Got a relative lined up to watch your sweet baby? Amazing! (Thanks, Nana!) But for those new parents who don’t have nearby family to lean on, finding childcare is a must…and it’s stressful! Not only is cost an issue for so many, but there’s also concern about which is the best fit for your precious baby. After all, what’s ideal for one family may be completely wrong for another. To help you figure out the best childcare option for you, here are pros and cons of some of the most popular childcare choices out there. 

Childcare Option #1: Daycare Centers

Here, babies are looked after in childcare facilities, like daycare centers, that feature structured activities and programs, as well as a trained staff. Center-based care may be independently owned or run by organizations like a church, or part of a government program, such as Head Start. While cost varies widely, depending on where you live and the level of care, the average cost for one infant is around than $12,600 a year. It’s important to remember that all states have regulations for licensed centers, but not all childcare centers are licensed.  

Daycare Centers Pros:

  • Socialization: Since children are often grouped by age in daycare, there are plenty of opportunities for your child to socialize with peers.

  • Education opportunities: While this might not be applicable to babies, if you want to stick with the same care center, know that many daycares offer educational programs to help bolster kids’ learning. Some are interest-based such as arts or sciences.

  • Reliability: Unlike homecare options, at daycare there’s a staff, so if one caregiver is absent, there’s a backup plan, which offers stability and reliability. Plus, a daycare center’s hours generally accommodate after-school and parental work hours, making it a convenient choice.

Daycare Center Cons:

  • Less one-on-one time: Daycare centers tend to have a high caregiver-to-child ratio, which may limit the opportunity for your child to form bonds with their caregivers. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ratio of three infants to every one caregiver; 4:1 for toddlers; 7:1 for 3-year-olds; and 8:1 for 4-year-olds.)

  • Sniffles: Children in daycare centers tend to get more colds, ear infections, and stomach bugs during the first three years of life than kids cared for in other ways.

  • Lack of individual care: The educational programs cannot cater to the needs of specific children and therefore may not be appropriate for all. 

Childcare Option #2: In-Home Daycare

This is also referred to as family childcare since the caregiver provides their services out of their own home (and sometimes cares for their own children at the same time). An in-home daycare is a smaller, more intimate arrangement than that of a daycare center. An in-home daycare likely has fewer children, between one to three caregivers, and children of various ages cared for together. Depending on where you live, the average annual cost of in-home daycare is over $13,000.

In-Home Daycare Pros:

  • Fewer opportunities to get sick: A smaller group of children may mean that there are fewer opportunities for kids to get sick, especially during cold and flu season.

  • Greater flexibility: Often, a smaller daycare may mean that there’s a chance for more flexibility when scheduling vacations or dealing with work schedule changes. 

  • Stay with siblings: Families with multiple children can often arrange for siblings to be cared for together instead of separated into age groups.

In-Home Daycare Cons:

  • A question of licensing: Depending on the rules in your state, family child care providers may or may not be required to be licensed, which can create potentially harmful situations. 

  • No substitute care: In-home daycares don't typically have a backup plan, such as substitute care providers, should the provider become ill or have an emergency. 

  • Possibly less-experienced staff: In-home caregivers may not have additional education or certification that’s required by certain larger daycare centers.

Childcare Option #3: Nannies and Au Pairs

Another option is a caregiver who comes to or lives with you—such as a nanny or au pair. While an au pair always resides with the family, a nanny can either live-in or come in for the day. According to 2021 numbers from, the average weekly cost for a non-live-in nanny is $612 a week, which comes to over $31,000 for the year. Meanwhile, Glassdoor finds that a live-in nanny gets paid an average of $10,000+ more. Au pairs, who come to the U.S. as part of a culture exchange system, costs roughly $200 a week—plus, there’s the agency fees, room, board, and education credit.

Nanny/Au Pair Pros:

  • Exposure to a new culture: If you opt for an au pair, your child may be exposed to a language other than their own, a different culture, and new food choices, too.

  • Convenience: With no commute, there’s far less rushing to get your child ready for care. In addition, some caregivers are paid to help with light housework, laundry, and/or meal prep.

  • More control: You’ll have more say over what your tot is exposed to, where they go, what their schedule entails, and what they eat throughout the day.

  • Individual attention: Your caregiver is focused only on your kiddo’s needs, which can benefit your child’s development and attachment to their caregiver.

  • Less exposure to illness: Any care that’s not daycare will limit your child’s chances of catching colds, flu, and more.

Nanny/Au Pair Cons:

  • No sick-time coverage: If your nanny or au pair falls ill, takes a day off, or a vacation, you need to either stay home or arrange for backup care.

  • Lost privacy: When you bring an employee into your home, you’re giving up some of your privacy.

  • Cost prohibitive: This is the most expensive option.

  • Au pair restrictions: While an au pair lives in your home, they can only work certain hours a day.

  • You’re the boss: When you’re an employer, it’s your responsibility to keep your nanny “on the books,” paying taxes on your nanny’s salary. And it’s up to you to hammer out a sick time and vacation policy; draw up contract; and discuss any issues that may arise with your employee’s work.

Childcare Option #4: Nanny Share

With a nanny share, two or more families hire one nanny and evenly split the cost. The nanny can either watch all the children together in one home or divide their time between the homes based on a pre-arranged schedule. This can be an excellent solution for families who live in areas where childcare is difficult to find, but the cost of hiring a nanny is too high. It can be a great option for families who only need childcare during specific times of day, making the cost-splitting well worth it. 

Nanny Share Pros:

  • Lower cost: Here, you get the convenience and personal care of a nanny, but at a significantly lower cost.

  • Built-in playmate: Depending on the arrangement, your child will likely have plenty of opportunities to socialize with their nanny-share cohort.

  • Similar pros to having a nanny: Again, it’s a more convenient option than daycare; you have more control over your child’s day; your kiddo gets more individual attention than some other options; and they have a reduced chance of getting sick.

Nanny Share Cons:

  • Collaboration is a must: Your nanny share is dependent on all families agreeing to the same terms and financial responsibility. Plus, you’ll have to work around other people's schedules. 

  • All the paperwork: Hiring a nanny, even a nanny share, means having an employee in your home, which comes with plenty of paperwork and IRS tax issues. 

  • Differing parenting philosophies: Your childcare and discipline views may not always align with the other family’s, possibly causing friction.

For more on childcare, check out the following articles:

What Kind of Preschool Is Right for Your Child?

How to Set Up Backup Care in Case of an Emergency

Your No-Sweat Guide to Leaving Your Baby with a Sitter

Setting Boundaries with Grandparents


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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.