We started thinking about childcare as soon as Lily was born.

We started thinking about childcare as soon as Lily was born. With both of us planning on going back to work, myself after nine months and Mark after two weeks, and our parents not living close by, we knew we had no option.

It was a bit of a stressful time and we did a lot of research into various options near us, just to make sure we all felt comfortable in the final decision we made.

We started by asking friends and family members about places they knew, then began looking at websites and reading reviews on social media. After that, we looked at inspection reports provided on the Care Inspectorate Wales website. 

Once we chose the places we liked best, we arranged visits to view the facilities available, talk to the staff, ask lots of questions and make sure they all had “settling in” periods.

Location was an important factor as we wanted to find somewhere near our places of work, just in case we needed to be on hand quickly if something happened. As with most parents, cost was also a factor and we looked into using childcare vouchers - a tax-efficient scheme used by lots of employers, where childcare fees are paid directly from your salary. We also decided to use some of our leave so that we had alternate Mondays off. This meant that Lily was not in childcare five days a week and that either myself, or Mark, could spend the whole day with her.

Once we made our choice and Lily started going, we felt it was important to keep an open mind on how everything was going. How was she settling in? Was she having a good time and making friends? What else did we notice about her development generally? 

We went through varying emotions at the beginning. After maternity leave when you spend all day and night with your child, the thought of handing them over to a stranger, can be daunting. We both felt a bit sad, nervous and even guilty sometimes. Especially when Lily was crying going into nursery and we were just going off on our daily work routine. 

As she got used to going to childcare, our initial worries lessened. That’s not to say you stop worrying completely, but the feelings soften. For us, it was so reassuring to see Lily enjoying going to nursery and seeing her progressing. She can still have moments where she clings to us and gets upset when we drop her off in the morning, but she has definitely become more confident and has learnt to play with a group of friends.

She surprises us sometimes with how much information she comes home with and loves to show us skills she has developed in nursery (like counting, drawing, washing her hands etc.). It also works the other way around, so every time she has a new toy at home, she likes to take it in to show everyone, which I personally think is a good sign as it shows a healthy connection between her and her friends and carers.

Once we went back to work, I remember feeling that our time with Lily was limited, especially on week days, so we tried to spend as much quality time with her as possible in the evenings and on weekends. She probably stays up a bit later than most children during the week so that we can spend quality time asking Lily how her day went, eating food together and then some playtime before bath and reading a story, or two, before bed.

It has to be a personal decision for every parent but for anyone who is choosing a childcare provider for the first time, I’d say that it can be very daunting. Be prepared to look at different providers and what they offer. It’s good to have a professional opinion on your chosen provider, so read the latest inspection reports and, above all, go and meet the people who will be looking after your child and ask lots of questions until you are sure that it is right for you and your family. 

Be aware that spaces at some providers can get fully booked quickly, so start your planning as early as you can. There are alternative options, like nannies and childminders, but for us a day care nursery has provided a safe, fun and educational place for Lily to go while we are both working. We see that she’s happy every day when we pick her up, so we know we have made the right decision. 

Hopefully, something in our experience could be helpful to you too. Good luck!

Another great resource when choosing childcare is your local Family Information Service, which provides a first point of contact for advice and information on lots of local services for families and carers in Wales.