When Should I Start Looking For Daycare?

You may be asking yourself, “When should I start looking for daycare?” How early is too early to look at your future child care options?

Perhaps you’re planning to conceive or you already have a baby on the way. One might think that preparing while you’re pregnant is too early; however, finding daycare can take time and waitlists tend to be long. You’ll want a facility that meets your needs — and your child’s.

If you’re looking for infant care, keep in mind that most daycare facilities with infant programs accept babies as young as 6 weeks.

Children playing in Early Learning Center

So, When Should I Start Looking for Daycare

The answer largely depends on what kind of care you’re looking for. Will you need daycare for an infant? Or, are you going to wait until your child is older — will you want toddler care or preschool? If you’re looking for infant daycare, start early. Space at child care centers nationwide is limited — they fill up quickly. You may need to learn how to get on a daycare waiting list. It’s never too early to start looking!

Why Is Daycare Important?

Getting your child into a good facility where you can have peace of mind is likely your top concern. And with good reason — research shows daycare helps positively impact various child development milestones. Starting daycare before your child is of preschool age can help them build valuable communication and social skills, confidence, and school readiness. 
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the right high-quality program allows even infants to gain skills and thrive. These programs offer specific environmental elements and developmentally appropriate practices to promote healthy development at any age. 

Questions to Ask Yourself 

Answering these key questions will help you decide when to enroll your child in daycare. 

Do you have other children? 

With other children in the mix, it’s always worthwhile to finalize your daycare situation well in advance. The sooner you get everything planned out, the more comfortable you will feel as you go into your final months of pregnancy. 

Plus, there’s no guarantee that your current daycare facility will have a spot open for your newest addition. Getting on the waiting list as soon as possible can help ensure all your children are in the same program — and you’re only visiting one location for drop-off and pick-up. 

Maybe your other kids are of school age. In that case, you’ll want to find a daycare facility — close to your kids’ school(s), close to home, or close to work — whatever makes life easier for you. 

When are you due? 

With the question, “When should I start looking for daycare?” on your mind, consider your due date to help determine your ideal start date at daycare. Enrollment at child care facilities can fluctuate throughout the year, so we  recommend getting everything lined up as soon as possible — ideally before your second trimester. It’ll be one less thing you have to worry about! 

Will you go back to work? 

If you’re going back to work after maternity leave, you’ll need to find daycare that supports your workday. Consider daycare schedules and convenient locations, and look for a location that has availability around your return-to-work date. On the other hand, the pandemic has caused a surge of previously working mothers to leave the workforce. If you don’t plan to go back to work after maternity leave, what do your daycare needs entail? Consider your daily responsibilities and your ideal schedule, and look for a location close to home. 

Does your partner plan to take parental leave

The question may not be, “When should I start looking for daycare?” but rather, “When should we start looking for daycare?”  

Whether you and your partner take leave at the same time or you decide to stagger it (your partner starts leave once you go back to work), we still recommend ensuring you have a daycare lined up well before your baby is born. 

What type of daycare appeals to you the most? 

This question may take some research to narrow down an answer. Some expectant parents may have more knowledge of daycare types than others. You may discover you want your baby in an early learning center or educational daycare where they can truly expand their minds. It’s always wise to do a local daycare comparison to see what’s best in your area. 


What is a good age to start daycare?

Generally, a good age to start daycare is when your child is ready — every child is different! Children of all ages benefit from starting daycare — it can help them gain social-emotional skills, prepare them for school, and more. 

Is it good for toddlers to be in daycare? 

Research shows that daycare helps babies and toddlers gain valuable development skills. These include more confidence, better communication and social skills, higher school readiness, and more. 

What should I look for in a daycare? 

When searching for a daycare, you should look for a place that is clean, safe, and reputable. 

Are babies who attend daycare smarter? 

Every baby is different — but research suggests that babies who regularly attend daycare and interact with others gain certain skills faster than babies don’t. There are exceptions, of course, but daycare can positively impact a child’s development. 
mother holding child

Get Started Today

Find a center near you to get started with Bright Horizons

Or call us to start the conversation 877-624-4532

Bright Horizons is a United States–based child-care provider and is the largest provider of employer-sponsored child care. Employees looking to become a child care teacher are offered the opportunity to earn an early education degree for free as part of their corporate benefits. Search by zip to find a child care center near you. Bright Horizons Global Headquarters are in Newton, Massachusetts, USA.