One of the many things that you ponder about while you are pregnant is who is going to care for your baby when your Maternity Leave ends and you have to go back to work. Some considerations are if your parents or in-laws can help to care for the baby, should you hire a helper, should you send your baby to a nanny or to an Infant Care Centre? For my hubby and me, our first choice was to have either of our parents care for the child. However, either due to health or other commitment reasons, all of them were unable to commit to taking care of our child. We did not want to settle for a helper or a nanny as we preferred to have more adults watching over the child. Therefore we decided on sending our baby to an Infant Care. But then comes the challenging part. Which one do we choose? How do you choose? Here are some tips (in no particular order) we got along the way and hope they will guide you in choosing your ideal IFC. 🙂
1. Location of the IFC
Infant Care Centres typically open 7am-7pm each day. Some of us have to start work as early as 7am or end work as late as 7pm. If you fall into any of these categories, you should look for one that is nearer to your work place rather than one that is near to your home. If you have the luxury to start work later at 8-9am and end work before 6pm each day, then you should get one near your place as it would be easier to fetch the baby and walk home.
2. How the teachers handle the babies during peak/busy periods
Most Infant Care Centres require you to book a tour beforehand if you want to go in to take a look at their facilities. However, most tours will not be conducted when they are the busiest at about 10am in the morning. That is when most babies are in and some are ready for their first nap of the day. That being said, most IFCs allow people to peep in. You can stand at the windows and observe if the teacher/baby ratio is sufficient, are the teachers ignoring any crying baby, are the teachers shouting at each other, etc. We like to peep in and observe as that tells us a lot more about the daily activities as compared to the tours.
While you are at it, look out for how they put the crying babies to sleep. A friend told me once she went to one that was rocking a baby so hard trying to put the baby to sleep. Once I also saw one that was patting very hard a crying baby to put her to sleep, not on the backside but the chest. You can tell by the way they are handling them and rocking them to sleep if they are impatient and want them to sleep as fast as possible so they can give their attention to other babies. But if I do see any of these, that centre is immediately eliminated from my list of potential centres.
3. Customer Service of the Office
While booking a tour, or chatting about the prices/center with the office staff which may or may not include the Principal, you can easily notice if they are willing to chat with you. If they are not, I would suggest to change to another IFC. Because it will mean that when you have problems with your baby in the future and want to discuss things with them, they will be just as unwilling to chat with you.
4. Separation of the mobile babies from the immobile ones
This is a bonus point I feel when choosing an IFC. The fact that they are separated means your new baby who cannot move yet will not be crushed by another who is practicing crawling or learning how to walk. It also means that they have different toys for different age grouped babies. I personally like it that they are separated.
5. Connecting Child Care Centre
If your child is in an Infant Care Centre, most likely you would need a Child Care Centre when your baby reaches 18 months. All IFCs are connected to a Child Care Centre. It would be good to observe and look out for their curriculum and see if you want to let your child go there when he/she turns 18 months. Within the same centre, the transition is easier for the baby at 18 months. The teachers will bring them over to the Child Care side for longer and longer periods of time , introduce them to their new teachers and help in big ways for them to transit. This is definitely much better than changing them to an entirely new environment where they do not know anyone once they reach 18 months old.
6. Separation of bath/changing area, food preparation area and main area of play
Some centres have all of these in one room. Which means that if the place is air conditioned, the baby would be cold when out of the bath and before putting on clothes. It also means that when a baby poops, the entire room will be exposed to the smell of the poop. Which also means that food preparation and milk preparation will be exposed to the smell. You get the gist of this. It is good if all these are in different rooms, or at the very least, different sections.
7. Price and Fees
Fees for IFC vary a lot. From $500 a month to more than $2000 a month. Do also consider if you have subsidies. A Singaporean full time working mum will have $600 subsidy. On top of that if your gross household income is below a certain sum, there are more subsidies to help you with that. The centres will apply for these subsidies for you. Choose one that you can afford.
8. Aircon vs non-aircon
Some centres are fitted with air-con, some are not. Of course those without are cheaper. Some people purposely choose those non-airconditioned ones as they feel that germs will spread less readily there. Possibly it is true. But that does not eliminate the presence of germs at all. We nearly chose a non-airconditioned IFC. But just then, the PSI 400 haze struck. We decided immediately to get one with air-con.
It would be the easiest if you have recommendations from friends or relatives. That will reduce the hassle of you going to spy on the places you are interested in or to go for tours. You can also google for reviews on the centres you might be interested in.
Some places fill up very fast, especially IFCs in Seng Kang and Punggol area due to the high population of young families there. So it would be good if you are able to start searching and selecting one when you are more comfortable in your second trimester and book a place for your baby in your ideal Infant Care Centre. The later you book a place, the less choices you have. That could be easier as well though. 🙂 We were lucky and got our ideal IFC even when we only started searching after baby was born. It was just nice there was vacancy. Some IFCs allow you to reserve a spot only after baby is born as well. Good to start searching earlier though.
Hope you are successful in finding an Infant Care Centre that you can rely on to care for your little one so you can have a peace of mind when you go back to work! 🙂