Choosing A Childcare Provider

Decisions, decisions. We made our share of decisions pre-pregnancy:  Where should we build our new house? Where should we go on vacation? Where should we go for dinner? You know, the important stuff.

katiechildcareOnce the reality of this pregnancy set in, and the fact that in approximately three months we will be parents started to become real, the consequences of our decisions also set in. One of our most important decisions – who should take care of our baby while we are at work – is something that I wanted to tackle early on, so that I wasn’t stressing about it during my last month of pregnancy.

I am beyond thrilled to report that at 24 weeks, we secured our daycare provider and I am beyond excited about who we chose. For us, I think the process was fairly stress-free and, dare I say, easy. We are definitely lucky in that regard.  I by no means consider myself an expert on the subject matter, but here is a list of things we looked for/considered and questions we asked. (I have to admit up front, other people suggested many of these items to me as we started our search. My favorites actually came from our future daycare provider – one of the many reasons I love her.)

  • In-Home vs. Center vs. Nanny: For us, this was a no-brainer. My mom was a registered in-home daycare provider for most of my childhood, so I was partial to in-home. (Luckily, my husband was on board as well.) If you’re unsure, check out all of the above – there are definitely pros and cons to each option.
  • Sleeping arrangements: As a first-time, overly paranoid, soon-to-be-mom, the S word (rhymes with “kids”), scares the you-know-what out of me. It was important to me that our child not be put down for naps in a pack-n-play or bassinet. I wanted something that mimics current safe-sleep standards – a crib, no bumper, and nothing else in the crib besides baby.
  • Fees: In a perfect world, I could pay our childcare provider (the person who spends as much time with our baby as we do) a million dollars. It’s our biggest investment by far, so to a certain extent, cost was not a huge factor for me. At the same time, we need to eat and put a roof over our head. To research this, I asked as many friends as possible what they pay their sitters, and then I set a price range. Before we even interviewed anyone, I asked up front what the range was. I knew we could find someone good in our range, and I didn’t want to fall in love with someone we could not afford.
  • Add-on costs: In addition to fees are add-on costs. Do you have to provide your own diapers? Do you have to provide meals/snacks for your child? Is there a fee for early drop-off/late pick-ups? These little things add up!
  • Discipline: As hard as it is for us all to admit (or maybe you’re the first to admit!), our child will not always be angels. There will probably be some sort of discipline while they are at daycare. Our provider was very up-front with how she handles discipline, and my husband and I are both very comfortable with it.
  • Daily schedule: Will your provider work with you on naps/feeding schedule so that it works for you as well as them? If your provider is letting your child sleep for four hours in the afternoon and therefore you can’t get them to go to bed before 10 pm, that will probably cause some problems. Additionally, what are they doing all day at the sitter’s? Do they have a lot of play time? Is there TV time? All important things to consider.

I could go on for a long time about other things we looked for. The answers to all of the above are all very personal decisions and ultimately, only you and your partner will be able to determine what is right for your child.


For those moms who have been there, done that, what did you look for in your childcare provider? 

Katie Ripke
Katie is a mama of two rambunctious, sweet, cuddly and highly energetic boys. Growing up in Mount Vernon, Iowa, she briefly left the area to attend college at the University of Northern Iowa, had a brief stint living in Chicago before settling down in Lisbon with her husband Bryan. Katie has been in the marketing field for over 10 years and is currently a marketing manager for an area health care organization. When she is not balancing life as a working mom, Katie enjoys binging on Netflix/Hulu, learning about all things boy and squeezing in a workout from time to time. Her current addictions include coffee, LaCroix, and cookies.


  1. As an early childhood educator, I will say that I LOVE when I meet parents who have lots of questions! That tells me that they are invested, interested, and are willing to put in the time to find the best place for their child. That’s the kind of family I want to work with! One question that I really love to answer is “What do you love most about your job?” While everyone might have different answers to that question, the important thing is to find someone who has plenty to say about it. Thanks for sharing this, Katie! And I’m glad you found the perfect place for your little one!

  2. For three years during undergrad I worked at one of the university daycares. Because Tom works for UIHC we qualified to use them for childcare. Because of my “connections” we bypassed the waitlist, and it was SO nice to have everything figured out so early on. Although it is a center it’s super homey, and I worked with Jessa’s lead teacher the entire time I worked there. So, I’m comfortable with her to say the least! It definitely made going back to work easier. 🙂

  3. I’ve been a mom and a baby sitter of my first child cos I never trusted daycare centers before. But when I transferred to AU, I need not to baby sit anymore cos the school is very friendly and trustworthy. Now, on my second child, I could finally have a job and do more in a day. You might like the school too. Friday Child

  4. Great post! It is good to hear that the process was not that stressful for you. I am going to be a first-time mom and have a list of providers, but am unsure of how to begin? I have a list of questions for those we will want to eventually meet in person, but any suggestions on how to narrow the initial list? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

    • What worked for us to narrow down our list was first set a price range we wanted to stay within and call around to find those on our list who were within the range. I also would ask around for references – most providers should give you a list of references. You can check those before you even request a face to face interview. We didn’t have to do a lot of calling around because we found ours right away, but I think you will get a good feeling for the person or center as you start to call around. Organization was big to me, I am disorganized enough so having a provider who “had it together” in terms of her business was important to me. Good luck!!


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