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Avoiding Daycare Dangers

Here's another question to ask when selecting a daycare center: Are staff members aware that infants should be put to sleep on their backs to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?

Many may not be: According to a recent study, 20 percent of SIDS deaths occur in daycare, where childcare providers don't know about the benefits of back-sleeping for infants. Researchers at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, examined 172 licensed daycare centers in the United States and found that only 57 percent had heard of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Back to Sleep Campaign, and only a third had providers who routinely put babies to sleep on their backs.

In addition to asking about a center's infant care practices, the Child Care Action Campaign recommends that you look for the following when you visit a center to find one that's safe for your child:

  • Watch how the providers interact with the children. Is there one-on-one time and conversation? Do the caregivers speak in cheerful, patient tones?

  • Listen to the children. Do they sound happy and involved? Too much noise may signal a lack of control; too little may mean a lack of activity.

  • Count the ratio of children to staff members. For each adult, there should be no more than three to four infants or toddlers.

  • Interview the director of the center. Ask if any staff members are trained in child development. Inquire about the frequency of staff turnover, and make sure the center is accredited.

Just beginning your search for a daycare center? For help, check out www.careguide.com. The site has a national database of daycare centers  -- including information about cost, hours, staffing, and programming  -- that you can search by location.

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