MOTHERS returning to work after the birth of their first child would prefer their baby to be cared for in the home by someone they know, a new study has found.
The study tracked 124 first-time mothers, a fifth of whom are from the Northern Rivers.
Despite this preference, the study by Southern Cross University early childcare expert Dr Wendy Boyd found that most first-time mothers were unable to access this type of care.
Dr Boyd said mothers felt their child was more likely to receive adequate attention if the caregiver was known.
"Parents did not always feel supported when using early childhood education centres and expressed concern over the staffing levels, the group sizes and the constant ill-health of their child," she said.
Dr Boyd said it was critical for governments and policy planners to know how parents made decisions about paid work and child care.
"The research points to the importance of the quality of education and care for young children," she said.
"Whether it be in the home or in an early childhood education centre, such that parents are assured their child's health and emotional security is supported."
Dr Boyd said neuroscience research had proven that a child's early environment is crucial for brain development.
"We also know that parents who are satisfied with their child's care environment are more likely to have a contented child and more likely to be happy in the workplace," she said.
The study also found reputation plays a large part in a mother's choice of child care centres.
To date Dr Boyd has published three papers from this research.