Monday, 11 March 2019

What are the Safest Childcare Options for an Allergy Baby?

In three short weeks, my maternity leave will come to an end and I will have to leave Matilda for  four days a week when I return to work. Every Mum knows how scary this step feels when you leave  your baby to once again enter the workforce, but when you add into the mix a baby with an allergy, this fear is heightened. In fact, it is frankly overwhelming. You have spent every minute since your little one was born, nurturing and protecting them, learning everything you can about your child's allergy so that you can keep them safe and healthy. Now you have to trust someone else to take as much care and pay the level of attention to detail as you have, that includes everything from hidden ingredients to cross contamination risk. They were not there in the days before you received your child's diagnosis, they didn't witness the level of suffering your child has gone through. They are not you and nor can they be. Only you can have 'mummy instincts,' for your own child. And so it made me question, what are the safest childcare options for babies with allergies?

Childcare Options for an Allergy Baby





As far as I am aware there are three main childcare options currently available in the UK. In this post, I hope to summarise all of them, highlighting the strengths and drawbacks of each.

1. Family Member


I am very fortunate, as when I had my eldest, my Mum decided to take early retirement so that she could look after my son so that I could return to work. If I wasn't able to look after my son who better than to care for him that my Mum? Two years later, they have a beautiful bond and now he has started Preschool, she will be looking after Matilda when my maternity leave finishes. My Mum is very supportive and although is not as aware of how to manage a Cows Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) in a baby as I am, she wants to learn, and next week we will be sitting down to go through everything. She has also asked for a list of 'safe,' foods (I will be printing off a copy of my Quick Shopping Guide) and a weekly meal planner, which I know she will stick too without fail. It definitely makes that return to work less stressful. Having a family member who is able to cover childcare, even if it is only for a day or two, not only saves on childcare costs, but is also brilliant as they have been on your allergy journey with you, right from the start. They love your child and already have a bond which reassures you that your child will be safe and well looked after. There is not the time restraints of working hours as with other child care options, meaning you can sit down and discuss your child's needs as long as you like, anytime you like and they will follow everything you need/want for your child. Most likely your child will also be looked after 1:1, which greatly reduces the chances of accidental ingestion and cross contamination. It is definitely the cream of the crop when it comes to childcare. That said, it only works if the person offering childcare is supportive and understands your child's allergy, if they are not this may not be the greatest of options for you, as it could put strain on your relationship if there are differences of opinion. Another possible drawback, one we found last time round when my Mum look after our son, was that because she looked after him during the week, we felt we couldn't ask her to look after him at any other point and with no other family nearby and our friends also having young families of their own, it meant we didn't have any babysitters if we wanted a date night. However, this was a small price to pay for having such great child care on hand.

2. Childminder


The lovely thing I have always felt about childminders, is that you child will be in a home environment. The quality of childcare can very from childminder to childminder but there are some outstanding childminders out there that provide a first rate experience for you and your child. I think with childminders it is important to find one that is a good 'fit' with your family. You will know as soon as you meet them whether they are right for you. They tend to have a small number of children to look after and all meals are prepared in a home kitchen. It would be easy for them to manage any cross contamination risks and they could provide your child with any dairy free snacks or meals you send or recommend for them. However, one of the drawbacks from having a child minder is that some childminders do not accept the Government 30 hour funding for 2 and 3 year olds. Which, if you are entitled to it, is a massive financial saving. Also, when your childminder books holiday, which can sometimes be in term time, there is no other staff to cover their leave and so you need to either take leave yourself or make other childcare arrangements for that period which can sometimes be difficult.

3. Private or School Based Nursery


Private or School based nurseries provide a very varied and stimulating environment for all children. The large class sizes also mean there are great opportunities for your child to extend their social skills and become more independent. All good and outstanding nurseries will put together a health care plan with you for you child, outlining their allergy and what steps should be taken if accidental ingestion should occur. Unfortunately, I know some people who have not always had the best experience with private or school based nurseries, in regard to allergies, however most should be very accommodating and if not there will be one out there that is. Nearly all private and school based nurseries now accept the 30 hours funding, greatly reducing childcare costs which is an added bonus. However, there are some drawbacks to this childcare option. Firstly, they do usually have a larger number of children, this naturally increases the risk of accidental ingestion as another child could offer your child something containing dairy without an adult seeing, especially as most nurseries deliver milk and fruit during circle time. Even with the best intentions and strategies, it is not possible to watch every child every second of the day and unfortunately, I have known accidents to happen. Also, there is usually a set menu for meals and it maybe harder for them to accommodate your child's needs.

Conclusion

All childcare options come with some element of risk, but if we are completely honest, there is also some risk when we are looking after our child on our own. We are only human after all. We can  make mistakes, especially when sleep deprived. All we can do, is be prepared, educate the people around you the best you can and have faith in all the precautions you have put in place.

What has been your experience of childcare and allergies? Good or bad, let me know. What worked best for your family?





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