A child must not by law be left alone in the care of a person under 14 years of age (this includes a sibling.)

  • A personal recommendation for a sitter is usually best and ask for a reference.
  • Stay with your baby and minder while they get to know one another.
  • Ensure you leave explicit information regarding feeding, changing, sleep and how frequently to check baby.
  • Leave your contact phone numbers and emergency numbers.
  • Make sure your sitter knows how to get out in case of an emergency.
  • Set ground rules regarding use of telephone, computer and having friends round.
  • It is helpful if the babysitter has a first aid certificate.

Returning to work

If you were in paid employment prior to having your baby, you will probably have discussed your parental leave entitlements as they relate to your employment contract. See our Paid Parental Leave section for more details.

The childcare decision is never an easy one. Whoever you choose to care for your child, you must feel totally comfortable with your decision.

You will need to remember that many childcare centres and family day care schemes have long waiting lists, and options such as employing a nanny can be very time-consuming. Commonly asked questions regarding childcare include

  • What is the staff to child ratio in the centre (how many children does one staff member care for)?
  • Will my child be happy and well cared for?
  • What sort of interactions will my child have with the carer?
  • Will my child resent me not being there for him 24/7?
  • Can I call in any time unannounced and will I be made to feel welcome?
  • What childcare qualifications/skills does the carer possess?
  • What are the health policies for this childcare centre and are they adhered to?
  • What facilities and resources are available to help my child develop socially, creatively and developmentally?
  • If something goes wrong while he’s in care will I be contacted immediately?
  • Will they feed expressed breastmilk?

What about the cost of childcare?

Childcare can be very expensive. Make sure you know what entitlements you may claim.

New Zealand Family Assistance

The Inland Revenue Department website for Family Assistance provides detailed information about the payments available to you and your family. You can contact family Assistance by the free-call number 0800 227 773 (remember to have your IRD number handy) or

Family Assistance is available as:

  • Family Support
  • In work payment
  • Family Tax Credit
  • Parental Tax Credit

Paid parental leave may also be an option for some families.  The amount you receive will depend on your total family income, and its source, and how many dependent children under 18 years of age are living with you. Each family situation is different and you should seek advice from IRD about your particular circumstances.

Childcare and OSCAR (Out of School Care and Recreation) subsidies are available, depending on your income. For information on Childcare Assistance 0800774004, or apply online.

If you are applying for Family Assistance for the first time you will need to provide the following information:

  • Details about the principal child carer
  • Your bank account details for payment
  • Details of children (names, DOB, IRD numbers)

So how do you make that decision?

  • Referrals – whatever childcare you are considering, referrals from friends and co-workers are the first and most reliable method.
  • Visits – take your child with you to visit child care providers in your area.
  • Spend time watching how the staff interact with the children.
  • Enquire about the routines and educational programmes they have in place.

As a parent, you know your child best. Use that knowledge. To select a child care setting that’s right for him, consider your child’s activity level, his need for social interaction, and tolerance to new routines.

  • Is your child adaptable, approaching new situations and new people with ease, or is he cautious and hesitant when faced with a new situation?
  • Would he be more relaxed in a large group of children providing lots of opportunities for social interaction, or in a smaller group setting which might be less overwhelming?


Some children’s sleep-wake patterns adapt easily to a group schedule, while others’ do not. Parents should look for centres that offer:

  • individual schedules (vs group routines)
  • separate sleeping areas
  • appropriate lighting (dim), temperature (comfortable) and noise level (low).

Special Needs

  • Are staff members open and enthusiastic about accommodating your child?
  • Are staff trained and supported to accommodate children with special needs?
  • Is the setting (including playground) accessible to your child?
  • Do any books or toys feature children with special needs?
  • Are staff willing to help your child develop the skills that your family believe are important?