Childcare for new parents: tips for making it work and lessons learned

During pregnancy, it can be hard to imagine what kind of support we may need when the baby arrives. We may have all the things folded and stored away, but we also need support systems set up because raising a child truly takes a village. We know this first hand as parents ourselves, and we also spoke with a few parents in our community about their experience finding care for themselves and for their children. No matter what kind of birth you have, your unique preferences of care, or your budget, there are providers who are meant to be a part of your support team. We created this interview to inspire your own planning. And whether you’re pregnant or have a 3-year-old running around, it’s never too late to get the support your family needs. We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we do! These parents are dear to us, very hard-working, and like most of us- they are figuring it out, step by step and day by day. Their responses are true and meaningful, and we are grateful to them for sharing their wisdom with you all.

What kind of support did you have in the immediate postpartum? 

Nadia: My husband was my main support. I hired a baby nurse because I had an intense emergency C-section. We also had the support of a lactation specialist, a sound healer, and a postpartum doula.

Sarah: My husband took a few weeks of paternity leave and my mother was around for the first couple weeks as well. They both handled meals, laundry, cleaning, etc. so that I could be focused on the baby. We also had one postpartum visit with our doula, and a helpful visit with a lactation consultant as well.

Tony: We had several family and friends close by to support us because when we had the twins. Then we adopted our son when the twins were 2 years old. We hired a nanny/doula and an experienced mother of 3 children to help us during some weekday hours to help take off some of the stress. Later on, we hired domestic support which helped with childcare, cooking, and cleaning.

How did you prepare for your support team during pregnancy?

Nadia: I reached out to an Ayurvedic healer to help plan for my recovery. We spoke about all the things I would need – good food, bed rest, bodywork, etc.

Sarah: My partner and I decided in advance that he would use some of his paternity leave for the first few weeks, and save the rest for later on. My mother offered to make herself available as much as possible, and she was able to arrange her work schedule to provide significant support during the first couple of weeks postpartum, which was huge.

Tony: We interviewed several people and saw how they interacted with us and the children. We felt right about the ones we hired and they were great choices looking back.

What support do you wish you would have had in that immediate and tender time, looking back now?

Nadia: I really had every support. I’m so glad for this!

Sarah: Overall I feel very lucky that I had significant support from my partner and mother. We did hire our doula for some overnight support on a couple of occasions, but it was really cost-prohibitive. In retrospect, perhaps we could have saved some money specifically for that purpose. Nighttime was difficult and I really struggled with the lack of sleep.

Tony: I believe in the early months and really up to age 2, parents need the most support. It is tiring for all and any kind of help benefits you and your partner. I’m glad we had help!

Which aspects of baby care were a surprise for you?

Nadia: The most surprising was the impact of sleeplessness and the nonstop ‘ness’ of being a parent.

Sarah: I expected it would be hard and a lot of work, but I don’t think I quite realized how all-consuming it would be, and how much time I would spend with the baby in my arms. Basic things like preparing something for myself to eat or going to the bathroom were often challenging.

Tony: For me, it was the lack of time to maintain/clean and keep the house in order because your focus is on your children most of the day. 

What do wish you had known before having to go through the childcare decision-making process?

Nadia: I learned as I went along, all very organic, and I really just wanted to be with my child as much as possible in the beginning. It wasn’t a big rush for me.

Sarah: I wish I had known how far in advance I really needed to think about childcare. In our neighborhood, daycare waiting lists are LONG and I learned that I probably should have gotten on some waiting lists while I was still pregnant, even though I wasn’t even sure we were going to choose daycare.

Tony: To take good care of oneself and your health because you are important also.

What was the best child care advice you received from friends or from your community? Why?

Nadia: Get help. It takes a village to raise a child. Go easy on yourself in getting back to old routines. Take time to heal and find a new way of being in this mother-child relationship.

Sarah: Trust yourself and your instincts. Choose a provider that you feel comfortable with and you trust will keep your child safe. Don’t rush to make a decision or feel like you need to settle–if you have to return to work a week later than planned, that’s ok. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but it really helped me to separate “real” vs self-imposed pressure.

Tony: Do not be afraid to ask for help.  Everyone needs a hand once and a while and children take up a lot of your time and energy and attention. Remember each day not worry too much about the small stuff as all parents go through ups and downs and it’s good to try to remain positive always.

What would your advice be now for a parent who currently isn’t sure about the best childcare option for their family?

Nadia: Give yourself permission to be a parent, and be present with that. Take time to understand and know your baby’s needs and your own. Trust your instincts.

Sarah: You can always change your mind. If the child care option you choose doesn’t work out, you can always make a different choice that’s a better fit for your family. To me, it’s most important to know that my child is safe and well-cared for–whether that is in daycare or at home with a nanny or family member.   

Tony: Ask around to friends and family near you who have been through the parenting process and see what are some options part-time or full-time that they love.

Which childcare option did you choose and why? What are the pros and cons of the option you chose?

Nadia: We hired a nanny/housekeeper who helped with household duties more than anything and put the baby down for naps while I worked at home. We work mostly from home and preferred our babe being at home so that we could be with him as much as possible, so we hired a nanny. We love having someone who can prepare meals, do laundry, tidy up, organize the house, and provide child care. It’s been the best gift to our family to have an additional person to love and care for our son and home.

Sarah: Actually, we chose a blend. I initially returned to work part-time and we hired a nanny for a couple days a week. We found her on after meeting several other people–they were all fine, but I wasn’t excited about anyone. From the moment I spotted her profile, I had a good feeling, and she turned out to be an amazing fit for our family. In the meantime, we looked into daycare options for when I would return to full-time work. We eventually found one we loved and put ourselves on the waiting list. Luckily we got a spot, and our son started daycare when he was a year old. That’s been great for us as well.

Tony: Hiring a part-time or full-time nanny or babysitter helped in the first year to give us some relief and allow us to rest and rejuvenate. Finding a good routine with our children throughout the day and also on our own helped to keep us and the children healthy and busy. That was also key.