Nanny vs. Daycare: Which One is Right for You?

nanny pushing stroller at the park

Chances are that, of the 4 million new moms in America, you might be among those looking for someone to mind your baby when you return to work. Studies show that 55 percent of women in the workforce have given birth in the past two years. Who is caring for their babies? It could be immediate family members, other relatives, home care, au pairs, nannies, daycare center staff, or some other possibility. Looking for the right caregiver for your child is a job in itself.

Since you need to start searching somewhere, let’s begin with two of the most popular options: nannies and daycare centers. With these in mind, here are some upsides and downsides of what you can expect:

Thumbs Up for Nannies

  • Individual attention – The one-on-one caregiving that nannies offer is especially important for infants.

  • Convenience – It’s great to skip the hauling of gear (baby’s breakfast, extra diapers, and formula or pumped breast milk) to a day care center on workdays.

  • Consistent care – Most nannies stay with their families for years. Turnover at daycare centers tends to average at least one caregiver leaving each year or sooner.

  • Housekeeping – A nanny can do light household chores in your home, making it refreshing for you to return home to clean dishes and fewer messes.

  • Flexibility – You set the hours required. You won’t need to worry about getting to the daycare center before closing time if you’re stuck in traffic—since the nanny often lives with you or will be waiting patiently at home.

baby food

Thumbs Down for Nannies

  • Potential parenting style conflicts – Over time, some parents get into “how to parent” disagreements with their nannies.

  • Some nosy nannies – If you’re unlucky and get someone who starts nosing into your personal family life, it can become a problem.

  • Tardiness – Some nannies consistently show up late, which then makes you late for work.

  • Sick time/no childcare – If your nanny gets sick, you might be left without someone to care for your child.

  • Cost – Nannies tend to cost significantly more than daycare centers. In some areas of Los Angeles, for instance, nannies can charge upwards of $50,000 annually.

Positives of Daycare

  • Social setting – Little ones often thrive in a colorful, stimulating setting—with a variety of toys and lively babies.

  • Excellent teachers – Many daycare centers have well-respected directors and fantastic teachers who have many years of training in childcare and can provide helpful tips.

  • Mixing with other families – Daycare centers are a great place to meet other parents and children.

  • Affordability – Since there are more children being cared for at the center, you are essentially sharing the cost with other families—so the price tends to be lower.

daycare worker playing with kids

Negatives of Daycare

  • Illness / accidents – With more babies in one place, the potential for germ-sharing increases. Bites or falls are more commonplace, as it’s difficult for even the top center to keep an eye on all the babies at one time.

  • Inflexibility – The center sets specific hours, and when parents are late picking up their baby, they are subject to an extra charge. This may add to parents’ stress levels when they are stuck in traffic getting home from work!

  • No sick-care provision – Most daycare centers will not accept a baby who has a fever or some other illness. If your baby is sick and you need to get to work to meet important project deadlines, this also can make things tough.

When it comes down to it, the final choice is up to you. A combination of nanny and daycare services may end up being a good way to keep your stress low and your confidence in your baby’s care high. If you can afford it, consider hiring a nanny for the early years before putting your child in a daycare center. During the toddler period, you may want to introduce him or her to a daycare setting—and increase the hours as your child adjusts to it. Everyone’s situation is different, and so the key is finding the right solution for your family, placing the priority on getting the best care available for your baby!