Daycare or nanny?

Since I have received such great advice from Dopers lately, I thought I would try another question.

My wife and I recently had our first child – a lovely little daughter, now 6 weeks old. My wife is on maternity leave, which ends in another two months, after which she plans on returning to work full-time, at which point our daughter will be about 4 months old. So we need to decide about childcare. We are already accepted at a good daycare center not far from where we live, but a friend of mine just announced that she and her husband are moving and wanted to know if we would be interested in hiring their nanny-from-heaven. Up until this point we never really considered the nanny option.

So now we need to decide between the two. Cost aside (the full-time nanny costs more, but she also does housekeeping and cooking), we want to consider the positives and negatives of each. I’ve see threads on daycare, threads on nannies, and threads on daycare vs stay at home parents (I don’t want to debate this one). But nothing comparing daycare and nannies.

So what do you think?

If you can afford it…nanny.

Around here it can be very hard to find infant daycare, so nanny is the default option for many people. I was adamantly opposed to hiring a nanny. Like many aspects of raising children, it was more an emotional decision than a rational. But, my thoughts were: 1) nannies are often unsupervised, daycare workers are not. 2) Babies at daycare get to interact with other children more often. 3) Babies at daycare are likely to learn earlier that they are not the center of the universe. (Center of my universe, yes, but not the center of the universe.) 4) I’d feel uncomfortable with a non-family member in my home all the time. I’d feel like I’d have to spend more time cleaning and making sure private things aren’t left out.

Now that I’ve known a lot of people with nannies, I’d be much more willing to entertain the idea. Fortunately, we have a nice daycare that’s close by that has done a great job with both of my children.

Daycare for me, for all the reasons listed above.

One other difference is the amount of colds and such that the kids are exposed to. It’s much higher in daycare just because there are so many kids around to spread these things to/from.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Both of my daughters attended daycare from a very young age. Both had far more than their share of colds and such the first year or so, but both seemed to get pretty immune to all of that afterwards.

If we had to choose between those options, I think I would be more comfortable with daycare. There’s more interaction with other kids, and there’s direct supervision/accountability for the workers. If my wife had to go back to work for any reason I guess that’s what we would do – fortunately my company sponsors a daycare facility right here at my office.

We had a live in nanny when my wife was working, and it was great. Mind you, she was a member of my wife’s extended family, so not a stranger.

The problem with daycare (for us) was that the timing was a tad inflexible. For those in professional-type jobs, that’s a bit of a problem. It would be difficult to guarantee that one of us would be available at 5:30 to pick the kid up, as clients often expect, routinely, for us to work later.

My wife and I just started our first child, who is just four months old, in daycare two weeks ago, and a nanny was never really an option due to the expense. We like our daycare a lot, though I think if we could have afforded it we would go the nanny route. I am not sure why, but the idea of my daughter getting to stay in our home is appealing to me. It seems like it would be a little less emotionally difficult to deal with then dropping her off somewhere else on our way to work, if that makes sense.

Still what we do like about the daycare is the social aspect. Her social world has expanded and there are other kids around, though right now she is the only infant in the day care so she doesn’t spend a lot of time with other kids. There is one person who is dedicated to taking care of only our child, and the owner of the daycare acts as a secondary childcare person for her as well, so I know she is well looked after.

Congratulations on the baby, and good luck with whatever you chose.

ETA:Malthus’s point about the schedule is a good one. Many daycares we looked into want to have the kids from 9-4, which if you work in a professional job like we do, is very difficult. We found a daycare that was able to be more flexible on the timing with us, but not everyone will necessarily be so lucky.

:confused: Babies don’t interact with other babies, even at daycare. This is some sort of justification that many parents use to decide to put their kids in daycare. Toddlers maybe, but even toddlers mostly do independent playtime.

When the kid turns 3, then put them in preschool. That’s when socialization and joint play really begins.

It’s too bad you can’t do a trial period with both the nanny and daycare to see who clicks better with your kid. On the one hand, having someone help you with housework when you have a new baby would be invaluable. Plus, as mentioned above, you wouldn’t have to worry as much about a weird schedule. But if your nanny ever got sick or wanted a vacation, you’d be SOL for childcare since daycares don’t generally allow you to use them as short-term babysitters. If you do go the nanny route, make sure you know how flexible your work is.

We went with daycare for our son and now our daughter for the reasons listed above. Both of them did/do really well - we like the staff, there’s far less rollover than in many daycares and many of them also babysit. We haven’t left our kids with a sitter since before the baby was born, but it’s nice knowing that the kids will both know the sitter when we do.

The riskiest thing about a nanny is that you never really know what you are going to get. You already know that this nanny is great though! I would definitely try the nanny, if it doesn’t work out, then you can move to a daycare. Babies do need to interact with other children as much and when your baby is with a nanny, it won’t be competing with other children for attention.

Although to some extent you’re right that babies don’t actually interact with other babies, my understanding is that they do watch other babies quite a lot. The way a baby learns to play is a graduated process - usually they start with onlooker play where they simply observe, then they move on to parallel play where they play next to other kids but don’t actually play with them, then they move on to interactive play. My understanding is that all those phases are important for a baby to ease into the interactive play that they’ll engage in later as a preschooler.

That said, your kid obviously won’t be antisocial if they don’t go to daycare. But to say that parents “justify” taking their kids to daycare implies that they should feel bad about it. Parenting is rife enough with guilt without other people making you feel like you’re a bad parent for the choices you make.

To the OP, do what works for your family. As long as you’re comfortable with the choices you make and they work for you, you’ve made the right choice.

Not so. When my daughter was only 6 months old, she would crawl over another baby who was crying and pat their arm or knee, even bring along a toy if she could manage it. By 9 months she had certain friends she would go to as soon as they were on the floor, and they passed dolls and such back and forth. By the time they were 18 months old they were taking turns and playing beautifully together. In this day and age, I think a child who doesn’t go to school before age 4 or 5 is going to be quite behind in social development.

Celtling is a very social and extroverted child, and I wouldn’t keep her home all day every day even if I won the lottery tomorrow.

The reasons already given are all good, two more things to consider:

  1. If a Nanny gets sick, then your day goes straight to crap. If a DayCare Teacher gets sick, there’s a back-up available who your child has already gotten to know.

  2. Getting through all the standard viruses while you are still (at least partially) breastfeeding is a real boon. Those gut viruses are the worst, and breast milk is the best thing possible while they’re going through it.

Although I could greatly use the extra help around the house, I would never choose a Nanny over Daycare.

Mind you, I mean GOOD daycare. There are bad daycares too, and they are horrid. Start visiting the ones in your neighborhood now - you may need some time to get comfortable.

Generally speaking, the baseline of care is higher at a daycare. As noted, daycares are regulated and need to meet a minimum standard. Anybody can be a nanny. Of course some nannies are awesome and somd daycares are terrible, but on the average, daycares are the safer bet.

Nannies come to your home and are at your home until you arrive, so they’re more flexible. However, if you have an unreliable nanny, that can be a big problem too. Also, as noted, when your nanny goes on vacation or gets sick, it could be tough to find a backup. Daycares should have backup for those eventualities. Also, the daycare may not be convenient to your commute, while a nanny is in your house.

‘Better’ daycares will also have online cameras so you can see your kids all day. Nannies may balk at a webcam or two in the house (or not, I guess).

Nannies get to know everything about your life, good and bad. Daycares only know what your kids tell them. For some, that’s a big issue.

Daycares have all the ‘equipment’ for your kids. It may be difficult to have all the toys, books, etc that a daycare can provide.

I don’t have an answer, but I wonder what the better option is if things don’t work out. Is replacing a nanny easy? Is finding a new daycare easy? My instinct says its probably a wash. I guess if you get a really nasty nanny, she can really mess up your life - theft, harrassement, etc, while a daycare is more limited in the damage they can do.

We put our kids in daycare and our neighbours got a nanny. If we could do it again, I think we’d go with a nanny because their experience has been great. (That said, we really like our daycare. The flexibility of a nanny would be key difference for us).

Well, “nanny from heaven” sounds pretty good. We had Dweezil in a home-daycare situation (vs. a daycare center) until Moon Unit came along, then we hired a nanny because the cost for 2 in daycare wasn’t all that much less than a nanny.

Our first nanny was… interesting. Lost at least 12 weeks of time off of work the year she was with us… always seemed to get sick if she knew I had a day off work anyway, we never knew on any given day whether she’d arrive… and there’s far more than that. We put up with it for far too long, because she had many very good qualities (strong experience with special-needs kids, able to handle any medical issue that might crop up).

Our second nanny was also occasionally sick, though not nearly as much, and we employed her for 10ish years until the money ran out. We still bring her in for a day here or there.

Kids get sick a lot when they’re in daycare, and the daycare may or may not be able to handle it. A nanny - no problem.

Of course, if the nanny is sick, you or your wife have to cover.

Then there are taxes. I presume you’d be doing this above the table. You have to do state unemployment and withholding, as well as federal. It’s not a huge deal - I had a spreadsheet to do detailed tracking, I reconciled those figures with my checking account, I took 15 minutes every 3 months to do the unemployment / state reports online, and I had an extra form for the Federal tax return. As a household employer, I could opt to simply bump up my Federal withholding to cover the nanny taxes (her FICA, our share of her FICA, the federal tax I withheld for her).

You seriously think so?? My kids were pretty darn interested in the kids around them before three. They are now 7 and 3, but their closest friends are still the kids they were in the infant room with at daycare. I’m glad they have those relationships.

Our almost 4 year-old has been in a facility daycare since he was 16 weeks.
Being in a facility didn’t seem that important when he was in the infant area. It seemed to be just a lot of sleeping, eating, and pooping. A nanny could have easily done that. It did however make him comfortable with various other adults besides mommy and daddy.
But as soon as he could walk (around age one) he went to the toddlers 1 room.
Very curriculum based, very very social. Even though the kids couldn’t even talk yet they all sat together to eat, played together, observed a teacher reading to them together, followed instructions, etc. There’s just no way he could get this type of organized social interaction at home.
Being an only child he gets a nice balance of socializing while at daycare, alone time at home, and time getting one-on-one attention from mom&dad.

My wife used to teach at a school for nannies, and placed the students in homes, where they did child care in return for room and board, and also did full time care for a month at the end of the term.

Screening a nanny takes more time. One from a school is going to be more expensive, but she also has had some level of training. At the least you can get a reference. Daycare may be regulated - somewhat, but unless you keep up with it, you don’t know who is actually minding the kids.

I thought I was going to mind someone else in the house, but it was surprisingly unstressful.

Nannies can and should set up play dates for your kids. It is important for them to meet other adults besides you, so it is good to encourage them to make friends with other nannies in your neighborhood. That should give the interaction which I agree is necessary.

Our younger daughter went to daycare part time also, after the end of the nanny school, and it was fine, but the connections they made with the nannies (even at 3 months each) were far stronger than that from daycare.

I understand that most people can’t afford and don’t have room for a good nanny, but I just wanted to tell the upside.

In-home daycare, hands down. They are typically certified, and I like that I can have numerous references available to me. I’m a private person, so the thought of someone in my home all day doing MY dishes and cleaning MY bathroom makes me physically ill. My son currently goes to an in-home daycare with 4 other kids. Her whole yard is a kids’ haven, he’s got his little pals he talks about, they have birthday parties, go on little field trips together, etc. Centers are too big and impersonal, and whenever I even hear “nanny”, I picture a new little sex-toy for my husband :mad:

OK, I don’t have kids so maybe you’ll want to discount my opinion entirely, but I can give you the perspective of someone who had a stay-at-home mom until she was 7.

Nothing can take the place of a stable at-home environment. Especially for pre- pre-school aged kids. All the socializing people are talking about happens naturally when the child starts school. If the nanny is a really interactive one who does things with the child like a stay-at-home mom would, then the baby goes with the nanny for everything, walks in the stroller, trips to the store, visiting neighbors and their kids. At-home playtime, getting read to, and all the stuff a small child craves can be met with a nanny, who is more of an at-home-mom.

There’s the only drawback I can think of. I would think your baby would develop a fairly strong bond with a nanny, especially if she stays with you for several years. Stronger than the baby would form with daycare workers, even if they are consistent. Your wife would need to be prepared for that.

I’m a strong supporter of stay at home moms, but if that isn’t an option I truly think a baby would benefit from a nanny far more than from a daycare.

I might be having a hard time getting this clearly into words, I can’t put my finger on exactly how to explain how a staying in the home schedule seems so much more beneficial to me, especially for a baby. Warmth. Safety. Security. The same voices. No competition for attention. Knowing when you do leave the house that the same secure person/people will be right there to protect you all the time.

I don’t know how else to explain it. I really think if a mom can’t stay home, a nanny is the next best thing.