The decision to put your baby in infant care can be a momentous one. You may not have any other option but this. On the other hand, it may be something that you look forward to. The important thing is to choose one that suits your purposes well. But as a new mother, you are hardly sure of what your baby wants. How do you know which infant care centre would be best for your little one? Ms Charlotte Wong, an Infant Care Expert at Kinderland with more than 20 years of experience working with children, tells us.
What is the usual age that babies go to infant care in Singapore?
Babies in Singapore can start infant care from two months to 18 months of age.
What should I look for when choosing infant care for my baby?
Apart from the general facilities, safety guidelines and cleanliness of the centre, other criteria would depend on your individual preference. Some parents prefer the more personal touch that you get with smaller centres, while others prefer larger name establishments. Whichever infant care centre you select, ensure that it is registered with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).
Look out for these basic requirements:
✓ Regular updates: The school should provide regular updates on your child’s progress, and track observations made by educarers, such as when your child attains relevant developmental milestones. This helps you know that your child is growing and developing healthily.
✓ Curriculum: Every centre has their own unique programme to help children develop to the best of their abilities. Check if they are aligned with the Singapore Early Years Development Framework (EYDF). In addition, some centres have enrichment programmes to expose children to multiple areas of learning.
✓ Age-appropriate equipment: These equipment should aid in the development of your child to help them get the most out of their daily actives. Look for supportive features that help infants learn to stand and walk better. Well-padded gym equipment can help children who are mastering their gross motor skills tumble and roll.
✓ Diet: Food is an important factor for proper growth and development, and knowing how the school prepares it is important. Does the school have an in-house nutritionist, or plan meals in consultation with one? Are meals developed in accordance with the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) guidelines? Some schools even offer meals made with superfoods to ensure your child attains the right amount of nutrition that boost physical and cognitive development.
✓ How you feel about the centre: Most importantly, you should feel comfortable enough to leave your precious one with the educarers in the centre. Ask friends for referrals. They can offer trusted insights into a centre, as they have direct experience with the centre.
What should I take note of when I am there on a tour?
- Observe the environment for its hygiene standards and cleanliness.
- Look at how the teachers communicate with one another, children, parents, third-party vendors.
- Pay attention to how they physically handle babies, and check if there is a system and process in place for handling different situations.
- Go through the curriculum and routine for each day and watch how they are carried out.
- Ask many questions. At the end of the day you have to be comfortable with the environment you are leaving your child in.
What questions should I ask?
- How often does the centre check the temperature of the infant?
- What is the procedure if my baby has a fever?
- What is your perception of a baby, and how do you respond to the babies? Are babies crying for milk and attention the only thing they do, or are they growing eager individuals ready to learn and keen to be responsive to our interactions with them?
- How would you handle active babies who are not getting enough rest as they should?
- What procedures and methods do you have in place for children with allergies?
- How would you and the centre handle scenarios — such as a baby falling down, or a baby who does not stop crying?
How will I know if my child is ready for infant care?
More often than not, it would be whether you are ready to leave your child with a stranger. Due to the tender age at which children are enrolled in infant care, they are often unaware of what is going on. However, little ones can sense if you are feeling anxious or uneasy. Hence it is best for you to regulate your own feelings first, especially if you have been looking after your newborn full-time.
Only place your child in infant care when you know you are ready to be separated with your precious one for a couple of hours in the hands of an educarer.
Can I put my baby in infant care if I am breastfeeding?
Yes, you can express the breast milk and teach your baby to drink from the bottle so the educarers can feed them. Do ensure all items are properly labelled with your child’s name to prevent loss or confusion. Some centres may also have an area where you can nurse or feed your child when you arrive, before you leave, or when you visit.
Will my child be given enough individual attention?
Some parents may be concerned that their child will not receive enough attention. ECDA’s minimum ratio requirement for infant care centres is one educarer to five infants. However, some centres have a lower ratio than that.
Is it true that children in infant care fall sick more easily, and often?
While it is true that children especially under the age of one are more prone to viruses and outbreaks when they enter infant care or childcare, you can decrease the chances by checking with the school on their hygiene practices. It would also be good to ask the centre how often they experience an outbreak of diseases such as HFMD or stomach flu, and what sort of measures are taken.
What if I have separation anxiety?
First-time parents especially may have separation anxiety when it is time to leave their child in the care of a stranger. This is why you should select a centre where you are comfortable with the educarers. This will give you peace of mind. If it helps, ask the educarers to provide regular updates on your little one to help alleviate your worries.