How do I find childcare for my baby?

It’s crazy to think that I am half way through my maternity leave. It has been the craziest and busiest 5 months of my life but knowing know that I am in the last half has made me realise that starting back to work is creeping around even quicker than I thought it would.

When I started looking into childcare options in N.Ireland I was swamped! Day care, childminders, nannies etc left me that I didn’t know where to start. My mum was a childminder for 20 years so I thought finding someone would be easy but when I began looking I feared that I wouldn’t find anyone as good as her. The children that she looked after really became a massive part of our family, some were even a part of my wedding day, and I feared someone wouldn’t treat my beautiful baby girl as well as mum had looked after those little members of our extended family.

I began by writing down what I needed and wanted from childcare. What I needed was a lot easier and the Employers for Childcare website gave me great guidance on the financial side of things e.g. childcare vouchers. I knew I need childcare two days per week but what I wanted was tougher. I wanted open space for her to play outside, for other children her age to be there so she would have that social stimulation but also for qualified staff to mind Annie that I had reassurance she would be ok.

I started looking for childcare last month and quickly realised how different day nurseries and childminders are. I quickly realised that I wanted a day nursery rather than a childminder – my fear as a new mum just didn’t allow me to place my trust solely in one person. I booked two appointments to visit two day nurseries in my local area on the same day. After both, I cried hysterically to my husband Carl and proclaimed I wouldn’t be going back to work. They were just not what I wanted and I feared every day nursery would be the same.

I left it a week or so before visiting anymore. It was during this time I got speaking to friends and family who recommended two other nurseries. I popped along to them one afternoon on my own with Annie and I loved them both! Both had a structure to their day, an open outdoor space, topics to teach Annie while she was there, they doubled signed any medication given, doors were auto locked, they provided an end of day report and employed staff that seemed kind and compassionate when working with the children.

Thankfully choosing childcare for my under one ended much happier than it began and we were able to choose one of the day nurseries for Annie . I won’t lie, it began a stressful experience, but I learnt that each day nursery offers something different and it was about finding the childcare that suited the needs of my family and I.

My top tips for finding childcare in N.Ireland

1. Work out what you need e.g. days, hours and budget before you work out what you want

2. Research all your options e.g. day care, childminder etc. Everyone is different in what they would like from their childcare so do not feel wrong for having your own ideas.

3. Show up unannounced – that way you can see what the childcare is like on a normal day.

4. Ask to see their inspection reports. That way you can see what social services feel about their care provided.

5. Try not to view too many, just like finding your perfect wedding dress if you look at too many options it can become over whelming.

6. Go with a list of questions you want to ask so you won’t forget anything and can make an informed decision.

7. Speak with Employers for Childcare. Their freephone number is 0800 028 3008 and they provide brilliant guidance on childcare related issues e.g. changes to childcare vouchers, tax free childcare etc.

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