Singapore

More parents putting baby into infant care centre

Even as more parents are leaving their newborns to be looked after in childcare centres, the majority still prefer to care for their babies themselves or enlist the help of family members, nannies and domestic workers.

About 4,000 infants, aged between 18 months and two, are enrolled in childcare centres now, said Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), yesterday.

This is a big jump of 60 per cent compared to enrolment in 2012. Despite this, nine in 10 parents still prefer not to send their babies to childcare centres.

Mrs Teo sees the growing number as a call for action.

Speaking on the sidelines of a visit to a Skool4kidz childcare centre in Tampines, she said: "If we want to provide better support to millennial families, this is an area that we want to look into.

"Increasingly, I think more of these millennial families are going to turn to centre-based care in order to have peace of mind at work."

At the centre, a qualified caregiver, called "educarer", oversees five infants at any one time. They feed, bathe, play and bond with the infants.

It charges $1,360, before subsidy, a month for full-day infant care.

INCREASE

Dr Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Social and Family Development, which oversees the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), said the ECDA has already ramped up the number of infant care places by 32 per cent since 2013 to 6,900 this year.

Dr Faishal, who also visited the Tampines childcare centre, said ECDA is looking into building large childcare centres in areas where there are more younger families with young children.

He said: "So we are moving in quite aggressively in these areas."

The infant care numbers are a fraction of those enrolled in childcare centres.

Childcare enrolment hit a high of 95,414 last year - more than double the 44,224 in 2005.

Chairman of the Association of Early Childhood and Training Services T. Chandroo said most parents do not place their infants in childcare centres because they do not feel comfortable leaving their babies in the hands of an external party.

Mrs Teo said more parents are opting for infant care services now as mothers and grandparents, or mature workers, are choosing to go back or remain in the workforce.

During the visit, Mrs Teo also shared findings of a recent survey of 1,500 parents done by NPTD.

Parents whose infants were cared for by family members were asked whether they preferred to turn to nannies, domestic workers or centre-based care should they have no family members to rely on during weekdays.

Most of the parents, or 83 per cent, indicated that they preferred or accepted centre-based care compared to 63 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively, for nannies and unsupervised domestic workers.

Slightly more than half of the stay-at-home parents who were caring for their infants indicated that they would prefer to work if there was an adequate care arrangement for their infants.

Mother of two Loo Keng Yin, 41, has tried both - bringing up her daughter on her own and tapping on infant care services for her younger son.

Seven years ago, she cared for her daughter herself as she was not working then.

When she started work as an IT software consultant in 2011, she was prepared to put her two-month-old son in a centre, but could not find a place for him. She eventually enrolled him in a centre when he was eight months old.

"There are pros and cons to being in a centre. There is someone experienced there to guide them on developmental goals and nutrition and they get to socialise more, but they may catch illnesses more easily," said Ms Loo. "But I find that because my son was put in the centre since young, he is more independent and less choosy about food."

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