lot more emotional capacity left to enjoy this beautiful process.
I am lucky that my children had wonderful and supportive grandparents who could spare the time and energy to keep them at home. I believe (and still believe) that for the first year, babies are best cared for at home with their loved ones. But not everyone has that luxury. When faced with having to make a choice of leaving it to your domestic helper or placing your child in an infant care, without a doubt, it has to be the infant care.
Why do I say so? Infant caregivers go through formal training that is regulated by the ministry so they can care for your child using best early childhood practices. The activities that these educarers can do with your babies are varied and developmentally appropriate. Most importantly, statistically to me, it just feels safer in a regulated institution as compared to hinging your child’s fate solely on just one caregiver.
Before I started my own infant care, I went around a few infant cares to get a feel of what speaks to me. I assessed these infant care centres through my own “motherly x-ray” lenses and felt each environment and processes with my own heart. Some schools which I visited brought tears to my eyes because I know for a fact, I do not want this for my own children. (I will not mention which infant care because my own criteria is entirely subjective - what is important for me may turn out to be a non-issue for another parent.)
So, in specific order of importance (#1 being the most important), here is my list:
Yes, plenty of it! I believe that young infants need caregivers who are able to respond appropriately and timely to their needs. I never believe in crying it out nor do I believe in spoiling the child with too much attention during the first one or two years of life. That is why I subscribe to John Bowlby’s Attachment theory (1969). In case you haven’t heard, attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. The bond and trust that the child gets from proper and responsive caregiving will go a long way towards establishing being the solid grounding with which cognitive and emotional learning takes place.
2. Quality interactions
Quality interactions come from two things - (i) Quality and dedicated caregivers and (ii) Adequate and varied materials for exploration. During your visit, listen to the tones of how the educarers communicate with the existing babies. Do the babies look contented and happy? You can also look around for different types of materials that your child could touch and feel. These all form the experience that your child will be having on a daily basis.
Babies are naturally curious and have a lot of contact with their environment. Therefore the cleanliness and upkeep of the school can directly affect the health of your child. Being on the lookout for a clean environment definitely is one of the important factors you need to consider. Ask about how often things are wiped down or washed. Conduct your own assessment about the level of hygiene of the environment which your child will be in. It should be as clean as, if not cleaner, than your own house.
4. Frequency and mode of update
Call me a control freak but for all my children, I had a log book where her daily routines at home are recorded. It had some simple data - when I get home from work, I just needed to know how much milk she took for the entire day and how much she slept. That would give me a rough picture of what I can expect for the night ahead. When I was breastfeeding, I would be able to tell when my baby is reverse cycling. When my baby is ill, I could tell from her reduced feeds. Similarly, when she has slept very little, I know I would need to take my dinner a little quicker because the meltdown would be “soon”.
It is therefore important that you are comfortable with how the school will be providing you with that daily update because it is your source of mental preparation after a long day’s work (and also because you look “on-the-ball” when your paediatrician asks you some very detailed questions about your child’s growth haha!). The form of communication that you like - be it through paper or some high-tech app (like Little Kinder Montessori =p) is up to individual preference but I would place more importance on the frequency and reliability of that communication.
5. The “feel”
If you have read my first post on how to select a childcare for your child, I placed this criteria about the “overall feel” right at the top of my list. However, for infant care selection, it pays to be more critical on the hard facts as compared to the feel of the school. So even if the initial feel of the school may not be right, speak and ask more questions to get to know the carer or principal a little better. After all, it is almost like you are selecting a “mother-in-place”. It definitely pays to interview the person a little more, don't you think? =p
That's all from me. Thank you for reading. I will end this post with some lovely photos of our little ones. The last photo is my very precious #3 at 13 months. Her name is Andrea. Till then! Stay safe, wash your hands, practise socially responsible behaviour and stay positive! #covid19