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When It's Smart to Switch Sitters

Sometimes the need to change your child's daycare setting is obvious  -- you don't trust your current caregiver or she doesn't listen to you, for instance  -- but there are other good reasons to start shopping around, says Ann Douglas, author of The Unofficial Guide to Childcare:

Your Child's Needs Evolve

He's not necessarily better off with the same provider year after year. If a sitter looked after him as an infant, you might consider switching to center-based care once he's a toddler so that he can be around other kids. "He'll learn to socialize and adjust to new situations," says Douglas. Or if your baby has grown into a toddler who's happiest in a quiet environment or with only a few kids around, a smaller family daycare setting may be a better match.

Your Family Expands

If you already have one or more kids in a center and you're expecting a new baby, it might be less expensive and more convenient to hire an in-home sitter.

Your Caregiver Can't Adjust

Perhaps your sitter's constantly challenged by your now-willful toddler even though she easily cared for him when he was a baby. Or maybe your mother-in-law isn't as able to chase after your baby now that he's mobile. Air your concerns. If you can't come up with satisfactory ways to increase your caregiver's comfort level  -- and your own  -- look for someone else.

The Daycare's Mix of Kids Changes

If your toddler's suddenly the oldest in the group because the other children have started preschool or moved away, a different center where he can interact with same-age peers might be a smarter choice.