Respecting Infants, Respecting Parents

I am 36 weeks pregnant with my first baby. The doctors are calling for a boy, and with three ultrasounds and some very clear shots, we are pretty sure they are right. Though I tend to write mostly about preschool experiences because of my work in the classroom, I’ve had baby on the brain, and have been thinking a lot about infant care and the child care provider’s role.

Many people have asked if my search for finding care for my baby is easier given the nature of my profession, but it’s actually quite the opposite! I want my son to be in a program where the expectations of him are age appropriate, where parents are treated like team members. This kind of program isn’t always easy to find, but I witnessed many wonderful things happening in infant rooms in Northern Kentucky and the greater Cincinnati area.

In the programs where I got the warmest fuzzy feeling, I visited unannounced and upon walking in to the room, saw the infants engaged with a provider or content on the floor during “tummy time.” Very few, if any, infants were in a “containment device” such as a swing, bouncer or feeding table (unless they were eating). I know my baby won’t be mobile for a while, but I still want him moved periodically so he doesn’t get bored and has a variety of things to look at.

I could tell which providers really respected the infants in their care because of how they spoke to them. I would hear things like, “I am coming to pick you up so I can change your diaper,” or, “I can tell you are tired today.” These teachers respected the moods and thoughts of the infants in their care. I also appreciated the child care providers who responded to crying or distressed infants in calm, nurturing ways.

I want my son’s caregiver to talk to him, sing to him and read to him. I want someone who gives infants time to play, someone who comments on play when appropriate but doesn’t interrupt (unless there’s a real safety need). High quality programs will have a variety of materials for the infants in the room to explore: toys that let infants chew, hold, and manipulate; different types of board books that are always accessible to children.

I really felt at ease with the child care providers who spent a lot of time talking to me during my visits, but that didn’t mean they stopped what they were doing and ignored the infants! While they were engaging with the children they were also telling me all about their room and answering my questions. I could tell by my conversations with these child care providers that they really appreciate all parents and what they have to offer. They view parents as the expert on their child. This might be the most important thing to me because entering child care is all about building relationships. I want to know that above else that my child’s caregiver will work hard to keep the communication between us open, and work with me to provide the best possible care for my infant.