Strangely, daycare vs. home care is another controversial issue with parenting. I agree that you need to find what works best for you. And Dogzilla has a very good recommendation on stopping by several times a day unannounced. The daycare we use is attached to a Montessori school, so my son started there at 10 weeks and is now four and attending preschool there. It has made transitions incredibly easy because, even when he advances from one level to the next, he can still visit his old teachers. Plus, my daughter now attends daycare, so it’s extremely convenient to be able to pick them up at the same building.
However, as noted upthread, they won’t take them if they’ve got a cold and you often have to have a doctor’s note if you need them to receive Tylenol. I understand this and on one hand appreciate it and on the other dislike it. On the one hand, many parents who work try to mask their children’s fevers by dosing them with Tylenol before daycare. Masking a kid’s fever means that they may go to daycare contagious and get everyone else sick. When my daughter was three months, the parents of the kid in the crib next to her kept sending him with a fever. Turned out he had RSV, which can be pretty dangerous to the little ones, and he immediately passed it on to my daughter. Luckily, she has an older brother who infects her with everything under the sun, so she’s pretty hardy and didn’t get that sick. But it’s really the principle of the thing.
On the other hand, if that fever is due to something like teething, it’s frustrating to know that there is nothing wrong with your child and that you have to take the kid to the doctor or call them to fax a note to daycare so you can work.
I have been very, very happy with our daycare. There’s not much rollover with the teachers or caregivers, so the same woman who cared for our son now cares for our daughter. They like each other very much, and even though my daughter is now experiencing a little stranger anxiety, she never hesitates to go to Tina. The same ladies who cared for my son in the other rooms (they have a transition room when the kids learn to crawl, then a toddler room when they’re walking, then a twos room when they need more stimulation, then preschool) are still there, too, so I know them and they know me and we have a pretty good relationship.
So, based on my own experience, wherever you choose to go, I’d try to find someone you and your daughter click with. That person or the daycare should have plenty of age-appropriate toys; if there’s a schedule, they should let you know that and allow the flexibility your child needs because not all babies are the same. They should welcome parent involvement and visiting and the place should obviously be kept clean. Another thing that was important to me was attentiveness. Our daycare has several rooms for each level, but I chose the ones I did because I was allowed to observe the teachers interacting with the kids whenever I wanted and I noticed that some teachers in other rooms, while never abusive, seemed aloof around the kids and I didn’t want that. The ladies in the rooms my son attended and that my daughter is attending are very liberal with the hugs and affection, holding the children often and indiscriminately. They also notice when my children are acting “off” and pay attention to the other kids in their care. They also discipline similarly to the way we discipline in our home, which helps - since the same rules apply to everyone everywhere, there’s no confusion over what’s appropriate behavior.