Daycare centers have a reputation for being havens for germs, so parents of preemies who work are often daunted by the thought of having to eventually find childcare for a baby or toddler who is more susceptible to illness. Studies have even shown that preemies that are prone to respiratory issues and are enrolled in daycare before age two may be more likely to visit the ER than preemies with similar concerns who don’t attend daycare.
Which, of course, isn’t to say that enrolling your preemie in daycare is bad or wrong or even unhealthy. Sometimes daycare is simply a financial necessity. Some children really thrive in a group setting. Daycare providers who are familiar with the needs of preemies can help stimulate a preemie’s development. And the needs of older siblings can make childcare the right choice for a family.
There are lots of reasons that parents of preemies utilize daycare, but as you can imagine, the needs of preemies can make finding the right childcare situation more difficult. Working moms and dads who settled on childcare arrangements prior to their babies’ early births may need to make alternate arrangements or consider whether becoming a stay-at-home-parent is feasible.
Every preemie is different, which means that perfect recipe for finding childcare for your preemie, but there are some steps you can take to make sure that the arrangements you make for your baby or toddler are appropriate for your circumstances.
1. Discuss childcare options with your pediatrician. She or he will have a good sense of whether your preemie can handle the immune stress of being in a group childcare setting or would be better off in a one-on-one in-home situation. There may be special precautions you can take – like specific immunizations – to protect against illness.
2. Make sure that any daycare provider you do choose for your preemie understands the unique health concerns that go hand-in-hand with prematurity. For example, special precautions may be necessary during flu and RSV season to keep a preemie healthy.
3. Developmental delays associated with prematurity can be an issue when choosing childcare. Parents of preemies can look for centers or individual care providers who are focused on an individual child’s milestones rather than adhering to a preset schedule – particularly when it comes to things like potty training and academics.
4. A family caregiver is often a great choice, because someone close to you may be more likely to understand your preemie’s needs. Having a grandparent or other relative providing childcare also means your baby or toddler is spending quality time with someone he or she already knows.
5. Look into nannies and au pairs. An in-home nanny service or live in au pair may not be much more expensive than traditional daycare, and your preemie will benefit from both one-on-one interaction with an adult and the natural seclusion from germs that being at home offers.
6. Take as much time as you need to find a daycare arrangement you feel comfortable with. If you have any doubts about whether a provider will do what is necessary to protect your preemie from germs or respect your child’s unique developmental timeline, keep looking.
How have you handled your preemie’s childcare needs?