Many mums find themselves at the crossroad caught between spending more time with their babies and chipping in to the family financially. This dilemma is more greatly felt among first-time mums who find the decision to leave their baby with someone else so nerve-wrecking, and understandably so.
Infant care in Singapore
Enrolling your child in an infant care centre while you are still pregnant should not come as a surprise to you. This is in spite of the fact that supply exceeds demand.
In 2016, Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) reported that 3,900 out of 6,300 places were taken up. As part of the government’s effort to improve accessibility of pre-school education in Singapore, plans to increase infant care locations to 1,000 by 2020 is underway.
Even though there is no lack of infant care centres, organisations like PAP Community Foundation have a long waiting list particularly in young estates such as Punggol and Sengkang.
On average, full-day infant care fee works out to about $1,500 before working mum subsidies. If this is too costly, there are alternatives.
For some, employing a foreign domestic helper is preferred as she can also attend to household chores. Often, the cost of hiring a helper is comparable to or lower than infant care fees. Moreover, families with children below 16 years old enjoy a monthly maid levy concession of $60.
Then there is also the option of roping in grandparent’s help to babysit.
Choosing an infant care centre for your child
In Singapore, infant care and childcare centres are regulated by ECDA to ensure compliance with standards. Apart from the widely-known PCF Sparkletots and My First Skool, premium infant and childcare centres and even churches provide quality infant care services that are sought after.
The following are some considerations as you try to suss the best fit for your child:
1. Infant care hours
Infant care centres provide half-day or full-day infant care arrangement. The occasional few provide flexi-care arrangement where parents can arrange for their babies to come by on specific days a week. This is ideal for mums who work a few days a week.
Travelling time is a major concern. And it should be one of your biggest considerations as you shop around for a suitable infant care facility. Between morning congestions and rushing to work, it would be less stressful if you were to find a centre that is near and easily accessible.
3. Infant care fee
Infant care costs vary significantly across centres in Singapore. But regardless of your infant care budget, all infant care teachers have to be certified in infant and toddler care. They also need to have at least two years of experience in a childcare or preschool. Higher fees do not necessarily mean better qualified teachers.
As your child will be spending four to eight hours at the centre each day, it is important that you immerse him or her in a conducive and nurturing environment during this formative stage. Request for a centre visit to check out the centre’s environment and activities personally. Take time to understand the centre’s values and practices. At this stage, your concern should veer towards your baby’s safety and hygiene. As children tend to fall sick easily in infant care and childcare centres, choose a centre that is well-ventilated (has many windows) or uses air filters in airconditioned rooms. You might also want to find out how these centres develop an infant’s physical, cognitive and psychosocial skills.
5. Teacher-to-infant ratio
The recommended ratio is 1:5 so that teachers provide each infant adequate care and attention. This is important at this stage when infants are completely dependent on the teacher’s care during the hours spent at the centre.
Parting with your baby can be unnerving to say the least. This is why you should always choose an infant care centre that you believe can cater to your child’s needs. It must be a place you are comfortable with in terms of the environment, and most importantly the teachers in close contact with your child.
Every stage of parenting brings about a different set concerns and considerations. Speak with a financial consultant to find out how you can ease some of your worries for peace of mind.