Home daycare vs Institution centre: What is best for my baby?

As a first time mom, I had a lot of preconceived ideas of what good child care meant. As a veteran mom I have changed my stance realizing that there are no absolutes when it comes to children.

Seriously who reads anymore? Soundcloud audio version available at the bottom. I got you!

Daycare and childcare are one of the first rude shocks of being a working parent and particularly a working mom. The cost of childcare especially in North America is so high and finding reliable childcare is key to slaying your career goals.

So what kinds of daycare options are out there?

This will depend on your location so please look up what the situation is for your particular province, state or city. When searching for a daycare for our little bambinos, we had the option between a regulated daycare and a non-regulated daycare. The regulated ones are those that are recognized by the state as a licenced daycares and have a permit to operate. This means that they can be randomly inspected. Non-regulated centres are just as the name suggests not regulated. They are often cheaper but also harder to oversee if there is an issue.

Then comes the other option: home daycare vs institution/centre.

There are both regulated and non-regulated home and institutional daycares. Institutional daycares are generally regulated because they are larger and have a higher capacity. They have to conform to the local regulations and respect the ratios of staff to children. Because of this and the larger operating costs they tend to be more expensive.

Home daycares in some cases are part of a network and are sometimes but not often regulated. They are often in the basement or main level of someone's home and have a much smaller capacity in terms of children and because of this they are often cozier than institutions.

So now that you know about both, the question is which is better for your child. As with almost ALL parenting decisions, it will depend on so many things including your family situation and your child's personality.

When we lived in Montreal, the institutional daycare that our first went to accepted babies and had a baby room. This is not always the case with larger centres. When we moved to the Ottawa region we were surprised to find out that a lot of daycares only accept toddlers who are 18 months and over so you might not really have a choice.

Home daycare: Yay's vs Nay's


  • More cozy like home

  • Smoother transition for baby

  • Likely located near your home or neighbourhood

  • Less number of kids

  • Sometimes connected to a larger network of institutional centres - helpful when looking for a spot for toddler


  • Holiday closures with no replacement for care

  • Scrambling to find childcare if the daycare is suddenly closed e.g. if owner is sick

  • Early pick-up/closing hours because the daycare owner may need to pick their other children from school/prepare for her own evening routine

  • Most are un-regulated and may not be regularly inspected

  • May not have a formal COVID19 policy/protocol

Institutional Daycare: Yay's vs Nay's


  • Most are regulated and inspected regularly

  • Fewer unforeseen closures because they are larger

  • Coverage for holidays due to more staff

  • Later closing time due to staggered staff

  • Smoother transition for older children from daycare to school

  • Probably have a comprehensive COVID19 policy and protocols


  • High staff turnover which can be destabilizing for chidren

  • A lot more children as many as 60 to 100 which can be really overwhelming for a baby

  • Most don't take infants and only accept toddlers from 18 months

  • High cost due to high overhead

There is no clear answer for institution vs home daycare. For us, our first went to an institutional daycare from when he was 8 months for a number of reasons. I was job hunting and needed to get a job fast. We lived in Montreal at the time and home daycares were on just about every block with many unregulated. We had a close family friend whose child attended the institutional daycare that our first eventually went to and because it came highly recommended, we went with this option. The transition was hard for him going from baby at home to being 1 of 6 babies in a 30-child daycare. He got sick all the time as a child who had previously been home alone and then went to socialize with 30 other kids at once. He was LOVED by all the daycare workers. When we left for Ottawa, they literally cried with us because they missed him so much.

For our twins, I got a job while on mat leave so I went back to work rather quickly and this meant that we didn't have many options especially to find TWO daycare spots. We ended up sending them to a neighbourhood daycare also highly recommended by a friend. It was literally across the street from us which was very convenient and was a part of a regulated network of daycares which gave us reassurance. They LOVED it there and were absolutely loved on by the owner who was this amazing loving grandma from the same country as my husband. I couldn't have asked for more. The catch was she did close early so we would be rushing home every evening.

When I think about it we have been really blessed to find mostly kind selfless daycare workers who are really dedicated the children they serve with so much grace and care - Career Slay Mama

Where things haven't been so great it has been more of a management issue than a daycare worker issue. We've been in brand new centres and not so shiny home settings. What we have learned is that LOVE is the most important thing particularly when the kids are younger. As they grow older 18 months plus, you can select a place where they will be more engaged and learn more. Trust your gut and pay attention to any red flags. Know that the transition shall be harder for you than baby. Here is a post on 7 things to do when looking for a daycare for baby.

What is the childcare situation like where you live?

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