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Stay Home or Work: How Moms Can Make the Best Choice

What are my child-care choices?

For the most part, it's "in-home care," "family child care" or "center-based care." (If you're lucky, you can get Grandma to take care of him.) Each option comes with pros and cons, even the Grandma gig.

Your own Mary Poppins In-home care essentially means having a nanny. The care is convenient and personal, and because it's in your own home with only your baby in attendance, it tends to be less "germy" than group settings. The downside: Nannies can be hard to find (ask for personal references), cost a lot and leave you without a backup when she's sick or on vacation.

Home away from home Run by individuals in their homes, not yours, family child-care providers offer a homier atmosphere than a group day-care setting and may cost less than a nanny. You'll want to know how many kids are in the home daily and whether the caregiver is licensed. Again, if the caregiver is sick, you may be out of luck.

A centered center Most day-care centers are independently owned or run by churches, schools or government programs. They usually keep regular business hours and have plenty of licensed, certified staff. But your baby will likely be exposed to a lot of germs, and the more bells and whistles, the bigger the price tag may be. On the plus side, he'll also likely be exposed to many educational opportunities. Some even teach foreign languages and sports.

Call ChildCareAware at 800-424-2246 or visit childcareaware.org to find licensed providers in your area, to learn about your state's licensing requirements, and for a quality day-care checklist. For in-home care, check out local parents' groups, community organizations and local colleges.

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