Choosing someone you can trust to help care for your newborn can make you feel uneasy and uncertain, even guilty. Here’s a rundown of popular childcare options to help make your selection somewhat easier.
Daycare may be provided at a facility such as a nursery school, church, office building or in the caregiver’s home (called family daycare). Because daycare services are usually required to be licensed by the state, parents can be assured that their child is in a clean and safe environment.
Since daycares watch over several children, your child will interact with others in the same age-group and enjoy planned activities throughout the day. You also don’t have to worry about your provider “calling in sick.” A big turnoff to daycare: “Your child is going to get more illnesses when around other children at a very young age,” says Ari Brown, M.D., pediatrician and author of Baby 411 and Toddler 411, resulting in additional medical expenses and the child staying home for a few days. Another drawback is hefty fees for late pickups.
COST: According to a nationwide survey published by the Children’s Defense Fund, full-day daycare can cost from $4,000 to $10,000 a year.
FIND IT: The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education has contact information for licensing boards in all 50 states. To find daycare services, see if a center or provider is licensed, or check for complaints, go here, or visit www.sittercity.com/.
Baby Nurse/Newborn Specialist
A baby nurse or newborn specialist helps parents with the day-to-day childcare of their infant, but only those designated RN or LPN have received formal training in nursing school. Most work full-time for 12-hour or 24- hour shifts, helping to educate parents on infant care, establishing a feeding and sleeping routine, and taking care of all of Baby’s needs.
But, this “second set of hands” is pricey. Most families can afford only a few weeks or months. Requests for specialists fill up fast too. “Because they tend to go from newborn to newborn, it’s a good idea to book one ahead of time,” DeBroff advises. Three months before your due date isn’t too soon.
COST: Daily rates range from $250-500. Hourly rates average $20-30.
FIND IT: Check with hospitals or services like see www.mothersaides.com.
An au pair is a foreign student who provides one year of childcare in exchange for a weekly stipend and room and board in your home. An au pair works only for you, but unlike a nanny, an au pair usually becomes “part of the family,” says Stacy DeBroff, author of The Mom Book: 4,278 Tips for Moms and founder of MomCentral.com. Although offering the same benefits as a nanny at a cheaper price, an au pair is likely to be young and inexperienced.
COST: Weekly stipend of $139.05. In addition, families must provide a $500 educational supplement and pay a program fee to the au pair agency. Total cash cost is around $14,000/year or $270/week.
Although a nanny – an experienced professional who cares for your baby in your own home – is usually the most expensive form of childcare, it has its perks. Nannies may work part-time, full-time, or live-in. Because the nanny doesn’t have to divvy up her time, your child receives more attention. A nanny can also prove invaluable when your child is ill, providing knowledgeable experience and one-on-one childcare. With daycare, you and your baby will have to stay home until things are back to normal.
The major downside to nannies is that you are now an employer and must deal with everything that entails, including Federal withholding, Medicare and Social Security. “When you hire a nanny you are required to withhold taxes if you pay him or her more than $1500 a year,” says Brette McWhorter Sember, a retired attorney and author of Your Practical Pregnancy Planner: Everything You Need to Know About the Financial and Legal Aspects of Preparing for Your New Baby. Avoid the number-crunching by using a tax service or hiring through an agency.
COST: Rates depend on location, but the average cost of a live-in nanny is $532 per week ($27,664 per year) to $590 per week ($30,680 per year) for a live-out nanny, according to the International Nanny Association, a professional organization for nannies and nanny employers, which may be reached through www.nanny.org.
FIND IT: Check the Yellow Pages for a local agency or see www.enannysource.com.
A babysitter is a part-time caregiver hired by the hour, who works either in your home or their home. It can be the elderly lady next door or the teen down the street. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. While older sitters may have experience with children, they may be harder to train to your way of doing things. Younger sitters tend to be energetic and more likely to follow your plan, but they’re often inexperienced.
COST: Anywhere from $6-12 an hour, depending on where you live.
FIND IT: Check with your child’s pediatrician, family and friends, or go to www.babysitters.com.
Tax-Efficient Childcare: Easing the Pinch
The high cost of childcare can wreak havoc on any parent’s budget.
Luckily, there’s help to ease the costs of childcare:
Flexible Spending Accounts. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are employer-provided accounts in which you or your spouse contribute money directly from your paycheck before taxes to use for childcare costs. Because the money is deducted pretax, you’ll save. The family limit for FSAs is $5000 per year and whatever you contribute, you must “use it or lose it.” The money doesn’t roll over to the next year, but the IRS does allow for a two-month extension.
Child Tax Credit. If your income is below a certain limit ($110,000 for married couples filing jointly for the 2006 tax year), claiming the Child Tax Credit can reduce your federal income tax by $1000 per child. A lower tax bill means less money you have to shell out… or maybe even a refund! For more information, go here.
Childcare Assistance. For families needing further fi nancial assistance, contact your state social services agency or family services to see what’s available. Some programs offer childcare services on a sliding scale basis.