Menu

It's a decision many parents agonize over and one many have felt guilty about. But if you're considering day care for your child that guilt is really unnecessary, mama. Day care doesn't just give parents the time they need to provide for their family, it also provides children with important social interactions that may improve their behavior.

A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health concludes that "high-quality centre-based childcare may be linked to lower levels of emotional symptoms." Basically, being around children their age, under the supervision of professionals is really good for kids' emotional and prosocial development.

The study comes from France, a country where state-run nurseries are well regarded (but reportedly hard to get a spot in), and where most children start preschool at the age of three.

The researchers followed the development of 1,428 French children from birth to the age of 8 in order to better understand how day care before age 3 might impact development differently than other common childcare methods in France, like staying home with a parent or family member, or with a babysitter who cares for a small number of children in their home or the child's.

The study found the children who attended high-quality center-based care for at least one year had lower rates of emotional, conduct, relationship and attention problems later in life than kids who were watched by a family member or babysitter. The study's authors suggest interactions with trained staff in the centers, along with having to follow rules and getting extra stimulus from playing in the supportive environment give kids a social and behavioral boost.

The French study's findings didn't surprise some experts. Good early childhood education programs (like Head Start, for example) have been proven to have long-term benefits for kids, and while society often looks at day care as simply a place to park children during the workday, a good day care is so much more.

It's not just a place to be supervised, it's a place to learn and socialize, too.


"The evidence is clear that high quality, early childhood care is beneficial for children," Dr. Jillian Roberts, a child psychologist and associate professor at the University of Victoria, told Global News. "These programs include not only play and socialization, but also educational and nutritional components from highly-trained early childhood education professionals."

As Vox reports, it's likely not so much the educational lessons that center-based care provides, but the stability that children (and their families) benefit from, especially when we're talking about children under a year old. A recent Vox report highlights a decades-old America study called the Abecedarian Project, in which families were provided with high-quality childcare from birth. The kids who were in that day care are adults today, and the science suggests they're still benefiting from it.

A 2014 study compared the cardiovascular health of men who had been in that day care as babies to men who were not, and found "one in four males in the control group is affected by metabolic syndrome, whereas none in the treatment group are affected."

Going to day care early had a positive impact on those children, and for some of the children in the recent French study (whose parents were asked about their care at 4, 8 and 12 months, and then again and 2 and 3 years old) going to day care as a baby led to better behavior and relationships.

The study's results are just another reason for governments to consider investing in state-run or subsidies day care centers. Parents (even some in France) are struggling to find and afford day care. Investing in these programs helps two generations: Our and our children's.


Of course not every family needs or wants full-time, center-based childcare, but would probably still like some of those prosocial benefits. High-quality part-time preschool programs allow kids to be exposed to the educational aspects of high-quality day care (and give stay-at-home parents a minute to catch their breath) without as high a price tag or as much in-center time as full-time care.

The science isn't suggesting that professionals at a day care center should replace parents (and we know there are plenty of stay-at-home mamas and dads who are providing amazing, enriching care to their children every single day) but rather that professional care can complement a parent's.

The point is, moms should not be made to feel guilty because we have to work, or because we can't afford a nanny, or even because we just want a couple mornings a week to do the grocery shopping without a toddler. It truly takes a village to raise a child, and if we're lucky enough to live in a village where we can find high-quality day care, our children can benefit from it.


You might also like:

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

FEATURED VIDEO

The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.

FEATURED VIDEO

Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

Keep reading Show less
News