Choosing between hiring a nanny and enrolling your child in daycare doesn’t have to be stressful. The best approach is to be informed on the pros and cons of each. Only then can you make the best emotional and financial decision for you and your family.

A nanny is a person who has special training in early childhood development. They are employed to care for a child (or children) on a daily basis, whether part time or full time. It’s that dedicated time and care that separates a nanny from a babysitter, who typically takes on a more occasional role.

If parents are willing and able to provide a room and separate bathroom, they can hire a live-in nanny. If not, the other options are a live-out nanny or a nanny share, in which two to three families share a nanny and split the cost.

The best course of action is to either go through a professional nanny service or hire someone highly recommended by family and friends.

The Pros

With a full-time nanny, parents don’t have to:

  • wake up their children early
  • rush to dress them
  • make breakfasts and lunches
  • juggle drop offs and pickups

The nanny can come to you and handle all of those things in the family home. Nannies can also cater to children’s individual needs and stay home with your child if they get sick. Some nannies make life even easier by cooking and cleaning.

“A home environment is warm and familiar, child-proofed to mom and dad’s standards, and parents can set schedules that work for them and not the other way around,” says Lexy Lionel, the founder of Nannies and Housekeepers U.S.A., a childcare and cleaning staffing service in Las Vegas. “These days, families are more scattered and hiring a nanny can be the next best thing to having a child’s grandparent care for them.”

Nannies often provide consistency and stability when it comes to child care. “This allows children to establish sustainable bonds with a caring and sensitive parental surrogate,” says Brandi Stupica, a Ph.D. in childhood developmental psychology and an assistant professor of psychology at Alma College.

The Cons

Nannies can be expensive. Nannies also have to seek out the social interactions children need outside of the home. Some don’t teach using standardized curriculums.

If a nanny gets sick or is late arriving, your life will be greatly impacted unless you have backup care in place. Lastly, nannies that pursue other careers can create turnover and instability.

There are two types of daycare: stand-alone centers, and ones offered by providers in their private homes.

Both should be licensed to ensure the highest level of care and trust. Before choosing a daycare option, parents should:

  • tour all daycares they are
  • utilize a list of questions
  • ask about teacher-to-child ratios
  • understand hours of operation
  • be aware of meal times and available
    allergy or dietary accommodations

The Pros

Daycares often offer set breakfasts and lunches. That means no more meal packing for you! Childcare centers also provide important social interactions and can introduce children to new foods, people, and experiences they might not have at home.

“Daycare ensures children are exposed to situations and activities that can’t be replicated in a family or one-on-one environment,” says Heather Stallard, early years consultant at Astec Solutions Ltd., the London-based consultancy firm that created the Prism nursery management software. “Taking part in activities with other children encourages socialization and promotes essential skills such as sharing, turn-taking, and working as part of a community.”

Teachers and providers at daycares are often trained professionals who know how to engage children and encourage them to participate in age-appropriate activities.

Daycares also have set start times and backup caregivers. “So even if your child’s teacher is running late, you don’t have to be late for work,” says Holly Flanders, founder of Choice Parenting, a childcare consulting service in New Jersey.

The Cons

Your child will be exposed to more germs more often. “Even with an upheld sick policy, daycares are usually unable to catch illnesses until the germs have already unleashed themselves throughout the center,” Flanders says.

Set daycare hours can also be problematic for parents with less traditional jobs and schedules. And if the daycare doesn’t provide meals and snacks, moms and dads have to prepare a lot of meals.

Daycare centers also have high employee turnover rates. They can be loud, over-stimulating places where kids pick up negative behaviors such as biting and screaming, Stupica and Flanders say.