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Is what's good for mum also good for baby?

ARE you one of the 200 women due to give birth tomorrow? If so, you're understandably a bit preoccupied with pain relief and baby names. Yet being a mum to one of the estimated 73,000 babies due to be born in Ireland this year, means at some point you're likely to be faced with the question: what childcare will I choose for my child?

Ireland has the highest proportion of children of any EU country, accounting for 25pc of the population. There's no one-solution-fits-all when it comes to how our nation's offspring should be minded – every child is different, every family has its own needs, and money will play a big part in determining whether or not a mum works outside the home. We've asked the experts to outline the pros and cons of the childcare options – from the point of view of the child and mum, or stay-at-home dad – to shed some light on what is one of the most difficult decisions parents will make.

What's best for baby?

Niamh Hannan is a Dublin-based psychologist (www.mindworks.ie) and an experienced facilitator of parenting courses.

Stay-at-home parent

Child aged: 0-1 ... pro/con: "There are no cons to being at home with a new or young baby. You are building a bond with the baby."

Child aged: 1-2 ... pro/con: "There are still no cons and in an ideal world parents would be in a position to be at home with a baby."

Child aged: 2-3 ... pro/con: "The con is that it can be difficult being a mum full-time in the house with a young child who is having temper tantrums. You can feel unsupported. Children can have a social need to be around other children at this stage."

Child aged: 3-5 ... pro/con: "At this stage, a child needs to be learning to share and co-operate, so a few hours a day in an environment with other children can be good for them. A parent will gain from this break too."

Child aged: 6+ ... pro/con: "The pro is that you are there to pick them up from school and are able to talk out what happened in the classroom that day. To have someone give them this one-to-one attention is good for their emotional development. The con is that you are probably well on your way to becoming a taxi mum, dropping them off at different playdates."

Creche

Child aged: 0-1 ... pro/con: "A con can be a lack of consistency in a child's carers. Ideally, a child should build a relationship with its minders, but if carers are changing all the time, this won't happen."

Child aged: 1-2 ... pro/con: "Play is still parallel at this point, so while they're not playing with other children but alongside them, they're at least becoming aware of other children and the wider world. A well-trained creche worker will be aware of a child's developmental needs at this stage."

Child aged: 2-3 ... pro/con: "Similar to above in that a lot of behaviour, like a child learning to talk, will be encouraged in a good, well-supervised creche.

Child aged: 3-5 ... pro/con: "A con can be that a child is picking up social habits which you would prefer them not to have – especially from children who have older brothers and sisters. A toilet sense of humour, for example."

Child aged: 6+ ... pro/con: "A con is that you are not there supervising homework, so you will be slower to pick up on any difficulties, be they developmental, educational or social. A pro can be that a child has buddies in the creche as they need more entertainment at this age."

Childminder

Child aged: 0-1 ... pro/con: "A pro is having a good childminder who matches your way of caring and who has the same attitudes and values as you have. It's possible for a baby to feel secure with one consistent minder."

Child aged: 1-2 ... pro/con: "A con is that a young child might call the childminder 'mammy'. This is hard for mum, though she will want her child to have a loving bond with a childminder."

Child aged: 2-3 ... pro/con: "A con will be not knowing how your childminder copes when stressed. A child is pushing boundaries at this point, and there may be a few children in the house. A pro is that a child is mixing with other children in what will feel like a home environment."

Child aged: 3-5 ... pro/con: "There might not be enough individual attention. A childminder will be going about her day-to-day business, cleaning her house and shopping, and a child will be expected to fit in around all this. There will be no structured play, and a child might be left with the same toys all the time. A childminder won't have the same training as a minder in a creche."

Child aged: 6+ ... pro/con: "A pro is that at this age a child can tell you how they feel about a childminder.

What's best for mum?

Psychologist Suzanne Condron (below)

(www.counsellor.ie)

Mum at home

pro/con: "A pro would be the quality of the bond a mother is building with her baby by being there full-time for the first three years. Because she's constantly with the baby, she'll be reassured that the baby is happy.

A con might be that a mum may feel that she is giving over her whole life to this little being, and she might feel a loss of identity, and of her career and any social life which went with her career."

Mum at work

pro/con: "A pro would be having a sense of self in the outside world from relating to adults on a daily basis, and from being in a professional capacity. With regular distance from the home, a woman may also have a clearer sense of self than a woman who is full-time in the home.

A con would be the guilt. This can affect a woman whether she has chosen to work outside the home, or whether she has no choice but to because she has to contribute to the family's income. If she has no choice, she can feel trapped. Women who choose to have a career and a family can also feel guilt at leaving their children."

* The above also applies to stay-at-home dads


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