If you are returning to work full- or part-time, then you will have to consider childcare arrangements. You may be able to share the care with your partner or you may have a member of your family living close by who is prepared to help out. Alternatively, you may want to consider more formal arrangements such as a nursery or a childminder.
Some mums choose to leave their baby in the care of a nursery when they return to work. Nurseries will typically have a few different rooms or areas so that your baby will be able to socialise with children her own age. It’s a good idea to visit a few nurseries in your area to see which one you – and your baby – like best. But do remember that you may need to put your child’s name down on a waiting list so it’s worthwhile thinking ahead.
All good nurseries will be able to provide you with information about the daily activities and routines they will provide for your child, who her key carers will be, and how her needs will be met – feeding, naps, nappy changing and socialising. Make sure you are completely happy with what’s on offer – and trust your own instincts too.
Some mums choose to have their baby looked after by a childminder. Usually your baby will be looked after at the childminder’s house – often in the company of other children – and often including the childminder’s own. Make sure you are happy with the set-up at your childminder’s house and with the number of other children being cared for.
With a childminder, your baby may have more of a ‘home-from-home’ routine which might include picking older children up from school, shopping and joining in with family activities. It’s important that you feel that the family’s values match your own – trust your instincts, as well as your childminder’s credentials.
Going to nursery or a childminder is a big change for you and your baby, so arrange a settling in period before you go back to work – this allows you both to get used to the idea of being without each other for a few hours. You’ll probably find this more of an emotional wrench than she does, so you could plan coffee with friends, or shopping for new work clothes; try to enjoy that time to yourself.
Help with childcare
If you receive working tax credit, you may be eligible for financial help with the cost of registered childcare (registered through the Care Inspectorate) through the childcare element of working tax credit. More information is available from the Inland Revenue, visit their website or call 0845 300 3900. Your local JobCentre Plus may also be able to help with the costs of childcare if you are looking for a job.
If you need to find out about childcare vouchers, for the most up-to-date information look at the childcare section of HM Revenue & Customs website. This provides links to information and guidance about tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) on employer-supported childcare.
Registered childcare providers
The Care Inspectorate has a list of registered childcare providers that you can access at their website, or telephone 0845 60 30 890. Your local Childcare Information Service (run by the local authority) can provide up-to-date advice on childcare and your options. Visit the national website for information on childcare; it will direct you to your local Childcare Information Service. Your local JobCentre Plus can also advise on childcare options.
If you want to see a report on a particular nursery or childminder you can ask for the latest inspection reports or look at either the Care Inspectorate website or HMIE website.
You and your partner will want to enjoy some time alone together and so you may be looking for a babysitter. In some areas, there are babysitting groups where mums get together and take it in turns to look after each other’s children. Again, your health visitor will be able to tell you what’s available locally.
It’s a good idea to spend some time with your new babysitter before you go out so that you and your child can get to know them. It’s also helpful to point out any particular risks or hazards in your home.
Sometimes parents ask their older children to look after a younger brother or sister. If you’re doing this, make sure they know how to get in touch with you and are aware of basics such as telephoning emergency services.
Make sure anyone you leave your child with knows where you are, when you’ll be back and how to contact you. Also, leave a list of emergency numbers (for example, your doctor) and ensure that the babysitter knows where the first aid box is and how to leave the house safely in case of fire.
Babysitting and the law
The laws concerning who you can leave your baby with are not clear. Ultimately it’s your responsibility to ensure your child is safe and well cared for. There is no provision in law specifying the age at which a child may either be left alone or may babysit.
If you pay someone to babysit, they should be considered capable of doing so. If they are under 16, then you (as a parent) could be prosecuted if your child comes to any harm. If your babysitter is 16 or over, a court would generally assume that they were capable of looking after children.
If they are babysitting, they have temporary care of your child and so also have a general responsibility to safeguard her health, development and welfare. But remember, this responsibility only applies if your babysitter is 16 or over.