It is no easy decision to send you breastfed baby to childcare, but for many mums they have no choice or it is the best one for their family. A lot of women look at it and think it is “too hard”. Or they don’t believe they have the support they need to make the transition. Obviously the age on the child is a huge factor and the younger they are the more difficult it can be. But I am here to say there are many things you can do to make this transition a smooth one and you pick the right centre for your family.
First and foremost finding the right Early Learning Centre is possibly the most important factor to consider! Australia now has a National rating system called the NQS (National Quality Standard) which has been such a positive change for Early Childhood in Australia. You can view all the centres in your area’s ratings here http://www.acecqa.gov.au/national-registers.
This would be my first point of call before visiting the centres, this way you can make a short list of people you need to call. The ratings are:
- Excellent rating, awarded by ACECQA
- Exceeding National Quality Standard
- Meeting National Quality Standard
- Working Towards National Quality Standard
- Significant Improvement Required
You really want to be looking at centres with at least some of the Quality Areas receiving an Exceeding rating. The reason for this is that it really is a reflection on how much effort they put into making their service the best possible option for the children and families of the community. This is especially important for you and your breastfed baby.
After you have done your research on National Quality Standards the next step would be to check out the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website and find out if they are registered with the Breastfeeding Welcome Here Venue’s. If they are it is a big bonus but if not it may just mean they aren’t aware of the service but may still be breastfeeding friendly.
Visiting the centres
The next step is to pick up the phone and see who has availabilities or short enough waitlists to suit your needs. It is very important to do all of these things well before you are ready to go back to work as most great childcare centre’s have very long waitlists. You may even need to put your name down before baby is born. So it is good to have a plan about breastfeeding, returning to work and the time frames in which you plan to do so.
Now is the time to do your “walk throughs” or visit the centres. Keep an open mind and trust your instincts. Even though they may look really good on paper it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the service for you. I believe you know straight away from walking in somewhere. Do they greet you? Are all the staff friendly? Is it clean? Are the kids happy (or he majority of them anyway)?
Ask the questions
You will want to spend some time in the room that your child will be enrolled in. This is where you will be able to ask some of your questions. It is important to talk to the staff in the room as well as the director. This is because the director might know all the right things to say. You want to really find out things like:
if the staff are mothers themselves?
Have they breastfed personally?
Do they have other breastfed babies in the centre?
Do they know the safe storage and handling of breastmilk guidelines. Or, can you see any evidence of this around the room (usually there is a magnet on the fridge available through the ABA).
Write down a list of questions to ask and don’t be afraid to get it out and ask them, if they are the right fit for you they will 100% respect the fact you are even asking!
After going through all these steps you should have a clear winner or a few clear winners. If not spend some time thinking about it. Make lists if you’re a lists person, talk it out with your family or go back for more visits! It is essential that the whole family is happy with the decision and you should all feel comfortable leaving your baby in their care.