Congratulations, you’re pregnant! It’s time to start thinking about childcare. 

It’s not the most glamorous aspect of prenatal planning — showers, registries and nursery themes are certainly more fun — but if you think you will be returning to work post-pregnancy, you’re going to need to make choices about childcare before the baby arrives.

Most often, families decide between two common arrangements — sending a child to daycare or hiring a nanny who will watch the child in your home. The choice that makes the most sense for your family will depend on a variety of factors, including your lifestyle, budget and work schedule. Regardless of what’s right for your family, parents-to-be are often surprised by how early they need to begin thinking about and planning for childcare.

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First Trimester

It may seem early, but if you’re not sure what kind of childcare you want for your little one, you’ll need to start researching different arrangements and discussing the pros and cons of each option. Keep in mind that where you live plays a huge role in childcare availability. Daycares in major metropolitan areas often have lengthy waitlists, while nannies can be harder to find in small towns.

Second Trimester

By the second trimester, especially if you live in a bigger city, you need to decide on the type of childcare arrangement you plan to pursue. If you want to send your child to a daycare, you’ll need to start researching, visiting and adding your name to waitlists now.

However, if you’ve decided a nanny is right for you, there’s good news — you can set your childcare search on the back burner for a few months because the timeline for hiring a nanny is much shorter. That said, it’s not a bad idea to start talking to friends, neighbors and family members who have hired nannies to get a sense of their experiences. If you don’t have any seasoned parents in your circle who have firsthand experience with a nanny, reach out to neighborhood groups for new or expectant mothers.

Third Trimester

Four to six weeks before your due date, it’s time to start searching for a nanny. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no typical timeline for hiring a nanny. Some are looking for immediate employment; others know that long-term jobs will be coming to an end and are searching months in advance; many will fall somewhere in between.

You’ll want to start the process by posting a detailed job description that includes your minimum and preferred job qualifications as well as a start date. Choose a start date that’s a few weeks before you plan to return to work in order to give your nanny time to get to know your child and his or her routines while you’re still at home.

Once you receive responses to your posting, you’ll screen the candidates, conduct phone interviews, meet your top candidates for in-person interviews, check references and run a comprehensive background check.

For detailed information on the process of hiring a caregiver, read Steps to Selecting the Right Caregiver.

The process of hiring a nanny could take two weeks to a month or more, and it’s possible that you may not find the right person before your baby arrives. That’s OK. Relax and enjoy your final days of pregnancy knowing that you still have time.

If you have found the perfect match, clearly communicate to the nanny when she can expect to hear from you after the birth of your child. Put a reminder in your phone — you may not remember that you promised to email when you’re sleep-deprived and learning how to care for a newborn. Try to touch base with your nanny three to four weeks after your baby arrives to finalize plans for her to start work.

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After the Baby Arrives

If you weren’t able to find “the one” prior to giving birth, you’ll need to relaunch your search for a nanny after your baby arrives. Depending on the length of your maternity leave, you’ll want to give yourself four to six weeks to go through the process of selecting the right caregiver. Because you’ll be hiring on a much tighter timeline, you’ll likely have a larger pool of applicants to choose from, so don’t worry, you will eventually find a candidate who fits the bill.

Regardless of if you found your nanny three weeks ago or three months, make sure your nanny starts a week or two before your maternity leave ends. This will allow the nanny to get to know your baby and his or her routines while you’re available to answer questions and provide guidance. This will also give you a chance to set expectations, see your nanny in action with your child, and ultimately, put your mind at ease.

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