Home best for babies says doctor

Sunday Star Times 07 June 2009

A leading neonatal paediatrician is warning parents to do all they can to avoid putting their young children in daycare, saying it could permanently harm their developing brains. Dr Simon Rowley, who works at Auckland’s National Women’s Hospital and in private practice, will tell 900 nurses and volunteers at a Plunket conference in Rotorua tomorrow that they should encourage parents “to actually be parents – not absentee parents”.

His controversial message will again stir up the daycare debate – opponents say some parents can’t afford to stay home and that daycare is a chance for children to learn social skills, as well as a sanity break and valuable learning experience for parents. But Rowley says one parent or family member should try to stay home with the child, at least for the first two years. The second best option is to hire a nanny or other “single person” carer. And if parents do need to resort to daycare, they should choose a centre with plenty of staff and flexible routines. “When people ask me, to be politically correct I say: ‘Well, if you choose your daycare well, that’s good.’ But if you have a choice you should always go for staying home a bit longer.”